The Falcons have a bye this weekend. Coach Arthur Smith presumably will be hard at work dissecting game videos and trying to decide which quarterback gives his team a chance to win the NFC South with a losing record.
No. 1 Georgia (-10) at No. 18 Tennessee
The Volunteers thought they were going places after they won 11 games in 2022. They hadn’t reached that mark since Phil Fulmer was winning big in between all the player arrests. Now Tennessee (7-3, 3-4 SEC) is just trying to avoid a losing SEC record. Josh Heupel is the latest coach not to look so smart without a great quarterback. Heupel already knew that because he carried Bob Stoops to his one and only national championship as Oklahoma’s quarterback.
Georgia (10-0, 7-0) is rolling. Brock Bowers is back, and Carson Beck is a breakout star. Tennessee surrendered 530 yards to Missouri’s bad offense at home last weekend, and the Vols are merely very good rather than great on offense. I love quality underdogs at home, but sadly, I lack the confidence to be a contrarian with this pick. Georgia covers.
Syracuse (+6½) at Georgia Tech
After Syracuse suffered back-to-back blowouts following a 4-0 start, according to 247Sports, coach Dino Babers told reporters that NIL and the transfer portal were to blame: “Schools like us, we’re not going to have a lot of depth because it gets bought away.” The Orange (5-5, 1-5 ACC) lost three more games in a row after that inspirational message. Maybe Babers could keep more players around if his program produced more than two winning seasons and one first-round NFL draft pick over seven years.
With a victory, Tech (5-5, 4-3) would become bowl-eligible and secure its first winning ACC record since 2018 and only the second since 2014. That would produce a lot of good vibes for the program before the Bulldogs come to town and ruin things. Clemson overwhelmed the Yellow Jackets at the line of scrimmage last weekend, but ‘Cuse is more their speed. Tech covers.
Georgia State (+31) at No. 15 LSU
GSU coach Shawn Elliott said LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is the best player in college football. But Elliott noted that the Panthers once forced Auburn to bench Bo Nix, and they hope to make LSU do the same with Daniels. I love the enthusiasm, but the thing about that comparison is Nix wasn’t good at Auburn (he’s really good now at Oregon), and Daniels might be the best player in college football.
The Panthers were 24.5-point underdogs when they won 38-30 at Tennessee in 2019. This GSU team is better than that one. The Panthers should be able to score against LSU’s weak defense. Will they score enough points to cover the spread? I say yes, for whatever that’s worth.
Other college games of interest
No. 5 Washington (-2½) at No. 11 Oregon State
Oregon State has a chance to do the funniest thing. The Beavers are being left behind in the rubble of the Pac-12′s collapse. But they can knock Washington out of the College Football Playoff race days after a judge ruled that Oregon State and Washington State have sole control of the league’s governance (and revenue). I’m backing the Beavers as the home ‘dog while hoping they stick it to the Pac-12 by winning straight up.
No. 7 Texas (-7½) at Iowa State
When I saw a headline that said Texas coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t like the timing of Texas A&M’s firing of Jimbo Fisher, I figured it was because Sarkisian wanted a shot at Fisher in the SEC next season. It turns out Sarkisian was lamenting how the December signing period influences schools to dismiss underperforming coaches during the season. I doubt that will prevent Sarkisian from poaching recruits who’ve said they’ll sign with TAMU. Texas is the pick.
Florida (+11½) at No. 9 Missouri
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz had some words for Heupel during the postgame handshake after Mizzou’s 38-7 victory over Tennessee last weekend: “We stand on business, Josh.” That’s what the kids call “cringe.” Drinkwitz turned 40 this year, so maybe he’s just learning that we old folks shouldn’t try to use slang we don’t really understand. Florida looks finished, so I’m taking the Tigers and giving the points.
No. 20 North Carolina (+6½) at Clemson
Two weeks ago Dabo Swinney was feuding with a caller to his radio show who questioned whether the Clemson coach was earning his salary. This week, a fan called in to the show and begged Swinney not to take the Texas A&M job. “Clemson won’t be Clemson if you ever leave us,” the caller told Swinney, per Yahoo Sports. Swinney has the perfect job. He’s making $11.5 million per year, Clemson fans embrace his clownery and they are too insecure to believe they could ever do better. I like the Tar Heels to cover.
NFL games of interest
Cowboys (-10½) at Panthers
Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the draft, already is a star. Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick, is struggling. John McClain, longtime NFL writer for the Houston Chronicle, rubbed salt in the wounds of Panthers fans who secretly wish their team had picked Stroud. “I think — and they’ll never admit this — if they’d had the No. 1 pick, (the Texans) would’ve taken Bryce Young even though there were a lot of people out there who had Stroud rated over Bryce Young,” McClain said Monday on the “NFL Report.” If so, the Panthers lucked into making the wrong pick. Cowboys cover.
Buccaneers (+11½) at 49ers
Bucs QB Baker Mayfield is playing for his fourth NFL team. He was a bust for the Browns and got benched in Carolina. Mayfield stunk it up when he took over for injured Rams QB Matthew Stafford last season. The Bucs signed Mayfield to a bargain-bin contract for this season. I bring all of this up to note that Mayfield is having a better season than Falcons QB Desmond Ridder. The 49ers looked awesome in their victory at Jacksonville last weekend, but they’ll come down to earth as Tampa Bay covers.
Last time: 5-6 (33-42-4 season)