Weekend Predictions missed out on a second winning week because Ball State coach Mike Neu is lame. His Cardinals kicked a field goal while trailing Georgia by 45 points this past weekend. I had to settle for a push on that pick against the spread and a break-even record for the weekend.
I could blame myself for the mediocre result. I believed Panthers quarterback Bryce Young would be better than bad in his NFL debut. I expected the sorry Bears to beat the Packers. But those wrong picks bothered me less than Neu’s team not trying to score a touchdown from 10 yards out.
Kicking a field goal in that situation is an affront to the football gods and undermines the sacred principles of the point spread. Congratulations, coach Neu. You avoided the shutout. I’m sure that made for a rousing postgame speech after the 45-3 defeat.
Packers (-1½) at Falcons
Congrats to the Falcons on winning their season opener. They did a great job of forcing Young not to look off safety Jessie Bates III before throwing across the middle. The Falcons expertly made two of their open-field fumbles fall into their grasp. This team can do it all except pass the ball effectively, obviously.
Seriously, that was a good effort by the Falcons. A two-touchdown victory against any NFL team is legitimate. I just don’t think the Falcons can win consistently with a passing game that’s neither efficient nor explosive and a defense that relies on turnovers to get stops. I like the Packers to cover with QB Jordan Love playing much better than Young.
South Carolina (+27½) at No. 1 Georgia
This will be the fifth UGA-USC game in a row with the Bulldogs favored by three touchdowns or more, per the OddsShark database. UGA was favored by eight points at South Carolina in 2018. That was back when some people still believed Will Muschamp was a good head coach. That joke might be funnier if Muschamp’s Gamecocks hadn’t won at Sanford Stadium the next season. I still can’t explain it.
The Bulldogs beat South Carolina 48-7 in Columbia last season. The Gamecocks recovered to win four games in a row on the way to an 8-5 finish and No. 19 ranking. That’s pretty much the best USC can do when Steve Spurrier isn’t the coach. I don’t see Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer coming close to pulling a Muschamp in Sanford. Bulldogs are the pick.
Georgia Tech (+18) at No. 17 Ole Miss
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin appreciated the support of fans for the victory at Tulane last weekend. Now he wants to see the same thing at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. “I know The Grove’s awesome, they say, but it would be nice if fans would stay like that to the end of our home games, too,” Kiffin told reporters. If Nick Saban can’t pull that off at Alabama, then Kiffin has no chance to do it when elite tailgating is the alternative.
The Yellow Jackets can do their part to keep Ole Miss fans in their seats by making this a competitive game. The Rebels won 42-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium last season. That was before Brent Key took over as coach and Tech turned its season around. I want to believe Tech will do much better against the Rebels this time, but I saw its defense struggle against Louisville’s good offense. Ole Miss covers the spread with an even better offense.
Georgia State (-7½) a Charlotte
Charlotte coach Biff Poggi has a great name and a unique background. Poggi was a hedge-fund manager before becoming a college football coach, so already he had the relevant experience with exploiting workers. At least Poggi used some of his fortune to fund a high school football program in his native Baltimore. Georgia State covers and secures the first 3-0 start in the program’s history.
Other college games of interest
No. 10 Alabama (-32) at South Florida
Alabama’s loss to Texas apparently didn’t scare off bettors from backing the Crimson Tide. According to OddsShark, Bama has been favored by 30 points or more on the road once since the 1990 season. The 2018 Tide, favored by 35 points, won at Arkansas by a margin of 34. My instinctive desire to pick the big home ‘dog is mitigated by my observation that South Florida may have the worst defense in FBS. Bama covers.
No. 11 Tennessee (-6½) at Florida
Gators coach Billy Napier said he’s put a lot of effort into “educating” his players about the history of this rivalry game, while Volunteers coach Josh Heupel is downplaying it. Related: Tennessee has lost nine consecutive games at The Swamp and has won only two of the past 18 meetings overall versus Florida. Tennessee’s victory in Knoxville last season ended its five-game losing streak in the series. I’m taking Florida and the points.
No. 14 LSU (-9½) at Mississippi State
I can’t stop laughing at the logo on LSU’s website for the link to coach Brian Kelly’s news conferences. It makes Kelly look like a televangelist, an insurance salesman or a state representative asking for your vote. SEC football coaches have some similarities with those professions, so I guess the logo kind of works. I like State to cover.
Other NFL games of interest
Bears (+2½) at Buccaneers
Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool’s effort in the loss to the Packers was so bad that coach Matt Eberflus is contemplating benching him for this game. Trading a second-round pick for Claypool was another masterful move by Bears general manager Ryan Poles. Don’t let the Claypool story distract you from the fact that Chicago has been awful on defense under Eberflus, who was defensive coordinator for the Colts. Bucs are the pick.
Saints (-3) at Panthers
Derek Carr won his debut as Saints quarterback. “He made some plays that we haven’t seen made here for a while,” Saints GM Mickey Loomis said on WWL radio’s “Saints Coaches Show.” That’s so disrespectful to Jameis Winston, who made some great plays in between all the bad ones. The Saints escaped with the win because Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill was awful. I’m taking the Panthers and the points with the expectation that Young will be better in his second NFL game.
Last week: 4-4-1 (8-7-1 season)