Weekend Predictions: Georgia wins big, Georgia Tech gets better

After leaking oil for two consecutive weeks, Weekend Predictions finally broke down. I went 4-6 on picks against the spread last week for my first losing record in seven tries this season. I’m so shaken by this development that I’m backing a bunch of favorites this week.

I was wrong last week on picks against the spread for the Falcons, Georgia Tech and Georgia State. I appreciate Georgia taking the weekend off so I couldn’t post my first 0-4 weekend for picks on local teams over two-plus years.

No. 5 Georgia (-17) at Kentucky

Quarterback Jake Fromm starred at Georgia but wasn’t selected until the fifth round of the last draft. Meanwhile, the main story on ESPN.com’s college football page as I write this is titled: “How Ryan Day is turning Ohio State into Quarterback U.” Justin Fields walked through that door.

It seems a couple of things are being overlooked in the discussion about UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett’s performance. For one, he’s relatively inexperienced, so there’s a chance he’ll improve quickly. Also, the pass protection didn’t look so good against Alabama. Both will be better this week. Georgia bounces back and covers.

No. 4 Notre Dame (-20) at Georgia Tech

After two blowout losses in a row, Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins insists that his program is improving and pushed back against criticism of his coaching: “A lot of people just want to look at results.” Those people might come to a different conclusion if they’d watched the Yellow Jackets make many of the same mistakes at Boston College last weekend as they made against Syracuse and Clemson.

I want to believe the Yellow Jackets will get better because I’d look smart for predicting a big improvement in Year 2 with Collins. I didn’t foresee the defensive slippage. Collins will shape up that unit, and Notre Dame’s passing game is suspect. Jackets lose, but give a better effort and cover.

No. 20 Coastal Carolina (-2½) at Georgia State

Georgia State is 0-7 all-time in games against ranked opponents, including a 34-31 loss to then-No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette in the opener. The Panthers have won two of three games since then. GSU has the No. 13 scoring offense in FBS, and the defense came through in the 36-24 comeback victory at Troy last week. I like the Panthers to cover.

Falcons (+1½) at Panthers

If you are reading these words in the newspaper, then this late Thursday game is over. I predict the Falcons will lose in a way that no one can imagine. If that turns out to be the case, I’m not prescient but just playing the percentages.

The line for this game moved 1-1/2 points in the Falcons' direction. That’s likely because Carolina’s offensive line is banged up. I’m not taking the bait. Panthers cover.

Other college games of interest

Boston College (+31) at No. 1 Clemson

Clemson was up by only six points in the third quarter last weekend against Syracuse, a 46-point underdog, before winning by 26. It was an ideal situation for coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson won big, and he could pretend he was irritated by media questions about the team’s energy, which quarterback Trevor Lawrence said was low. I won backing Syracuse ATS, but not pressing my luck with BC. Clemson covers.

Mississippi State (+31) at No. 2 Alabama

Six Mississippi State players left coach Mike Leach’s program within 48 hours this week. Star running back Kylin Hill, who was suspended for the last game, reportedly also is leaving. A mass departure of players happened at Washington State soon after Leach was hired. Before you start wondering if Leach is the problem, just look at his stellar track record of six ranked teams in 18 previous seasons for proof that his methods work. Bama is the pick.

No. 3 Ohio State (-12) at No. 18 Penn State

Penn State ended a four-game losing streak to Ohio State in 2016. The Buckeyes have won the past three meetings, with two victories by one point. Penn State senior Antonio Shelton, a Columbus native, told reporters it’s not a rivalry game: “We’re not Michigan.” That’s true. Penn State beats the Buckeyes occasionally. I like Ohio State to cover.

Missouri (+12½) at No. 10 Florida

Gators coach Dan Mullen wanted a packed Swamp during a pandemic two weekends ago, but didn’t get his wish because a COVID-19 outbreak in the program forced a postponement. Mullen continued being a fine representative of an educational institution this week by expressing disapproval of the NCAA’s decision to prohibit athletic activities on Election Day. Now Mullen can blame civic virtue for his annual loss to Georgia. I’ll take Florida to cover despite the 21-day gap between games.

LSU (-2½) at Auburn

SI.com’s Pat Forde lists the bad calls that have benefited Auburn this season along with some other good breaks over the years and asks: “Is Gus Malzahn the Luckiest Man Alive?” Tigers fans who want Malzahn gone now are in the uncomfortable position of defending the legitimacy of their 3-2 team. I’m taking Auburn and the points.

Michigan State (+24½) at No. 13 Michigan

Mark Dantonio retired as Michigan State coach in February, weeks after qualifying for a $4.3 million bonus and just before COVID-19 wrecked the sports world. Then Michigan State and new coach Mel Tucker opened the season with a loss to Rutgers, which last won a Big Ten game in 2017. The Spartans committed seven turnovers, but I’ll count on them not giving the ball away so much this week and take the points.

Other NFL games of interest

Saints (-4½) at Bears

Drew Brees still isn’t throwing deep, and All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas hasn’t played since Week 1. Yet the Saints are 4-2 (2-0 in the NFC South) and rank seventh in the NFL in points scored per game. They are on track to win the division again before Brees fades to another crushing loss in the playoffs. I’ll take the Bears and the points.

Buccaneers (-10½) at Giants

The Giants said Thursday that a player tested positive for COVID-19 and others were isolating. The rest of the team was to continue with the normal schedule of preparing to lose another game and stay in the race for the No. 1 draft pick. The Bucs signed wide receiver Antonio Brown just in case Tom Brady hadn’t made them unlikable enough. Bucs cover.

Last week against the spread: 4-6 (40-31-2 season)

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