Weekend Predictions: Georgia edges Auburn, Falcons fall at Packers

Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn (right) and Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Weekend Predictions has posted three consecutive winning weeks to begin 2020 after compiling strong records in 2019 and 2018. In a world full of uncertainty and anxiety, it’s reassuring to know I’m still good picking against the spread, and the Falcons still are good at blowing leads when that seems impossible. My corny jokes may not be as comforting, but that’s the price for the picks.

My one big miss last weekend was predicting Georgia Tech would win at Syracuse. I regretted that by the end of the first quarter. The Yellow Jackets have a bye, which means I can’t be wrong on their result for four consecutive weekends.

I correctly predicted the Bears would beat the Falcons. I regretted that decision when the Falcons were up 26-10 in the third quarter. Somehow, I still underestimate their ability to come from ahead against all odds.

Falcons (+7) at Packers

Former Falcons star Andre Rison told TMZ he wants to replace Dan Quinn as coach. That would be an absurd sentence in any year except 2020. Rison’s resume includes serving as head coach at his alma mater, Flint (Mich.) Northwestern High. That’s a long way from NFL head coach, but I’m assuming Rison’s players knew how to cover an onside kick.

The Falcons competed against the Bears despite missing several key players because of injury. One cornerback, Darqueze Dennard, will miss this game. Another, A.J. Terrell, could be out again. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will have his choice of targets Monday night. Packers cover.

No. 7 Auburn (+6½) at No. 4 Georgia

Georgia coach Kirby Smart accused Auburn’s Gus Malzahn of using “coachspeak” for declaring the Bulldogs probably have the most talent in the SEC. That doesn’t make sense if you look at the recruiting rankings, which make Malzahn’s case. It makes more sense when you know those rankings get hung around Smart’s neck each year that he doesn’t win a national championship.

The Bulldogs sputtered on offense against Arkansas last week until quarterback Stetson Bennett replaced D’Wan Mathis. Now Southern Cal transfer QB JT Daniels (knee) has been cleared to play. Smart’s track record with picking quarterbacks indicates that he’ll eventually settle on the right guy. Give me Auburn and the points.

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East Carolina (+2) at Georgia State

Georgia State postponed its scheduled game at Charlotte last week because of what the school said turned to be false positive tests for COVID-19. That was a big win in the imaginations of coronavirus denialists. Now the Panthers are set to take the field and get a real victory against East Carolina. GSU covers.

Other college games of interest

No. 13 Texas A&M (+18) at No. 2 Alabama

Texas A&M struggled to beat Vanderbilt on Saturday. Aggies fans expecting more from coach Jimbo Fisher surely have noticed by now that he left Florida State in bad shape. Fisher should give Jameis Winston a cut of his $75 million contract. I’m taking the Aggies and the points.

South Carolina (+18) at No. 3 Florida

Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp apologized after a video surfaced on social media showing him cursing while trying to fire up fans. Muschamp vowed to find out who was responsible for leaking the video and making him look relatable and passionate. Florida’s defense had problems with “third and (Todd) Grantham” at Ole Miss last weekend. South Carolina transfer QB Collin Hill takes advantage of that. 'Cocks cover.

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TCU (+12) at No. 9 Texas

The latest Texas is Back campaign nearly ended last weekend. The Longhorns beat Texas Tech in overtime after rallying from 15 points behind in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter. LSU lucked out when Tom Herman turned down its offer and took the Texas job. That’s when the Tigers promoted Ed Orgeron. TCU covers.

No. 18 Oklahoma (-7) at Iowa State

Oklahoma blew a 21-point lead Saturday and lost to Kansas State. The Wildcats were four-touchdown underdogs and had several players out because of COVID-19. Obviously, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is a good fit for the Falcons. I’m taking the Sooners and giving the points.

No. 20 LSU (-21) at Vanderbilt

LSU allowed an SEC-record 623 passing yards to Mississippi State in Bo Pelini’s first game as coordinator. LSU coach Orgeron told reporters: “We should have made a couple of more adjustments during the game.” Orgeron should check and to see if there’s anyone who can do something about that. I like Vandy to cover.

Missouri (+12) at No. 21 Tennessee

Last week Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said he discloses the number of COVID-19 infections for his team because it’s a public health issue. This week he said the SEC’s COVID-19 policy is “kind of a free-for-all” because there is no uniform reporting standard. It’s easy for Drinkwitz to call for transparency when he has every competitive advantage over the likes of Georgia and Alabama. I still don’t trust the Volunteers, so give me Mizzou with the points.

Other NFL games of interest

Saints (-4) at Lions

The Saints lost to the Packers in Week 3 with QB Drew Brees still appearing hesitant to pass far downfield. Brees said he doesn’t care about throwing it long. Teammate Alvin Kamara said he doesn’t care about outside criticism. You can tell the Saints don’t care about this issue by the way they keep telling everyone they don’t care. Saints cover.

Cardinals (-3½) at Panthers

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Carolina’s Matt Ruhle sent him an apologetic message after Texas Tech fired Kingsbury after a 2018 loss to Ruhle’s Baylor team. It’s a heartwarming story that really puts into perspective how there’s no way Kingsbury deserved the Cardinals job. I’m taking the Panthers and the points.

Chargers (+7) at Buccaneers

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn strangely remains committed to QB Tyrod Taylor after two promising starts by rookie Justin Hebert. I get why a coach with shaky job security wants to stick with the veteran in principle, but not when that veteran is Taylor. Lynn might have little choice but to go with the rookie if Taylor (ribs/chest) misses this game and Herbert plays well against Tampa Bay’s good defense. Chargers cover.

Colts (-2½) at Bears

QB Nick Foles looked finished after the Jaguars benched him last season, but the Falcons have revived his career. Bears coach Matt Nagy named Foles the permanent starter after he relieved Trubisky last weekend and beat the Falcons. That officially ends the era of Bears GM Ryan Pace pretending he didn’t make a huge mistake by trading up to draft Trubisky with Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson on the board. I’ll take the Bears and the points.

Patriots (+7) at Chiefs

The Patriots are a touchdown underdog for only the third time since winning the 2002 Super Bowl. That happened once when Tom Brady was suspended and again when the Pats had secured a first-round playoff bye. My love for quality 'dogs should make the Pats an easy pick, but I just can’t fade Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Chiefs cover.

Last week against the spread: 7-3-1 (18-10-1 season)

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