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Michael Cunningham’s ramblings from the world of sports

Weekend Predictions: Tech stumbles again, Bulldogs bounce back


The annual Florida-Georgia football game is this weekend, and you know what that means. Time for everyone to make tired Cocktail Party jokes. Yes, I low-key just made the same joke while pretending I’m above it, but you see, that’s clever because it’s meta. 

The Bulldogs return from their bye trying to recover from the Baton Rouge beat-down. Georgia Tech has a Thursday night game, creating an awkward situation for a column called Weekend Predictions. 

» Week 9 college football: How to watch, stream listen

The Falcons are off this week. The best thing about their consecutive wins means we’ll be spared from tired jokes about them losing to the bye. 

Georgia (minus-6.5) vs. Florida 

Dogs coach Kirby Smart said quarterback Jake Fromm was “super” in practice after struggling at LSU. That makes me suspicious. Considering Kirby has created a season-long mystery around his quarterbacks, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Justin Fields to start the game slinging the ball. (That’s a joke. Kinda.) 

SB Nation stats guru Bill Connelly writes that the game comes down to which team is more effective in the trenches. That should make Bulldogs backers nervous after what they saw against LSU and Missouri. I’m thinking that with both teams selling out to stop the run, the Bulldogs have a better chance in the air. They win, but Gators cover. 

Georgia Tech (plus-3.5) at Virginia Tech 

The Yellow Jackets led FBS in fumbles through seven games. The fun part is watching Paul Johnson grit his teeth while saying that’s a coaching problem. The Hokies haven’t forced many fumbles, but they are great at creating passing downs. I’ll take Va Tech and give the points. 

SEC games of interest 

Kentucky (plus-7) at Missouri 

Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said struggling QB Terry Wilson remains the starter. Later that same day he said other QBs would get a chance. Finally, Stoops said he anticipates playing “several” quarterbacks against Mizzou. He could have saved time by saying he doesn’t have any good quarterbacks. Kentucky’s defense is legit, though, and that’s enough to cover at Mizzou. 

Texas A&M (plus-2) at Mississippi State 

In an interview with Texas Monthly magazine, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said the way he earns respect from his players is to “be honest” and “put your arm around them and talk to them like they’re human beings.” The interview happened before Fisher went berserk during a game and jerked a player by the face mask, then denied he jerked a player by the face mask. I’ll take A&M to cover.

Tennessee (plus-7.5) at South Carolina 

The State newspaper reports that Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp believes certain programs copy the recruiting formula of Nick Saban and his former assistants, like Muschamp. “It’s really interesting, when we offer somebody, they get offered real quick by a lot of schools,” Muschamp said. I’m sure they are copying Saban, but Muschamp’s “we” is amusing considering his South Carolina classes have ranked 10th, eighth, and seventh in the SEC per 247Sports. Gamecocks cover. 

ACC games of interest 

Clemson (minus-17) at Florida State 

’Noles coach Willie Taggart said he learned about Clemson’s culture while visiting with the program last year. That certainly sounds like a better plan than copying Muschamp’s recruiting. But let’s hope that during his Clemson visit Taggart didn’t learn how to be a hypocritical, self-righteous head coach. Tigers cover. 

Miami (minus-3.5) at Boston College 

Hurricanes QB N’Kosi Perry posted a video to social media last week that showed him riding in a car with wads of cash in his lap. Said coach Mark Richt: “He didn’t break any laws. He didn’t break any NCAA rules. He’s in good standing, but the image is not good.” Agreed. Anything that suggests athletes get paid market salary for their labor is a bad look. I’ll take the ’Canes and give the points. 

NC State (minus-2) at Syracuse 

The hot debate for the Wolfpack this week seems to be coach Dave Doeren’s kickoff strategy, which seems weird after N.C. State got stomped by Clemson. Doeren says the Wolfpack need to “get back to being us.” I don’t know if he means the 2018 team that began 5-0 against a mediocre schedule, or the program that’s been slightly-above-average for going on five years. I like ’Cuse at home with the points. 

National games of interest 

Washington State (plus-3) at Stanford 

Washington State coach Mike Leach was interested in taking the Tennessee job last year. Too bad it didn’t happen because the SEC could use a colorful coach who isn’t a self-serious egomaniac. Leach is so much fun that no one batted an eye when he revealed that he learned a trick-play formation from a Microsoft engineer while the two hung out in a bar in Cambodia. Of course he did. I like the Cougars getting points. 

Iowa (plus-6) at Penn State 

The Hawkeyes are lurking on the fringes of the CFP discussion. They are ready and willing to take the Big Ten’s CFP semifinal loss should they win out and beat Ohio State or Michigan in the conference title game. I’ll take Iowa and the points. 

Texas (minus-3.5) at Oklahoma State 

The Longhorns are lurking on the fringes of the CFP discussion. They are ready and willing to take the Big 12’s CFP semifinal loss should they win out and beat Oklahoma in the conference title game. I like Oklahoma State as a home dog. 

NFC South 

Buccaneers (plus-4) at Bengals 

QB Jameis Winston wasn’t one of the two offensive captains when the team voted before the last game. According to the Tampa Bay Times, coach Dirk Koetter postponed the vote because he wanted the team leaders to emerge organically. In Winston’s defense, he wasn’t around to make his case for the captaincy for three weeks because of a league suspension for groping a woman. I’ll take the Bengals and give the points. 

Ravens (minus-2) at Panthers 

During postgame greetings after Baltimore’s loss to the Saints, Ravens QB Joe Flacco told Sean Payton that he recently bought a mattress from Payton’s brother on the Jersey Shore. That’s funny enough on its own that I won’t ruin it with any wisecracks. I’ll try again backing the Ravens as the favorite. 

Saints (plus-1) at Vikings 

After trading for Giants cornerback Eli Apple, the Saints don’t have a pick in the first, third or fourth rounds. Said Payton: “We'll find a way to get a draft pick or two back. That's easy to do.” It’s really not, but you can’t expect Payton to come out and say Drew Brees is 39 years old and Payton’s contract runs only through 2020. I keep getting burned fading the Saints, but darn it, their luck has to run out at some point. I’ll take the Vikings to cover. 

Last week 

Against the spread: 6-7-1 (64-45-3 season) 

AJC pick ’em (straight up): 13-2 (75-43 season)


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About the Author

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