Weekend Predictions: Georgia keeps rolling against Kentucky

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, right, and Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talk before the start of a game on Nov. 18, 2017, in Athens, Ga. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, right, and Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talk before the start of a game on Nov. 18, 2017, in Athens, Ga. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

It’s hard to settle on the low point of the weekend. Maybe it was when I was pleading for the Jets to score a garbage-time touchdown against the Falcons for a lucky push. It could have been me waiting in vain for Vanderbilt to score one freaking field goal at Florida. Not even the Alabama machine could save Weekend Predictions from breaking down again.

My picks were 5-6 against the spread last weekend. Georgia State blew out Louisiana-Monroe, as I predicted. But the victory improved GSU’s record to 2-4, which means my 1-5 weekly mark is worse than all the local football teams. Even the bright side throws shade on me.

The Falcons, Georgia Tech and Georgia State are off this weekend. Unfortunately, I can’t take a break. Time to make my picks and accept my fate.

No. 11 Kentucky (+23) at No. 1 Georgia

Mark Story of the Lexington-Herald Leader writes: “(Mark) Stoops, 54, does not have to leave Kentucky to hold a good football head coaching job — because he already has one.” That’s a hard sell unless Stoops’ ambitions are to draw $5 million salary at a program where bowl eligibility and three SEC wins is the annual bar. OK, that does sound like a good job, so never mind.

Stoops coached as if he wasn’t really trying to beat Georgia during last year’s meeting in Lexington. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart seemed content to accept the 14-3 victory. I’d love to take the Wildcats and the points. But their very good defense and one-dimensional offense isn’t enough to cover on the road against the Georgia juggernaut.

Other college games of interest

No. 5 Alabama (-17) at Mississippi State

Alabama hasn’t lost consecutive games since 2008, Nick Saban’s first year as coach in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide’s previous loss before last weekend was to LSU in November 2019. The next week Bama, favored by 19, beat Mississippi 38-7. The Tide lost to Auburn in the SEC Championship game that year. Two weeks later they were favored by a touchdown over Michigan and won 35-16 in a bowl they probably didn’t care much about. I’m picking the Tide to cover, which probably makes this sure thing less certain.

No. 13 Ole Miss (-2½) at Tennessee

Lane Kiffin returns to Knoxville for the first time since he bolted for USC after one season. This week he said he was caught off-guard when USC was hit with severe NCAA penalties soon after he took the job: “I like to live in the positive and say, had those numbers not happened, it would have been a totally different story of results on the field.” I also like to live in the positive and say, had those numbers not happened, it would have been a totally different story of picks ATS. The Volunteers score enough to cover.

Auburn (+4½) at No. 17 Arkansas

Arkansas is humming on offense now, but lost 52-51 at Ole Miss last weekend (shout-out to coach Sam Pittman for going for two points at the end and securing the six-point cover). Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said of the Hogs: “Everybody talks about tempo. They actually know how to do it, so they go really fast.” After watching so many college teams play fast, badly, I agree that’s an important distinction. Auburn is the pick.

No. 20 Florida (-11½) at LSU

Florida plays its first road game since losing at Kentucky while committing eight false starts among 15 penalties. Coach Dan Mullen told reporters he has a better plan for LSU’s louder stadium: “I’m not going to get into what we’re going to do. We’ve been coaching a long time.” I guess that’s meant to be an endorsement of the coaches whose team has compiled more penalty yards than all but four in Power 5. I’ll back the Gators to cover and probably end up regretting it.

Clemson (-13½) at Syracuse

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has never signed a player from the transfer portal. Swinney said this week that high school recruits lose opportunities when teams add players via the portal. Swinney also said he’d use the portal if needed, so I guess in his mind he’s OK with taking opportunities from high school recruits? It’s not like Swinney to express incoherent, contradictory opinions. Syracuse isn’t good on offense, and Clemson remains elite on defense. Tigers cover.

NFL games of interest

Vikings (-1) at Panthers

After the Vikings beat the Lions last weekend, QB Kirk Cousins punched coach Mike Zimmer in the chest and grabbed him by the shirt. Zimmer said he was fine with what he called Cousins’ emotional celebration. He didn’t seem OK with it when shoving Cousins away like he was a drunk person accosting him in a bar. It was unexpectedly irrational behavior from the guy who pondered putting up plexiglass to separate him from teammates rather than take a free, safe and effective vaccine. Panthers cover.

Packers (-4½) at Bears

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers told reporters he could name all the players who’ve started at QB for the Bears since Rodgers took over in Green Bay, but he ran out of time: “I’m giving up, I got a meeting to go to.” (Eight is the answer.) Kennesaw’s Justin Fields is the latest QB hope for the Bears. Unfortunately, Chicago’s top two running backs are on injured reserve. I’ll take Green Bay and give the points.

Chargers (+2½) at Ravens

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is on pace to produce similar numbers to his 2018 MVP season. If Jackson keeps it up, we could see a record number of critical quotes from anonymous football people who still can’t admit they were wrong about him. Jackson wore out Indy’s banged-up secondary last weekend. Now the Ravens will punch through L.A.’s weak run defense and cover.

Chiefs (-6½) at Washington Football Team

QB Patrick Mahomes already has thrown six interceptions, matching his 15-game total from last season. Kansas City’s defense has been terrible. Chiefs coach Andy Reid suggested that’s why Mahomes is forcing things, but Mahomes rejected that line of thinking: “We try to score every single time we touch the football.” The Chiefs won’t do that against Washington, but they’ll cover because WFT can’t keep up.

Last week: 5-6 (23-37 season)