Weekend Predictions: Falcons beat Saints, Georgia blows out Miss. St.

New Orleans Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees (9), Taysom Hill (7) and Jameis Winston (2), sit together on the bench in the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
New Orleans Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees (9), Taysom Hill (7) and Jameis Winston (2), sit together on the bench in the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Credit: Butch Dill

Credit: Butch Dill

COVID-19 is spreading uncontrollably across the country. The number of college football games canceled or postponed this month is at 40 as I write this, but I should check again after the period. The Pac-12 decided this is a perfect time to loosen its scheduling requirements and allow nonconference games.

Football is desperately grabbing for money during a pandemic. Meanwhile, Weekend Predictions confidently churns out picks that prove I’m smarter than the average conference commissioner. I followed my 7-3-1 record two weeks ago with a 7-2 weekend that included a 6-0 mark on college football games.

I’m creeping close to a 60 percent winning season for the season. That’s an excellent record. It would get me a contract extension if I coached Tennessee football. Picking games against the spread is harder than beating Kentucky and Arkansas.

Georgia Tech’s game was postponed for the second consecutive week because of an opponent’s problems with COVID-19. Maybe the Jackets should call one of the Pac-12 teams and see if they can get together for a super-spreader event on ESPN.

Falcons (+4) at Saints

Saints coach Sean Payton isn’t saying whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill will start at quarterback in place of Drew Brees (ribs). Tough call on which QB the Falcons should prefer to face. On the one hand, Hill isn’t really a quarterback. On the other hand, Winston is the kind of QB who will gift pick-sixes, as he did for the Falcons in last season’s finale.

The Falcons have won three of their past four games, and the loss was by a point to the Lions. It’s possible they are better, but don’t ask me. I’m on a five-game losing streak picking their games. I’m backing the Falcons to beat the Saints because there’s always a chance Winston will give them six points.

Mississippi State (+25) at No. 13 Georgia

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach griped about SEC protocols that require players to isolate if they are in close contact with people who test positive for COVID-19. “Everybody follows the science, but the science all contradicts one another,” Leach told reporters. Hard to believe this guy’s team had to postpone a game last weekend because of its COVID-19 issues.

If this game is played as scheduled, Georgia (4-2) will have to deal with Leach’s famed “Air Raid” offense that ranks last in scoring in the SEC. I think Georgia’s defensive slippage has been exaggerated, but it will be time for the Bulldogs to worry if they can’t shut down Mississippi State (2-4). UGA covers.

Georgia State (-3½) at South Alabama

It seems to me that Georgia State (3-4, 2-4 Sun Belt) should be a bigger favorite after its defense limited Appalachian State to 17 points and 310 yards in last week’s loss. There’s no possible way that kind of thinking will backfire. I’ll take GSU to cover.

Other college games of interest

Kentucky (+30) at No. 1 Alabama

Per AL.com, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Kentucky’s offense “is very effective for them and something that is going to be very challenging for us.” The Wildcats rank 10th in the SEC in scoring, but I guess Saban needs to say something to keep the Crimson Tide engaged when they haven’t played since Halloween. I’ll take the Wildcats to cover and hope Bama follows Georgia’s lead and goes along with Kentucky’s plan to keep the game close but not actually try to win it.

No. 9 Indiana (+20½) at No. 3 Ohio State

Indiana coach Tom Allen looks like he could have been an extra in the movie “Hoosiers,” and sure enough, he’s a native of the state. Allen told ESPN he understands why everyone is surprised Indiana is good at football: “I get it, basketball is a big deal in this state. ... I want us to win a national championship in basketball. But I think we can give you both.” The Hoosiers can’t do that, but they will cover against the Buckeyes.

No. 4 Clemson (-35½) at Florida State

FSU is down to its third-string quarterback because of injuries, but under no circumstances could I have imagined the Seminoles being a six-touchdown underdog at home against any opponent. FSU coach Mike Norvell told reporters his message to the team is “continue to believe in the process (and) continue to believe in yourself. At the end of the day, we’re going to get three and a half hours to go play the game on Saturday.” That inspirational rallying cry persuaded me to take the ‘Noles and the points.

No. 6 Florida (-31½) at Vanderbilt

James Franklin posted consecutive winning seasons as Vanderbilt coach, which hadn’t been done since the 1970s, and then bolted for Penn State before it was too late. Franklin’s successor, Derek Mason, guided the Commodores to two bowl games in his first five seasons. Now Mason is being asked about his job security with the ‘Dores 0-6 after finishing 3-9 in 2019. Mason somehow resisted the urge to ask his critics what better coach they think they can get to stick around. I’ll take Vandy and the points.

Tennessee (+10½) at No. 23 Auburn

Auburn lost to South Carolina, which fired coach Will Muschamp last weekend, but things are so bad for Tennessee that Tigers coach Gus Malzahn is right to warn his team against overlooking the Volunteers. Muschamp’s ouster should be a warning to Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt that a fiscally irresponsible contract buyout ($13 million per knoxnews.com) won’t necessarily save his job. Auburn is the pick.

Missouri (-6½) at South Carolina

The State newspaper reports that South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said one important part of the criteria for the next coach is that he’s “somebody that wants to be here. I do have a very, very good job (to offer).” A strong selling point for Tanner is annual games against Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and Texas A&M with fewer resources and the good in-state recruits left over once better programs have their pick. Gamecocks cover.

Other NFL games of interest

Rams (+4) at Buccaneers

In March, Bucs coach Bruce Arians said Antonio Brown is “not a fit in our locker room.” That was before injuries depleted the depth among Tampa Bay’s wide receivers. The Bucs signed Brown last month, and Arian said this week he’s been a “model citizen” for the team. There’s no possible way that will backfire. I like the Rams with the points.

Lions (+1½) at Panthers

Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater (knee) is questionable. If he can’t play, coach Matt Rhule will choose either former XFL star P.J. Walker or Will Grier, who threw four interceptions in 52 pass attempts last season. Rhule said neither Grier’s status as a third-round draft pick nor Walker playing for Rhule at Temple will influence which bad quarterback he’ll play. Lions cover.

Last week against the spread: 7-2 (61-42-3 season)

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