Official arrival of fall brings some great games

The first week of October is an awesome treat for football fans.

The college powerhouses usually begin their conference schedules and quit playing schools like Al’s Barber Shop College and St. Mary’s Sisters of the Poor University, and by now the NFL has begun to settle in and you can guess the contenders from the pretenders.

One thing of interest is the number or road favorites this week, especially in the college games. That said, let’s jump into this week’s action.

THE COLLEGES

 •UCF (-3.5) at Cincinnati

Even though my deadline for turning in this column is noon Thursday, I normally do not include Friday night games because printed predictions look ridiculous when they come out after the fact.

But this should be a really good game, so I will have to ask you to trust me that I made the call before the game was played. Although it was against a lesser opponent, UCF (4-1) did get on track last week against UConn. Cincinnati (3-1 and one of the favorites in the AAC) does present a much bigger challenge. Even on the road, feeling here is Knights will win and will cover in an offensive shootout.

Prediction:  UCF 42, Cincinnati 34

• Iowa at Michigan (-13)

Not sure how, why or what the odds makers were thinking when this game opened at 13 point spread; but I have to believe by kickoff it will be considerably smaller.  Iowa (4-0) is a very good team. Michigan is OK, but struggled in wins against Middle Tennessee and Army.  Taking the points and in an Upset Special Prediction:  Iowa 24, Michigan 21

•Auburn (-7.5) at Florida

Even if you are not a fan of either school, this is “must see” TV. A pair of 5-0 teams with SEC Championship aspirations going at it in “The Swamp” on CBS in the 3:30 p.m. game. This one is intriguing for several reasons.

While both teams are undefeated, Auburn has played a much tougher schedule to date – with wins over ranked Oregon and Texas A&M and an impressive win over a solid Mississippi State team. The Gators have beaten a decent Miami team but have also played Tennessee-Martin and Towson.

On the plus-side, the  Gators will have home field advantage, but I also see Florida having trouble running the ball against the Auburn defense. Will split the difference and call an Auburn win but no cover. 

Prediction:  Auburn 21, Florida 17

•Virginia Tech at Miami (-6)

Tech (3-2) opened the season with an impressive win over West Virginia, but has been anything but impressive since – getting beat by Boston College and hammered by Duke in two previous ACC games.  Canes are 2-2 and coming off a surprisingly hard fought win over Central Michigan (17-12).  With a week to get ready, home field advantage and better team speed, I like the Canes to roll in this one.  

Prediction: Miami 28, Virginia Tech 14

•Georgia (-16.5) at Tennessee

Georgia is the bigger, faster, stronger and more talented football team with national championship aspirations.  About the only real question in this game, is that will impatient Vols fans start demanding another coaching change if once-proud Tennessee gets embarrassed at home?  Guessing we will find out.  Prediction:  Georgia 45, Tennessee 10.

•South Florida (-11) at UConn

Given the talent disparity between these two teams, USF should win in a rout. That said, the Bulls under Charlie Strong are in total disarray. They have not beat a FBS Division 1 team since the middle of last year and Strong has promised massive changes this week after his team fell behind to SMU, 41-0, at the half last week. Both teams continue to trend down, so I’ll take USF to win but not cover.  

Prediction:  South Florida 28, Connecticut 24

THE PROFESSIONALS

 •Jacksonville at Carolina (-3.5)

Can Leonard Fournette gain 200 yards rushing against Carolina?  Will Gardner Flint Minshew The Second-mania continue to run wild in Charlotte?  Are the Jags contenders in the AFC South?  No, No, and probably not. 

Prediction: Carolina 24, Jacksonville 10

•New England at Washington (-15)

Seems like through five weeks of the NFL season, we have had more double-digit point spreads in 2019 than we get in a normal full season. And because of bad teams like Miami, Denver, St. Louis and Cincinnati that is understandable. But even though Washington is also 0-4, this one has a different feel to it as Tom Brady did not look like Tom Brady to me in last week’s 16-10 win over Buffalo.  He looked like an immobile 41-year-old quarterback who needed his defense and special teams to bail him out.  On the other hand, Washington has struggled to move the ball on offense and rookie QB  Dwayne Haskins introduction to the NFL was not pretty (3 interceptions). Still, Washington has played hard through all four losses. Because of a strong N.E. defense, I like the Patriots to remain undefeated but will take the Skins in a point-spread upset.  

Prediction:  New England 27, Washington 17  

•Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3.5)

Not sure what to make of the Saints (2-2). Some experts are talking like they are one of the best teams in the league and they appear to be trending in that direction after beating the Seahawks on the road and Dallas at home last week. But I don’t know what to make of the Bucs (2-2) either. In the last two weeks, their offense has been rather explosive – averaging 43 points a game.  The key to this game could very well be second year Bucs running back Ronald Jones, who is averaging a more than respectable 4.7 yards per carry this season. If he can take some pressure on Jameis Winston, I like the Bucs to not only cover, but win outright.  

Prediction:  Tampa Bay 30, New Orleans 27

•Green Bay at Dallas (-3.5)

Aaron Rodgers’ receiving corps is a little banged up and its defense could not stop the Eagles last week. Add the fact that Dallas is probably not in the best of moods after last week’s 12-10 loss to New Orleans, so I’m taking the Cowboys at home to both win and cover.  

Prediction:  Dallas 24, Green Bay 17

Season Scoreboard

Thanks to a perfect 6-0 in college picks last week, finished 8-3 in selecting outright winners last week. But toss in a few upsets (Tampa Bay Bucs) and a few surprising results (SMU’s 27-point beat down of USF) and I had a losing week against the spread (4-7). That said, solid 36-12 for the season in picking outright winners (.750) but barely keeping my head above water against the dreaded spread at 24-23-1 (.510).