If you think I’m going to make an easy joke about the NFL punishing the British with this game, well, you’re right. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they are the bigger punchline right now. The Jets beat the Titans last weekend with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson playing his best game. The Jets can talk themselves into thinking they are ready to move on from their ineptness.
The Falcons can’t make the same case. Smith’s weird personnel decisions (Feleipe Franks for one play?) suggest he still doesn’t know what he wants his offense to be. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ plan to blitz heavily has run up against the reality of his shaky secondary. Players from fullbacks to safeties are dropping passes, and Calvin Ridley isn’t making the trip. I’m still taking the Falcons to win, but Jets cover.
No. 2 Georgia (-15) at No. 18 Auburn
The Tigers won at LSU on Saturday. That’s a good victory, but the Bulldogs are a different animal. The talk of them being better than Bama is, I think, premature. But Georgia has been a machine no matter who’s at quarterback. The Bulldogs have dominated this series for going on 15 years, and there’s little reason to believe Auburn will spring an upset in the latest meeting.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (back) is questionable to play. Coach Kirby Smart pretended Daniels was a game-time decision all last week. Then Stetson Bennett revealed he took all the first-team snaps in practice. I want to back a quality home underdog, but I just can’t when these Dogs have been so good. Georgia covers.
Georgia Tech (-4½) at Duke
I have a complicated relationship with Tech football. I picked the Yellow Jackets to blow out Northern Illinois, and they lost. I believed Tech would get off the mat, and correctly forecast a competitive effort at Clemson. I pumped the brakes by predicting the Jackets would lose to North Carolina, and they won big. I backed them to beat Pitt, and they got run out of Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Where does all that leave me for my take on Tech this week? I don’t know. I’m genuinely asking. The Jackets have been road favorites once with Collins as coach and lost 37-20 at Syracuse. Now doesn’t feel like the time to back them to cover as a favorite, even against Duke, so I’m going to do it. I figure my gut has been wrong, so going against it must be right.
Georgia State (-16) at Louisiana-Monroe
My Georgia State predictions have been better than my Tech picks. Yes, I know that’s a low bar. Shut up. The Panthers are 3-1 straight up, 2-2 ATS as road ‘dogs with coach Shawn Elliott. Louisiana-Monroe may have the worst offense in FBS. Under normal circumstances, I’d be more confident picking GSU than Tech as a road favorite. The current circumstances of my stifling self-doubt mean I’m taking GSU to cover while expecting coach Terry Bowden’s Warhawks to score 50.
Other college games of interest
No. 1 Alabama (-17½) at Texas A&M
It’s not true that Texas A&M is paying Nick Saban money to Jimbo Fisher for Gus Malzahn results. The Aggies are getting less from their investment. The opponents for all but three of his 12 losses: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Florida and Clemson. But is it too much to ask the $9 million coach to have more than one win against that group? The Crimson Tide are 14-8 ATS when favored by 17½ or more on the road with Saban. I like them to cover.
No. 13 Arkansas (+6) at No. 17 Ole Miss
Coach Lane Kiffin told CBS viewers to “get your popcorn ready” and cockily tossed his headset just before his Rebels went out and ... didn’t score until Alabama was ahead by five touchdowns. Kiffin posted a photo on social media of the many bags of popcorn that people sent him. Hopefully this means he’ll be fun again. I’m writing off the Arkansas flop in Athens as a case of stage fright and taking the Hogs and the points.
Vanderbilt (+39) at No. 20 Florida
Florida coach Dan Mullen argued that he wasn’t outcoached by Mark Stoops in Lexington last weekend because Florida gained more yards. Why should Mullen be humble just because he’s lost twice in four games to the Wildcats after his predecessors beat them 31 in a row? It’s always scary to pick the Commodores no matter how many points they are getting, but I’m doing it.
LSU (+3½) at No. 16 Kentucky
LSU coach Ed Orgeron’s folksiness was endearing when it looked like he knew what he was doing. It has a different connotation now that Orgeron appears to be in over his head. The Tigers are 8-7 since winning the national championship. Orgeron and Dabo Swinney are adding to the pile of evidence that great players make coaches. Mullen had a too-safe plan against Kentucky, but I’m thinking Orgeron goes for it. LSU is the pick.
Other NFL games of interest
Dolphins (+10) at Buccaneers
It made me sick to my stomach to see Tom Brady warmly greeting Belichick and ex-teammates after the Bucs won at New England. How could Brady be so happy when I backed the Bucs to cover and they didn’t? I see the Bucs shutting down Miami’s inept offense and covering the spread.
Saints (-2) at Washington Football Team
The Saints hilariously followed their victory at New England with a home loss to the Giants. The Saints took a delay-of-game penalty on second down because they didn’t have the right personnel on the field. They ended up punting to the Giants, who delivered a game-winning drive. Can’t blame that on Michael Thomas being on the injured list. This time the Saints get their act together and cover.
Eagles (+3½) at Panthers
If you’re looking to feel better about the Falcons, don’t pay attention to the Eagles. Philadelphia dominated the Falcons in the opener and then lost three consecutive games by a touchdown or more. The Panthers lost at Dallas last weekend while not covering the spread for the first time in four games. They’ll do it against Carolina.
Last week: 2-9 (18-31 season)