Weekend Predictions: My picks for games not foiled by COVID-19

Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins addresses his team on the sidelines against Notre Dame Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Notre Dame won 31-13. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins addresses his team on the sidelines against Notre Dame Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Notre Dame won 31-13. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

I’m told it just means more in the SEC. Well, it means so much to the New Mexico Lobos that they crossed the border so they can put their unpaid players to work during a pandemic.

The Lobos absconded to Las Vegas to set up shop after the New Mexico governor banned practices or games for college teams because of high rates of COVID-19 spread in the state.

“Asking the state of New Mexico to adjust testing protocols and best practices for intercollegiate sports is a recipe for an outbreak,” acting state Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said in a statement to The Associated Press.

ExploreWeek 11 college football TV schedule

Rodriguez never would make it in these parts. Making responsible decisions to protect public health is too politically risky if it means constituents can’t get their vicarious thrills from college football.

COVID-19 outbreaks prompted the SEC to postpone four of seven scheduled games this weekend, including No. 12 Georgia at Missouri. The same issue forced the postponement of Georgia Tech’s home game against Pittsburgh. It turns out college football teams aren’t immune from what the White House called “accelerating community spread” of the coronavirus while doing next-to-nothing to alleviate it.

Weekend Predictions was 7-3-1 against the spread last week. I backed five underdogs who won straight up, including Florida over Georgia. A good week for 'dogs almost always will mean a good week for my picks. It just means more to get points.

The Falcons are off this weekend, which is a relief. My predictions for their games have been wrong for five consecutive weeks. It doesn’t matter whether I pick the Falcons to win or lose. I have no idea what they are going to do, which must be how Dan Quinn felt near the end.

College games of interest

Georgia State (+16) at Appalachian State

Georgia State (3-3, 2-3 Sun Belt) recovered from a blowout loss to Coastal Carolina and dominated Louisiana-Monroe. App State (5-1, 3-0) has beat up three bad Sun Belt Conference foes. The Panthers offer more resistance. They lose, but cover

No. 2 Notre Dame (-13½) at Boston College

Notre Dame beat Clemson last weekend. They would meet in the ACC Championship game if each team wins out. If the Tigers won the rematch — they’d be favored if Trevor Lawrence plays — both teams would have a strong College Football Playoff case. If Alabama wins the SEC and Ohio State wins the Big Ten, then it could be those two plus Clemson and Notre Dame in the playoff. ESPN would love it. Fighting Irish cover.

Arkansas (+17½) at No. 6 Florida

Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman left Athens last year to take the top job at Arkansas. The Bulldogs were preparing for the Sugar Bowl when Pittman hired Kendal Briles to be his offensive coordinator. Kirby Smart went with ex-NFL coordinator Todd Monken. The Hogs already have an offense equal to Georgia’s. Ouch. Gators cover.

No. 9 Miami (+2½) at Virginia Tech

If Clemson slips up again then Miami could end up in the ACC Championship game for only the second time. Maybe the Hurricanes finally will win the league they were supposed to dominate when they left the Big East. Give me Miami and the points.

No. 13 Wisconsin (-4½) at Michigan

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the Centers for Disease Control is analyzing Wisconsin’s COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it started with “one point of introduction.” That might be coach Paul Chryst. He had his mask on his chin while speaking to players during a game before Chryst and 29 other members of the program tested positive. Some of these coaches are bigger public-health threats than partying students. I like Wisconsin to cover.

South Carolina (+11) at Ole Miss

The Gamecocks beat Auburn less than a month ago, but it doesn’t mean as much after lopsided losses to LSU and Texas A&M. The (Charleston) Post and Courier anonymously quoted a program booster griping about the “embarrassing” product on the field. Talk is cheap, unlike coach Will Muschamp’s $13 million contract buyout. I’ll take Ole Miss and give the points.

NFL games of interest

49ers (+9) at Saints

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Saints after they dominated the Bucs on Sunday in Tampa Bay for their fifth consecutive victory. Everybody is looking forward to seeing how the Saints will blow it in the playoffs this time. The 49ers are too beat up to beat the Saints, but they’ll cover.

Buccaneers (-5½) at Panthers

The toughest part about watching Tom Brady get humiliated was that it wasn’t as enjoyable as it should be because the Saints are nearly as unlikeable. The Bucs were so bad their old QB Jameis Winston, now a Saints backup, got in the game and reprised his bizarre “Eat a W” act afterwards. The point spread on this game feels like an overreaction to Tampa Bay’s terrible night, so I’ll take the Bucs to cover.

Ravens (-7) at Patriots

The Ravens are sputtering on offense after despite retaining nearly every starter from last season’s great unit. QB Lamar Jackson said they are so predictable that defenders sometimes call out plays before the snap. These are the kind of issues that tend to surface when a team is struggling to ... oh, wait, the Ravens are 6-2. With the way the local teams are going, I forgot what championship standards look like. I’ll take the Ravens and give the points.

Last week against the spread: 7-3-1 (54-39-3)

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