Weekend Predictions: Falcons win again, rejuvenated Georgia rolls

The latest losing margin is so lopsided that I can’t blame bad luck. There’s been no extended time off, so I can’t use that as a lame excuse, unlike some other team I won’t mention. The harsh reality is that Weekend Predictions is having a bad season picking games against the spread, and there’s no one to blame except myself.

I had my worst performance of the season last weekend. The 3-6-1 record is bad enough on its own. The details make it even worse.

I picked Miami as a three-touchdown favorite against Georgia Tech, and the Hurricanes lost (I couldn’t fully enjoy the hilarious way they did it). I picked Notre Dame to cover a touchdown at Louisville, and the Cardinals suddenly played great defense. I figured the Cowboys and Patriots would compete as underdogs, and they both were blown out.

I desperately need a good week or, like that other team I won’t mention, I’ll be explaining why I failed two years in a row.

Commanders (+2½) at Falcons

The Falcons beat the Texans with quarterback Desmond Ridder following his worst game with his best. They didn’t cover the final spread of -2.5 (I pushed with Texans +2), but the Falcons aren’t half-bad, I guess. They are among the many mediocre NFL teams trying to catch a few breaks and win a couple of more games than they lose. I certainly can relate to that.

The Falcons are 3-0 at home with a decisive victory over the Panthers and close wins against the Packers and Texans. The Commanders have lost three consecutive games, including a blowout at home against the Bears a week ago. The extra time off for the Commanders entices me to pick them. But I’m taking the Falcons to cover because their defense has been steady, and Washington’s offense has regressed.

No. 1 Georgia (-31½) at Vanderbilt

Georgia coach Kirby Smart didn’t take the bait when Kentucky’s Mark Stoops said the Bulldogs have “bought some pretty good players” via NIL. That makes him smarter than Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who pretended to take offense when Alabama’s Nick Saban made similar comments about his program. The funny thing is Saban and Stoops are tacitly acknowledging that players are more valuable than coaches.

I picked the underdog to cover for the first time against the Bulldogs, so of course they played their best game of the season against Kentucky. Now comes the annual exercise of trying to determine if the Bulldogs will take Vanderbilt seriously and how much it will even matter if they don’t. Georgia has won five consecutive games in the series by an average margin of 40 points. UGA’s defense and running game are still below standard, but the offense will keep rolling against Vandy’s bad defense. Bulldogs cover.

Marshall (+1) at Georgia State

The Panthers return from a bye after losing their first game of the season. I doubt they’ll blame the time off if they lose again. Last week, Marshall’s offense scored 34 points against N.C. State’s good defense despite committing three turnovers. I see the Thundering Herd bouncing back and beating the Panthers.

Other college games of interest

No. 8 Oregon (+3) at No. 7 Washington

The Pac-12 has gone six consecutive seasons without putting a team in the College Football Playoff. So, naturally, three teams are in the running for a playoff bid in the conference’s final year of existence. The Ducks and Huskies can’t be as easily dismissed as USC because they actually play defense. These teams look even to me and, in that situation, I’m usually going to back the ‘dog. Oregon covers.

No. 10 USC (+3) at No. 21 Notre Dame

USC coach Lincoln Riley defended his team’s defense after a triple-overtime victory over Arizona: “A lot of people in the media had their mind made up that the first second there was any adversity this year, it was like, ‘Oh my God, they should have done this, and they should have made this change,’ and blah blah blah.” Riley might receive the benefit of the doubt if more than one of his seven teams has ranked better than 60th nationally in points allowed. Notre Dame looked worn out in the loss to Louisville, so I’m taking the Trojans and the points.

Arkansas (+20) at No. 11 Alabama

Arkansas is 0-3 in the SEC with losses to LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. I checked in to see if the good vibes are gone for Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman. Per Best of Arkansas Sports, an anonymous booster told Pig Trail Nation’s Mike Irwin that “he does not get the sense right now that a bunch of these (boosters) think Sam Pittman is a terrible hire and needs to go.” I suppose that’s a vote of confidence. Hogs are the pick.

No. 18 UCLA (+3½) at No. 15 Oregon State

UCLA coach Chip Kelly once helped make Oregon a national championship contender. You may have forgotten that since it was in 2012 and Kelly washed out in the NFL after that. Kelly’s Bruins have a shot to make the CFP if they win out. They also had a shot last season, and Kelly promptly lost at home to Arizona as a three-touchdown favorite. This Bruins team is much better on defense. UCLA covers.

Texas A&M (+3½) at No. 19 Tennessee

Fisher said Saban “screwed up” the game management at the end of Alabama’s victory. He’s right: Saban pulled a Mario Cristobal by failing to take a knee, but unlike the Miami coach, it didn’t backfire. But Fisher can’t really talk about Saban’s strategy after TAMU kicked a field goal at Bama’s 2-yard line when trailing by nine points late in the game. The takeaway is that even top college coaches make game-management mistakes that would get them fired in the NFL, where close games are the norm. Aggies are the pick.

Auburn (+11) at No. 22 LSU

Auburn coach Hugh Freeze had his staff call players’ parents during the bye week to check in. Freeze told reporters that he advised parents who complained about playing time for their kids that it’s better for them to stay at Auburn. “That’s a lesson that I think will prepare them more for life than if they had it their way every single time and it was easy,” Freeze said. Weird how the life lessons coaches offer players always line up perfectly with the coaches’ interest in keeping their job. I like Auburn with the points.

Other NFL games of interest

Panthers (+13½) at Dolphins

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel praised struggling Panthers QB Bryce Young. “He’s one of the few young quarterbacks that you see coming out that sees defenders when operating as a quarterback,” McDaniel told reporters. “His vision is uncanny.” That’s a confusing comment for anyone who watched Young play against the Falcons. I hate giving so many points, but the Panthers are so bad and Miami’s offense is so good that I’ve got to back the Dolphins to cover.

Saints (-1½) at Texans

The Saints beat the Patriots so badly in New England last weekend that coach Dennis Allen broke form and got visibly excited. “Hey, we showed up today. That’s my team!” Allen shouted at players in the locker room after the 34-0 victory. Those aren’t exactly stirring words, but cut Allen some slack. He’s not accustomed to showing a pulse. I like the Texans to cover.

Last week: 3-6-1 (25-29-3 season)

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