Weekend Predictions: Falcons and Georgia win, Georgia Tech beats spread

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Weekend Predictions is looking good halfway through the football season. Well, I guess the 17-game NFL season won’t be half done until halftime of this weekend’s games. That’s excepting the teams that will play their seventh game.

I suppose we’re halfway through the college football season for teams that will play league title games before going to the playoff. Though, really, does college football ever end around here?

But I digress. The point is that I’ve had a winning record picking games against the spread in five of the past six weeks. I’m surging toward my fifth winning year out of five.

I got off the Falcons bandwagon at just the right time. They got blown out in Cincinnati and failed to cover the spread for the first time all season. They also failed to cover any Bengals wide receivers.

Panthers (+4 ½) at Falcons

The Falcons drop down in class this week. P.J. Walker throwing to D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall is a much easier assignment than Joe Burrow throwing to Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd. Walker barely threw the ball past the line of scrimmage in his first start of the season. The Panthers opened things up a bit for Walker last week, and he went off for 177 passing yards. To be fair, Walker also had two touchdown passes and did everyone a favor by beating the Bucs.

The Panthers could give the Falcons trouble because their defense has been pretty good against the run. But the Panthers are executing the rare in-season NFL tank job. Also, I think the loss in Cincinnati was a one-off bad performance for the Falcons in a terrible matchup. They’ll cover against the Panthers.

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Falcons

Florida (+22 ½) vs. No. 1 Georgia (Jacksonville)

Coach Billy Napier credits Kirby Smart for helping him get into the University of Alabama’s Nick Saban School for Fired Coaches in 2011. Smart said of Napier: “He’s very thorough, he’s an extremely hard worker, a great husband and father (and) a good leader of men.” At this rate, we’ll never get the sniping and petty insults by coaches that this rivalry desperately needs to keep it interesting until Florida is good enough to threaten Georgia.

It hasn’t been long since that happened. The Gators won 44-28 in 2020, when Smart’s defense couldn’t cover running backs catching passes out of the backfield. Now Georgia is favored by the most points of either team in the series since at least 1990, which is as far back as the OddsShark database goes. I’m taking Florida and the points.

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Bulldogs

Georgia Tech (+24 ½) at Florida State

Tech quarterbacks coach/Florida State quarterback legend Chris Weinke is going back to Tallahassee. Can he suit up for the Yellow Jackets? Yes, I went for the obvious joke, but doesn’t the fact that Weinke played for FSU until he was like 35 years old make it a little funnier? I’ll keep workshopping that bit. Making it funny won’t be as hard as Weinke’s job this week. Tech QB Jeff Sims (foot) is questionable to play, and Zach Gibson struggled in relief during last week’s loss to Virginia.

Jackets interim coach Brent Key said he’s planning for Gibson and Zach Pyron to play against the Seminoles. It’s not an ideal situation for Tech, but I’m always looking for any reason to pick the underdog. I found it in AJC Tech beat writer Ken Sugiura’s interview with ex-Jackets star Joe Hamilton, who expects Gibson to be much better this week. Now I have someone to blame when taking Tech and the points goes wrong.

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Yellow Jackets

Old Dominion (+4) at Georgia State

Georgia State seemed to turn its season around with two consecutive victories following an 0-4 start. But last week at Appalachian State, the Panthers returned to their habit of failing to hold a lead. That’s happened in four of GSU’s five losses. Old Dominion shouldn’t be able to run much against the Panthers, but honestly, I don’t know what to make of GSU anymore. ODU is the pick, based purely on vibes and my love of ‘dogs.

Other college games of interest

No. 2 Ohio State (-15 ½) at No. 13 Penn State

Ohio State coach Ryan Day told reporters he was fined for skipping ESPN’s award show in 2019. Day said he instead made a recruiting visit to C.J. Stroud, who’s now the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. “It was worth it,” Ryan said about the fine. Day didn’t say which entity fined him, but it likely was Ohio State because Day, like most coaches, is paid for media obligations as part of his contract. Schools and ESPN do not pay athletes for their media obligations because that would be commercialization of an amateur sport. Penn State is the pick.

No. 19 Kentucky (+12 ½) at No. 3 Tennessee

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel was Oklahoma’s quarterback for its only national championship under coach Bob Stoops, brother of Kentucky coach Mark. Heupel and Mark Stoops worked together at Arizona under yet another Stoops brother, Mike, who is now an assistant for Mark. Heupel was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, who fired him in 2014. Congratulations to Heupel for getting away from the Stoops family nepotism and becoming a better coach than Bob’s brothers. I like Kentucky with the points.

No. 15 Ole Miss (-2) at Texas A&M

Now that the Phillies are in the World Series, I submit that their “stupid” money tag be transferred to Texas A&M. The Aggies gave Jimbo Fisher a fully guaranteed contract for $75 million over 10 years in 2017. They bumped his guaranteed pay to $95 million over 10 years after Fisher was 9-1 in 2020. Now the Aggies (3-4) have lost three consecutive games, and Fisher’s resume looks nearly identical to Kevin Sumlin’s after 55 games. Ole Miss burned me last week, but I’m backing the Rebels again.

Arkansas (-3 ½) at Auburn

Auburn Daily reported that coach Bryan Harsin is telling players they can’t redshirt without a medical reason and “that their only options are to quit the football program or enter the transfer portal.” Harsin was asked about that report Wednesday and responded with a lot of words that didn’t answer the question. ESPN’s Pete Thamel recently reported that Auburn now has “less urgency” to fire Harsin: “There’s some optics that they’re concerned about at Auburn, and they don’t want to look like Auburn being Auburn.” Bless their hearts. Tigers cover.

Other NFL game of interest

Raiders (-1 ½) at Saints

The Saints have committed an NFL-high 16 turnovers this season, and they can’t even blame QB Jameis Winston for it. Winston (back) didn’t play in the past four games, and the Saints still had a total of seven giveaways. Andy Dalton’s three interceptions last week included two pick-sixes in the span of 64 seconds. Winston is back at practice, but coach Dennis Allen is sticking with Dalton. Don’t laugh: Dalton could end up being the best quarterback in the NFC South. Saints are the pick.

Last week: 6-4 (44-35 season)