Gators in the hunt for the national championship

For the first time in many years, the Florida Gators find themselves back in the national championship picture in November, and although they are higher ranked than this week’s opponent Georgia, they go into the game as underdogs.  

Sadly for both programs, FSU and Miami have no national championship aspirations this year (again), but it remains a huge game for the fan bases of those two schools and a marquee game of interest for others. Our crystal ball says this:

THE COLLEGES

 •Florida at Georgia (-6)

Florida is the higher ranked team, but opened as a 6.5 point underdog, quickly dropping to a four-point spread earlier in the week,but jumping  back to six points a few days later. The loser will obviously be eliminated from the National Championship hunt. I’ll take Georgia in a close game, but give me the points. Georgia 27, Florida 24

•Miami at Florida State (-4)

Both teams received much-needed wins after floundering for most of the season. FSU Head Coach Willie Taggert may have learned a valuable lesson about getting the ball into the hands of his best player last week as the Seminoles ran running back Cam Akers at quarterback numerous times out of the wildcat formation. Miami’s defense looks like it is coming around after a pretty uneven season. This game always seems to go down to the wire, so we will take the Noles at home to win but not cover. FSU 25, Miami 24

•Houston at UCF (-23.5)

In back-to-back weeks, I picked the Knights to win but not cover the point spread and they smashed both opponents.  So in “I will doubt no More” special:  UCF 56, Houston 20

 Pitt (-8) at Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech upset Miami a few weeks ago and has played better of late, but the Panthers – with six wins this season—remain a fundamentally better team. Pitt 28, Georgia Tech 14

•Virginia Tech (-16) at Notre Dame

After being embarrassed by Michigan on the road last week, you have to believe the Fighting Irish are going to want to get that bad taste out of their mouths and quickly. Virginia Tech may be what the doctor ordered.  Notre Dame 42, Virginia Tech 17

THE PROFESSIONALS

 •Houston (-2) at Jacksonville

A lot of negative things have happened to both teams this season, with the Texans’ loss of JJ Watt being the most recent. Still, if the Houston line can give Deshaun Watson time to throw, I think they will score enough to both win and cover.  Houston 24, Jacksonville 21

•NY Jets (-3) at Miami

This game is train wreck with the two teams having exactly one win between them. But I guess someone will always stop and watch a train wreck.  NY Jets 21, Miami 10

•New England (-3.5) at Baltimore

The antithesis to the New York -Miami game is this one.  Good teams with good records. New England is 8-0 and Baltimore is 5-2. But this is the first real test for the Patriots, whose opponents to-date  are a collective 28 games under .500 this season. While a New England win would not surprise me, I will go with an upset special here:  Baltimore 24, New England 21

•Tampa Bay at Seattle (-6.5)

Jameis Winston continues to pile up huge offensive stats  (2,072 passing yards, 14 touchdowns) but also continues to pile up turnovers (14 interceptions, 6 lost fumbles) and losses (5).  Russell Wilson continues to pile up impressive stats (2072 passing yards, 17 touchdowns) and wins (6); but isn’t turning the ball over (just 1 interception).  In “I’m Seeing a Disturbing Trend Here” pick, Seattle 30, Tampa Bay 21  

•Indianapolis at Pittsburgh (pick ‘em)

Almost every major service is calling this one a pick ‘em game. Given that the Steelers (3-4) need this one to get back in the division race, I’ll go with the home team.  Pittsburgh 22, Indianapolis 21

•Season Scoreboard: Stumbled on calls of South Florida and Michigan last week but was a solid 8-2 straight up for the second week in a row but just broke even ( 5-5) against the spread. Last week brings the season total to 63-25 straight up (.715), but still in the negative 40-46-2 (.465) against the money line.