Weekend Predictions: Falcons lose big, Georgia romps, Tech competes

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith calls a time out against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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Falcons head coach Arthur Smith calls a time out against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Weekend Predictions is not in trouble. Sure, it’s not looking good if you want to be negative and focus on results. But I’ve made lots of good picks in the past and remain fully confident in the process that’s producing poor picks now. If you don’t get that, it’s because you aren’t at the meetings in my head, where it makes sense.

My picks were 3-6 against the spread for the first weekend. That’s a low bar that I managed to get under with a 3-7 record ATS last weekend. I went with lots of favorites in Week 1 and got walloped; I backed lots of underdogs in Week 2 and got burned.

Not even local knowledge could save me. I’ve been high on Georgia’s chances to win a national title. I underestimated them against Alabama-Birmingham. I’ve never bought the Falcons as being much good. I overestimated them by picking them to edge the Eagles, who were supposedly worse. And forget about my Georgia State picks. Please.

In no way does being wrong so often this season mean that I’ve lost my touch. I can’t believe that’s even a question that I imagine you are asking! A new week means another chance to avoid falling on my face, which won’t happen, so you can just stop thinking that right now.

Falcons (+12½) at Buccaneers

Matt Ryan is 36 years old and playing for another bad Falcons team. He said he doesn’t think about having limited time left in the NFL: “The guy we’re playing against this week is 44, and so I feel pretty good.” I bet Bucs quarterback Tom Brady feels even better. He has 3,170 more career pass attempts than Ryan while taking only 108 more sacks.

Tampa Bay hasn’t been favored by this many points since at least 1980, which is as far back as the Odds Shark database goes. The Bucs are strong along both lines, like the Eagles. Unlike the Eagles, they have a legendary QB. Bucs cover.

South Carolina (+32) at No. 2 Georgia

South Carolina coach/ex-UGA assistant Shane Beamer said this year’s Bulldogs probably are “the most talented football team in the history of Georgia football.” Kirby Smart’s response: “They say that every year, so it’s always nice ... when (other coaches) are saying that about the next team they play, too.” It’s always funny when Smart gets annoyed by opposing coaches putting expectations on him to win big since, you know, he has so many good players.

Beamer might be right. Georgia hasn’t been favored by so many points against an SEC opponent since 2014 against Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs, favored by 33 points in that game, won 44-17. South Carolina upset then-No. 3 Georgia at Sanford Stadium in 2019. This time the Bulldogs win and cover.

Georgia Tech (+28) at No. 6 Clemson

The Yellow Jackets lost 73-7 to Clemson at Bobby Dodd Stadium in October. AJC Tech beat writer Ken Sugiura reports that the Jackets are taking motivation from that defeat. Glad to hear it. I took nothing but shame from that game because I picked Tech to cover 27 points.

Now the Jackets go to Clemson. Their smallest losing margin in the past five trips there was 31-17 in 2011. The Tigers lately have had trouble winning the line of scrimmage against elite opponents like Georgia. They usually push around ACC foes. But I’m taking the Jackets to push back and cover.

Charlotte (+4) at Georgia State

The Panthers lost to Army and North Carolina by a combined margin of 102-27. GSU coach Shawn Elliott said some of his players are “fat cats.” That phrase seems dated until you realize the players were wearing top hats and monocles while smoking cigars. I’ve backed Georgia State, but this is where I get off. Charlotte wins straight up.

Other college games of interest

No. 1 Alabama (-14½) at No. 11 Florida

Florida coach Dan Mullen isn’t saying how much time each of his two QBs will get to be demoralized by Bama’s defense. Freshman Anthony Richardson has been electric: 6-of-11 passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns, 275 rushing yards on 11 carries with two TDs. On the other hand, junior Emory Jones has more experience throwing interceptions. I think this line is inflated, but I’m tired of fading the Crimson Tide and losing. Bama covers.

No. 22 Auburn (+5) at No. 10 Penn State

Penn State coach James Franklin reportedly is a candidate for USC’s opening. Addressing the issue, Franklin told reporters: “I’ve found and tracked this over time, that really no matter what you say, people aren’t happy with it.” I think Penn State fans would be very happy if Franklin says publicly that he’s not interested in the USC job, which he hasn’t. Auburn is breaking from SEC tradition by playing a true nonconference road game that it actually could lose. I like the Tigers with the points.

Florida State (+4½) at Wake Forest

FSU’s overtime loss to Notre Dame in the opener provided hope for a program resurgence. The Seminoles immediately extinguished it by losing to Jacksonville State of the FCS. Now FSU is an underdog at Wake Forest, which hasn’t posted a winning ACC record since 2011. All of this suggests the ‘Noles are closer to the bottom of the league than challenging Clemson anytime soon. They might lose at Wake, but they’ll cover.

Other NFL games of interest

Saints (-3) at Panthers

Soon after the Falcons flopped against an allegedly inferior opponent, the underdog Saints beat the brakes off the Packers in Jacksonville. It was a strange game for QB Jameis Winston. The last of his five touchdown passes went for 55 yards while his other 13 completions totaled 93 yards. Winston, who tends to perform at extremes, is due for an equally weird game the other way. Panthers cover.

Chiefs (-3½) at Ravens

Coach Andy Reid probably saved his legacy when his Eagles beat the Falcons in the NFC Championship game in the 2004 season. That ended his three-game losing streak in the conference title game and gave Reid some currency to survive some lean years to follow in Philadelphia. Reid went on to win a Super Bowl with the Chiefs and now is one victory away from becoming the first coach to win 100 games with two different franchises. The Ravens are the pick.

Last week: 3-7 (6-13 season)