Last season, the Falcons were 7-2 in games decided by a margin of eight points or less. They are 0-2 this year. Luck plays a role in the results of close games. One example from last weekend: a pass glanced off Cordarrelle Patterson’s hand right into the hands of a Rams defender for an interception return that set up a touchdown. I’m counting on better luck this week for the Falcons, who win in Seattle.
Kent State (+45) at No. 1 Georgia
We’ll know Georgia really has reached Alabama’s level when Bulldogs fans get bored by blowout home victories against overmatched opponents. Last season’s nonconference visitors were Alabama-Birmingham and Charleston Southern. This year they are Samford and Kent State. Next year Tennessee-Martin, Ball State and UAB are scheduled to play at Sanford Stadium. I’m not including Georgia Tech because I can’t imagine Bulldogs backers will ever get bored of seeing their team dominate the Yellow Jackets.
The Flashes were 33-point underdogs at Oklahoma two weeks ago and lost by 30. That ended a streak of six consecutive losses against the spread for Kent State vs. Power Five opponents. The Flashes were uncharacteristically solid on defense against Oklahoma, but made it to the red zone only twice in 12 full possessions. It will be another long day for Kent State against Georgia, which has yet to allow a point outside of garbage time. Bulldogs cover.
Georgia Tech (+20½) at Central Florida
I chuckled at the headlines about UCF coach Gus Malzahn feeling the heat after the Knights lost at home to Louisville in Week 2. You think he’s bothered after being on the hot seat every other week at Auburn? Malzahn ended up at a program that competes at a lower level, beats Florida in a bowl game ... and still gets roasted for losing to a Power 5 opponent. I miss the days of Malzahn winning just enough big games at Auburn to stick it to the people who wanted him gone.
The Jackets are in freefall. No ACC team has been such a big underdog against an opponent outside of the Group of Five. For normal people, that’s a signal of the decline of Tech football. For me, it means looking for reasons to take the points. I watched UCF struggle to score against Louisville’s bad defense. Tech’s D is much worse, though, so I can’t. ... just kidding. I’m taking Tech and the points.
Other college games of interest
Vanderbilt (+40½) at No. 2 Alabama
Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the challenges of defending Vanderbilt’s option-heavy offense: “Do you want me to tell you what we’re going to do so they know?” The funniest thing about that joke is the implication that it would make much difference if Saban did tell Vandy his plan. Saban’s team plays maybe three games per season in which it has a real chance of losing, and this isn’t one of them. I’ve learned my lesson about taking big ‘dogs against the Crimson Tide, so I’m backing them to cover.
No. 5 Clemson (-7) at No. 21 Wake Forest
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he connected with ex-Clemson QB Chase Brice after he beat Troy with a Hail Mary pass Saturday. “I called him and said he and I need to go to Vegas, like right now,” Swinney told Brice, per greenvilleonline.com. Finally, Swinney has an idea that I can support. Clemson’s defense is dominant as usual, and QB DJ Uiagalelei has been better than last season. The Tigers have burned me several times when I pick them as road favorites, but I’m doing it again.
No. 20 Florida (+10 ½) at No. 11 Tennessee
ESPN’s “College GameDay” is in Knoxville to set up a game with huge implications for the order of finish behind Georgia in the SEC East. Hey, don’t laugh. There’s a big difference between playing a low-stakes game in the Sugar Bowl versus the Citrus Bowl. The Volunteers own two decisive victories against Mid-American Conference teams and an overtime escape at Pitt. I don’t see the Gators scoring enough points to stay within two scores. Tennessee is the pick.
No. 10 Arkansas (+1½) vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
Jimbo Fisher declared Kyle Field to be “the best place to play college football, bar none” because of the fans. I agree that College Station is a great atmosphere for games, especially if you’re into creepy displays of hyper-militarism. The Aggies followed their home loss to Appalachian State with a victory over Miami and now face the undefeated Razorbacks on a neutral field. I’m taking TAMU to cover.
Missouri (+7) at Auburn
Joseph Goodman of AL.com opines that Auburn coach Bryan Harsin isn’t taking responsibility for his team’s lopsided home loss to Penn State on Saturday. Writes Goodman: “The guy in charge apparently thinks he’s doing a good job of coaching his team, and that the players are the problem.” Harsin should pace himself with the excuses because the Tigers still must play at Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama. Auburn is the pick.
Other NFL games of interest
Packers (+1) at Buccaneers
Is there any way that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers both can lose? Brady is annoying because of his constant whining to game officials and his refusal to just go away, already. Rodgers is grating because he makes ignorant statements, including dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, and then plays the victim when smarter people criticize him for it. I’m taking the Bucs to cover, but I’d be OK with a scoreless tie.
Saints (-3) at Panthers
After managing a rare turnover-free game against the Falcons, Saints QB Jameis Winston was back to form in Week 2 with three interceptions in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Bucs. Winston told reporters he would focus on “staying mellow in the madness” and I don’t like it. Jameis should be Jameis so we can enjoy the comedy/drama. Winston is dealing with a back injury that’s bothered him since the Falcons game, so I’m taking the Panthers and the points.
Chiefs (-5½) at Colts
The Colts failed to score at Jacksonville on Sunday as Matt Ryan threw three interceptions and got sacked five times. It was the eighth consecutive loss in Jacksonville for the Colts, which suggests there are forces at work that are outside of Ryan’s control. I believe he has some previous experience with that. I like the Colts at home with the points.
Last week: 6-3 (13-12 season)