Weekend Predictions: Georgia Tech drops opener to Louisville

Georgia Tech coach Brent Key and the Yellow Jackets will open the 2023 season Sept. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Louisville. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech coach Brent Key and the Yellow Jackets will open the 2023 season Sept. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Louisville. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The moment deserved a moment of silence in sportsbooks across America but, alas, I mourned alone. Weekend Predictions posted a losing record on picks against the spread last season for the first time in five years. I return with humility, but also with hope for a better future.

I had an outside shot to keep the win streak alive going into the final week. A 3-6 finish dropped my record to 66-73-5. Only TCU had a more embarrassing end to the season. It felt worse for me, though, because unlike the Horned Frogs, I have a track record of recent excellence.

My record over five seasons is 512-440-22 (.538). Beating the ‘book requires getting about 52% of picks right, so I’m still in the black. I’m doing better than Falcons coach Arthur Smith (.412) and Georgia Tech’s Brent Key (.500). If you think coaching football is harder than picking games, then explain why there are more winning coaches than successful professional gamblers?

Checkmate.

Week 1 of college football features an interesting local game (Tech vs. Louisville) and a top-10 matchup (No. 5 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida State). Then there’s Georgia’s opener against Tennessee Martin. There’s no official line for that game, as is usual when an FBS team faces an FCS opponent.

Bill Connelly’s SP+ projection predicts that the Bulldogs will win 52-4. I like the Seahawks to cover that spread. That should be no surprise to regular readers. My love for underdogs means that, if you gave me enough points, I’d pick the Washington Generals over the Harlem Globetrotters.

I wish this UGA versus Tennessee-Martin included tricks and gags. At least then it would be entertaining. Georgia’s early-season schedule is so boring that I’m trying to talk myself into thinking that South Carolina can give the Bulldogs a game.

Louisville (-7½) vs. Georgia Tech (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

The Yellow Jackets return to the site of Geoff Collins’ greatest victory. Yeah, I know. There aren’t many to choose from. But I’m just saying the Benz Dome has been good to Tech. The Jackets beat then-No. 21 North Carolina there two years ago. Now interim-turned-permanent coach Key will try to score another upset for Tech at MBS.

Key’s big decision in his first season with job security was to name Haynes King the starting quarterback. King transferred from Texas A&M last season. He didn’t pan out at TAMU with alleged QB guru Jimbo Fisher. If King is as good as his recruiting rating says, then he might be able to help Tech’s offense improve from awful to decent. That’s going to take time, so I’m taking the Cardinals and giving the points.

Other college games of interest

Middle Tennessee (+39) at No. 4 Alabama

Nick Saban is smiling more during news conferences, prompting AL.com to find out if there’s any connection between Saban smiles and winning. The conclusion: “Based on the data set, there’s little discernible correlation between Saban’s preseason camp smiles and the eventual success of his Alabama teams.” Maybe Saban is smiling more because he finally realized it’s good to become a multimillionaire while playing maybe three games per year that his team could lose. Bama is the pick.

No. 5 LSU (-2½) vs. No. 8 Florida State (Orlando, Florida)

LSU has its highest preseason ranking since 2016. It’s the highest-ever preseason ranking for a team coached by Brian Kelly. The high expectations shouldn’t be a problem for Kelly until his team inevitably gets routed in the postseason. Hopes also are high in Tallahassee. The Seminoles haven’t won a national title since Jameis Winston carried Jimbo Fisher 10 years ago. LSU opened the 2022 season with a loss to Florida State at the Superdome. I’m picking FSU to win again.

No. 9 Clemson (-13) at Duke

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney complained on his radio show about the long walk from the field to the visiting locker room at Wallace Wade Stadium: “And in college football, you barely have enough time to go to the bathroom and talk for 30 seconds in there, and it’s time to go again.” College football halftimes are 20 minutes long so what exactly is Swinney doing in the bathroom? But he’s right: I’ve done that walk many times, and it is a long way. Now, get off my lawn! Clemson covers.

No. 21 North Carolina (-2½) vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

There’s excitement in Columbia after the Gamecocks went 8-5 in 2022. That should tell you something about the previous state of the program. Coach Shane Beamer has produced two of the three winning seasons for the Gamecocks since Steve Spurrier decided football got in the way of golfing. The schedule is brutal for South Carolina in 2023, and it starts right away. I’ll believe the Gamecocks can stop opponents when I see it. Tar Heels cover.

Boise State (+14) at No. 10 Washington

Washington has a chance to win the Pac-12 before bolting for the Big Ten along with Oregon. Meanwhile, Boise State has dominated the Mountain West for more than a decade, but still was passed over in the recent conference realignments. The Broncos seem to have the quaint idea that winning at a lower level in college football means promotion to the big leagues. Boise State covers.

Virginia (+28) vs. No. 12 Tennessee (Nashville)

The Volunteers were on track for a College Football Playoff berth last season until South Carolina hung 63 points on them. Josh Huepel might call pretty plays, but the Tennessee coach won’t win big until his solid defense cuts out the inexplicably ugly efforts. That shouldn’t be a problem against Virginia’s awful offense. I’m taking Tennessee to cover.

Last season: 66-73-5

All-time: 512-440-22