No. 8 Arkansas (+18½) at No. 2 Georgia
Kirby Smart hired Sam Pittman away from Arkansas after Nick Saban couldn’t. At least Smart has one win over his former boss. Following a four-season stint in Athens, Pittman returned to Arkansas as head coach. The Razorbacks proved they are a serious threat by beating Texas A&M last weekend. They have the inside track to finish second in the SEC West.
The Bulldogs were 27 points better than Arkansas in Fayetteville last season with Stetson Bennett at quarterback. JT Daniels is the guy now but he’s dealing with an upper back injury. This is the first sharp offense Georgia has faced this season. Bulldogs win, but I’m taking the Hogs and the points.
Pittsburgh (-3) at Georgia Tech
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters he has no hard feelings for Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins. Collins apologized to Narduzzi at ACC media days over the summer for his petulant behavior following Pitt’s victory last season. Tech has benefited from Collins figuring out how to be intense without becoming cartoonish.
I figured the Yellow Jackets would turn things around after the opening loss to Northern Illinois. I correctly predicted they’d compete at Clemson. I didn’t expect Tech to make North Carolina’s offense look so bad. This time I’m picking the Jackets to win straight up.
Washington Football Team (-1½) at Falcons
Falcons coach Arthur Smith posted a “Believe” sign in the team’s news conference room in a nod to Ted Lasso, title character of the Apple TV comedy-drama. Lasso is clueless about the game he coaches (soccer) but gets his players to perform by connecting with them emotionally. No way will this be used against Smith when he makes the kind of inexplicable decision that has defined Falcons coaches. At least they can’t be relegated.
Good luck trying to make some distinction between these two middling-to-bad teams. Common opponent is no help. The Falcons got lucky on Jackson’s drop; Washington beat the Giants after an offside penalty negated a missed field-goal attempt and WFT made the second try. Washington’s defense has underachieved, but the Falcons are the cure. WFT covers.
Appalachian State (-10) at Georgia State
After nearly winning at Auburn, Georgia State returns home for a tougher test. I’m only half-joking. GSU is 0-7 against App State and last season’s 17-13 loss is the only time the margin has been less than two touchdowns. The Panthers have discovered an effective running game. They won’t pass well enough beat App State, but they’ll cover.
Other college games of interest
No. 12 Ole Miss (+14½) at No. 1 Alabama
Lane Kiffin has been a huge disappointment as Ole Miss coach. The Rebels score a lot of points and have their highest poll ranking since 2016, but at what cost? Kiffin has been downright boring. Give me the Kiffin who made Tennessee just good enough to be bowl-eligible while accusing Urban Meyer of recruiting violations and sparking a campus riot when he left for USC after one season. I’m taking Ole Miss and the points.
No. 10 Florida (-7½) at Kentucky
For decades, the Wildcats either got blown out by Florida or found entertaining ways to squander sure victories. Then Kentucky won at The Swamp in 2018 to end its losing streak to Florida at 31 games. That drained some of the fun from this series, but I’ll settle for Florida crushing Kentucky’s latest belief that it’s good at football. Gators cover.
No. 22 Auburn (+3½) at LSU
Via AL.com, ex-Auburn assistant Tony Franklin called Tigers coach Bryan Harsin a “weak man with no backbone” and said the team is “same as the coach: soft, soft, soft.” Auburn dismissed Franklin as offensive coordinator during the 2008 season and Harsin just fired an assistant coach who once played for Franklin. Franklin said that has nothing to do with his personal attacks against Harsin, so rest assured he’s an unbiased jerk. LSU covers.
Boston College (+15) at No. 25 Clemson
Boston College (4-0) is scoring 41 points per game and just beat Missouri with a backup QB. Clemson just lost at N.C. State and struggle to score, but they are great on defense and have won 10 in a row against BC. It’s a weird feeling picking ACC opponents to compete in Death Valley, but I’ve got to get used to it. BC covers.
Other NFL games of interest
Giants (+7½) at Saints
Giants coach Joe Judge defended his decision to punt on fourth-and-4 from the Falcons’ 39-yard line with 6:29 left in the third quarter: “I promise you: If Excel was going to win football games, Bill Gates would be killing it right now.” That’s a pretty good line. It would be even better coming from a coach who’s won more games than Gates this year. Saints cover.
Buccaneers (-7) at Patriots
In his coming book “It’s Better to Be Feared” author Seth Wickersham reports that Pats coach Bill Belichick declined to meet with Tom Brady after the QB decided to sign with Tampa Bay last year. This is a shocking revelation for people who don’t know anything at all about Belichick. I wish there were some way that both he and Brady could lose this game. Tampa Bay is the pick.
Panthers (+4½) at Cowboys
Remember when Carolina was the NFC South’s laughingstock? Well, joke’s on the Falcons now. The Panthers blew up their program at about the same time Arthur Blank decided to double-down on his. Carolina is 13-22 since the start of the 2018 season but is 3-0 this year with one of the NFL’s youngest rosters after an infusion of young talent via extra draft picks. Carolina covers.
Last week: 6-4 (16-22 season)