Weekend Predictions: Jackets and Falcons win, Georgia fattens up on cupcake

After a great run earlier in the season, Weekend Predictions has settled into reliable mediocrity. That puts me one up on the Falcons, who ended their winning streak with whatever that was in Cleveland last weekend. 

The worst part about that debacle is the Falcons took me down with them. They’d convinced me they are a good team. I’m not the only one they hoodwinked but, after nine years in this city, I should know that the moment you believe in the Falcons is when they deliver bitter disappointment. 

» Week 12 college football: How to watch, stream, listen

Georgia Tech stuck it to me again by beating Miami. At least the Georgia Bulldogs almost always make me look good. That’s why it will be nothing personal when I pick Alabama to boat race them. 

Virginia (plus-6 1/2) at Georgia Tech 

Tech has covered the spread in five of its past six games. The one time it didn’t, I correctly picked Duke to win, but the Yellow Jackets beat Virginia Tech and Miami when I had them losing. If they win seven games, like I predicted before the season, I’ll just pretend I had them pegged all along. 

The Jackets finally ended their futility against Miami. But they were just OK on offense by their standards and benefited from two unforced turnovers. Those things nag at me a bit, but I still say Tech wins and Virginia covers. 

Massachusetts (plus-41 1/2) at Georgia 

UMass is Georgia’s third non-conference opponent at Sanford Stadium this season, following Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee. If I were a paying customer, I might think I’m not getting my money’s worth. True, the Bulldogs are just one of several SEC teams to eat cupcakes before Thanksgiving, but that just means too many people are getting empty calories. 

I scoured the numbers looking for something the Minutemen do well, and all I could come up is they are good on defense in short-yardage situations. The Bulldogs, as you know, are not good on offense in those situations. That creates enough analytical cover for me to do what my heart always desires and back the (under) ’dog. 

Cowboys (plus-3) at Falcons 

I heard from several Browns fans who thought I disrespected their team in my dispatch from Cleveland. They told me Cleveland’s first victory in the past five games, and third since the start of 2017, is proof their team is on the rise. Nice going Falcons, you were so bad you gave hope to the most downtrodden fans in the NFL. 

If the Falcons are fakers, then so are the Cowboys, who own three victories against last-place teams. Last weekend Dallas got its first road victory in five tries against the Eagles, another middling team. I’m taking the home team and giving the points, but fully prepared to see my inbox flooded with e-mails from Cowboys fans convinced that beating the Falcons means their team is legit. 

Other SEC games of interest 

Missouri (plus-5 1/2) at Tennessee 

The Volunteers have turned out to be OK in their first season with coach Jeremy Pruitt. During an interview on his radio show, Paul Finnebaum told Pruitt that he would deserve serious consideration for SEC coach of the year if the Vols finish with victories over Missouri and Vanderbilt. I think I heard some faint “Go Tigers” cheers from Athens. 

Ole Miss (plus-2 1/2) at Vanderbilt 

The Rebels are 5-5 in coach Matt Luke’s second season after they finished 6-6 in 2017. Ole Miss ousted his predecessor, Hugh Freeze, because of some escort-service shenanigans. Those indiscretions surfaced only because Freeze tried to blame predecessor Houston Nutt for recruiting violations. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but no way I’m making it. I’ll take Ole Miss and the points. 

Arkansas (plus-21 1/2) at Mississippi State 

The Razorbacks are 0-6 in the SEC this season. They are 35-50 since Bobby Petrino crashed his motorcycle. Reached for comment, Petrino blamed Michael Vick. I like Arkansas with the points. 

Other ACC games of interest 

Syracuse (plus-10 1/2) vs. Notre Dame (Yankee Stadium) 

Coach Dino Babers has guided No. 12 Syracuse to its highest ranking since it was No. 11 during the 1998 season. AD John Wildhack told Syracuse.com he has a plan to keep Babers when better programs come calling. Part of Wildhack’s pitch: "You know what snow does? It melts." Not bad, but I would try convincing Babers to stick around until 2022, when renovations to that depressing dome are complete. Fighting Irish cover. 

Duke (plus-28) at Clemson 

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead said that once the Jets inevitably fire coach Todd Bowles they should call Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. Sounds far-fetched considering Swinney has built a powerhouse, faces maybe two games per year when his team isn’t favored and will be high on Alabama’s list once Nick Saban retires. The Jets might have a chance if they tell Swinney snow melts. Clemson covers.

Boston College (minus-1 1/2) at Florida State 

Willie Taggart got a vote of confidence from Danny Kanell. That doesn’t sound like much in most contexts but probably is useful when you are the Florida State football coach and the ’Noles are 4-6. I’m backing the road favorite in this one. 

National games of interest 

West Virginia (minus-4 1/2) at Oklahoma State 

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he doesn’t watch the weekly College Football Playoff show, which he calls “reality TV.” That reminds me: Remember when Holgorsen was coach-in-waiting behind Bill Stewart, who tried to get reporters to dig up dirt on Holgorsen? Holgorsen had been kicked out of a casino for being intoxicated, but Stewart was the one who ended up resigning. I’m taking the home ’dog. 

Iowa State (plus-3) at Texas 

Iowa State has a victory over West Virginia and Texas beat Oklahoma. That means the winner of this game stays on track for the Big 12 title game as long as ... oh, forget it. No one wants to see any of these teams in the playoffs, so just hope they all figure out a way to knock each other out. Give me Iowa State and the points. 

NFC South 

Eagles (plus-8) at Saints 

The Eagles are at risk of missing the playoffs after they won their first Super Bowl last season. Center Jason Kelce said there’s less team accountability after the departure of key veterans. Teammate Malcolm Jenkins disagreed, adding: “(Kelce’s) opinion for him is probably accurate." I’m using that line next time a reader calls me out for a bad pick. The Saints are rolling, so I’m taking them and giving the points. 

Panthers (minus-4 1/2) at Lions 

Cam Newton recently revealed that he’s a big fan of wine, which might help explain some of his postgame outfits. I also like wine, but unfortunately, I was stone-cold sober when I picked the Falcons to blow out the Browns. Give me Detroit and the points. 

Buccaneers (plus-1 1/2) at Giants 

The last-place Bucs scored three points in a home loss to Washington on Sunday. Coach Dirk Koetter said they still can turn the season around. I was going to clown him for that, but turns out, it’s Koetter’s reasoning for why QB Jameis Winston isn’t starting, so everyone please just pretend he’s right. I’ll take the Giants and give the points. 

Other NFL games of interest 

Chiefs (plus-3 1/2) at Rams 

Hey, look at that, a game featuring two legitimately good NFL teams. And it’s on a Monday Night! I like the Chiefs to win as a road ’dog and create sky-high expectations that they will fail to meet in the playoffs, as usual. 

Vikings (plus-2 1/2) at Bears 

Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush asks: “Do Chicago Bears fans and the Chicago media have an unnatural obsession with the development and performance of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky?” There’s so much sadness in that question. But don’t worry, Chicago, snow melts. I like the Vikings with the points. 

Last week 

Against the spread: 7-6-1 (83-66-5 season) 

AJC pick ’em (straight up): 12-3 (105-58 season)

About the Author

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.
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