Weekend Predictions: Picks for Falcons, Georgia Tech, Georgia State

Georgia Tech running back Jamious Griffin (22) blocks for quarterback Jeff Sims (10) as he attempts a pass against the Florida State Seminoles Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, at Doak Campbell Stadium. (Don Juan Moore/Character Lines)

Credit: Don Juan Moore

Credit: Don Juan Moore

Welcome to another week of pretending everything is fine for football during a pandemic. Ignore the COVID-19 outbreaks on college teams. Never mind the cancellations and postponements (five college games this week as of Thursday afternoon). Just sit back, relax and enjoy the exhilarating sights and sounds of fans in empty or quarter-filled stadiums seeking meaning and vicarious thrills from games.

Speaking of that, I’m feeling good after a strong start for Weekend Predictions. I correctly picked the winners against the spread in six of nine games last weekend. The Falcons were even worse than I thought; Georgia Tech was even better. Those could be recurring themes this season.

No. 14 Central Florida (-7½) at Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets earned an impressive victory at Florida State with freshman quarterback Jeff Sims putting on a show. But the bigger news is that their favorite Ford, the Ramblin' Wreck, won approval to lead the Jackets out of the tunnel for this game. AJC Tech beat writer Ken Sugiura reports that Wreck driver Abi Ivemeyer’s proposal cited the vehicle’s “history of abrupt and unanticipated mechanical malfunctions” so keep that old jalopy far away from Sims.

UCF saw 10 players opt out before the season. Only two of those players were projected starters, both on defense. Depth along both lines is a question, but Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel will fare better than FSU’s James Blackman. Jackets lose, but cover.

ExploreGeorgia Tech-Central Florida: TV, online, radio information

Falcons (+4½) at Cowboys

Falcons coach Dan Quinn blamed predictable defensive alignments for the pass coverage failures against Seattle. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said he “underestimated” Seattle’s passing game, which is an odd thing to say when Russell Wilson is the quarterback. Maybe the coaches are just covering for the players, but I’m still taking Morris in the Quinn scapegoat pool.

I’m also tempted to take the Falcons and the points. Their offensive and defensive lines were effective against Seattle. But Dallas has a much better pass rush and pass blocking than the Seahawks and QB Dak Prescott, like Wilson, can make throws on the run. I’m picking the Cowboys to cover.

No. 19 Louisiana (-17) at Georgia State

GSU quarterback Cornelious “Quad” Brown has a great name and a tough task. He’s succeeding Dan Ellington, who twice was named to the All-Sun Belt team. Brown once had a scholarship offer from Alabama, which was nervous about Taulia Tagovailoa, brother or Tua, deciding to go elsewhere.

Louisiana’s website clears up any confusion about what it should be called by noting its seven approved names and abbreviations. The Ragin' Cajuns (or just Cajuns) had the best victory among the Sun Belt’s three against Big 12 opponents on Saturday. They shut out then-No. 23 Iowa State after halftime for a 31-14 victory. I’m taking Louisiana (not Lafayette) to cover.

Other college games of interest

No. 17 Miami (+2½) at No. 18 Louisville

Miami and Louisville weren’t ranked in the AP preseason poll, which included teams that announced they weren’t going to play. The Hurricanes and Cardinals won their opening games and moved into the top 20 of the latest poll, which doesn’t include teams that announced they wouldn’t play. Now the Big Ten is planning to play, but not until Oct. 24, after which I guess some Big Ten teams will move into the poll and supplant teams that already were playing and didn’t lose? Anyway, I’m taking Miami and the points.

Florida Atlantic (+1½) at Georgia Southern

Georgia Southern announced that 33 players sat out the opener last weekend because of COVID-19, injuries, suspensions or “coach’s discretion.” Everything worked out for GSU, which beat Campbell and avoided public scrutiny by not announcing how many players are/were infected with COVID-19. An outbreak forced Florida Atlantic to cancel practice Wednesday. Coach Willie Taggart told the Sun-Sentinel that the game’s status “depends on if we have enough guys to play at certain positions.” Having no clue about this game won’t stop me from taking GSU to cover.

Houston (+4) at Baylor

Houston and Baylor both had their opening games cancelled when opponents suffered COVID-19 outbreaks. That prompted the leaders of both programs to pause and do some honest self-reflection about the ethics of sending out unpaid players to take risks ... just kidding. Houston and Baylor quickly got to work and scheduled this game so that no stray dollar is left on the table. Baylor is my pick.

ExploreWeek 3 college football schedule: How to watch all 21 FBS games

Other NFL games of interest

Saints (-5½) at Raiders

QB Drew Brees had a ho-hum performance against the Bucs in Week 1 and the Saints won 34-21. They scored on drives of 15, 35 and 44 yards and had an interception return for a touchdown. Matt Ryan can only look wistfully at Brees from afar and wonder what it’s like to be backed by great defense and special teams. I like the Raiders to cover.

Panthers (+9) at Buccaneers

Bucs coach Bruce Arians caused a media stir by telling the truth about Tom Brady’s bad performance against New Orleans. Brett Favre was among those who questioned the wisdom of Arians publicly calling out Brady. Brady brushed off the criticism. He’ll never live up to Favre, who nearly did the impossible by squandering all the good will he built up in Green Bay. I like the Panthers with the points.

Lions (+6) at Packers

D’Andre Swift hardly ever dropped passes while playing for Georgia. In his NFL debut for the Lions, Swift dropped what would have been a game-winning TD pass from Matthew Stafford. The Lions had already blown a 17-point lead in the second half so Swift only gets a fraction of blame. Hopefully Stafford, also a former Bulldogs star, prepared Swift for the soul-crushing disappointment that comes with playing for the Lions. Packers cover.

Washington (+6½) at Cardinals

The Team Formerly Known as a Racist Slur won by two scores as a 5½-point underdog against the Eagles. It seemed to be the case that the Washington Football Team is just less bad than the Eagles, who are 18-15 since winning the 2018 Super Bowl. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray was sharp while leading two go-ahead touchdown drives in the fourth quarter at San Francisco. Cardinals cover.

Chiefs (-8½) at Chargers

The Chiefs didn’t unleash the full potential of their offense against the Texans in Week 1 and still won 34-20. Every Chiefs victory is good for the Falcons, who want Kansas City to wrap up the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed and rest its regulars before the Falcons visit in Week 16. I like the Chargers with the points.

Last week against the spread: 6-3 (6-3 this season)

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