Observer Roundtable Week 3: Georgia, Alabama face tests
Consistency is key, and sportswriter Patrick Gallagher proved it last week, putting up 18 (out of a possible 24) points for the second consecutive week, to claim a 7-point lead in the overall leaderboard heading into the third week of the roundtable. Patrick’s big week was fueled by his massive upset call, as he picked LSU to fall to Mississippi State. Liam Coolican was this week’s big riser, after posting a 20-point performance last week to jump into third place. His Syracuse over Georgia Tech upset call doubled his score to make him the weekly winner. Who will star in this week’s roundtable predictions? We’ve got another juicy slate of games for our third week.
The Leaderboard after week 2:
Patrick Gallagher — 36 points (18)
Dominic Gibson — 29 points (9)
Liam Coolican — 27 points (20)
Aidan Thomas — 18 points (6)
Nate Moller — 14 points (8)
#7 Auburn @ #4 Georgia (-7.0)
#13 Texas A&M @ #2 Alabama (-17.0)
#25 Memphis (-3.0) @ SMU
Indianapolis Colts (-3.0) @ Chicago Bears
Buffalo Bills (-3.0) @ Las Vegas Raiders
New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs (-7.0)
It’s our first top-10 matchup of the year, and it should be a good one. No. 4 Georgia has a brutal crossover slate with games against Auburn and Alabama, which will make their SEC East title defense difficult. Both teams won big last week, struggling in the first half before turning it on late. Georgia’s offense found a rhythm in the second half, and they get former USC starter J.T. Daniels back this week. Auburn struggled to get off the field on defense last week against a pretty mediocre Kentucky offense, so if the ‘Dawgs get rolling early, that could spell trouble for the Tigers. Bo Nix was effective, if not explosive last week, and he faces a much stiffer challenge in this Georgia defense. Give me Georgia to win but not cover.
Texas A&M was the most underwhelming Week 1 winner in the SEC, beating the hapless Vanderbilt Commodores by just five points. Alabama, meanwhile, cruised against Missouri, 38-19. It’s stunning to me that the Aggies continue to underwhelm with the talent on their roster, but I think Alabama is the best team in the SEC and they pull away on Saturday. However, the 17-point spread is huge, and I will give Kellen Mond the benefit of the doubt … he’ll keep it within two possessions. Alabama wins but does not cover.
This is an exciting Group of 5 quarterback battle in the AAC, as Memphis’s Brady White battles with SMU’s Shane Buechele. Buechele has looked very good early, and SMU has played three games to Memphis’ one. I think he comes out slinging and slaps 40+ on the scoreboard. The Mustangs swing the upset on their home field.
The Bears are the flukiest 3-0 team ever, having somehow come back from two huge fourth-quarter deficits, sandwiched around a less-than-impressive victory over the Giants. Meanwhile, the Colts defense has looked pretty good, and the offense has been pretty strong, albeit against some pretty poor competition. I like Nick Foles, but it just feels like Chicago is not good enough to be 4-0. Give me the Colts to win and cover.
I thought the Bills defense would be great and carry an OK offense, but it’s been the other way around so far. Josh Allen has looked like an MVP, while the defense gave up 28 to the Dolphins, 17 to the Jets (who have scored 37 total on the year), and 32 to the Rams, while almost blowing a 28-3 lead. Is the offense good enough to counter a pretty strong Raiders attack, led by Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, and Darren Waller? I think so, but just barely. Las Vegas’s defense has been pretty porous, and the Bills should be able to put up at least 30, which I think will be enough to get the job done. The 3-point spread is really small, so I’ll go Buffalo to win and cover.
And finally, it’s the new-look Patriots visiting Pat Mahomes and the unbeaten Chiefs. After seeming vulnerable in an overtime victory against the Chargers, the defending Super Bowl champs looked anything but in a clean, two-touchdown victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Even against last year’s weak Patriots team, Pat Mahomes has struggled to dominate New England, but I will not pick against the Chiefs at Arrowhead. I think Cam Newton leads a good enough offense to keep it close, but the Chiefs have too many weapons. KC to win, but not to cover.
Finally, my upset of the week. I’m 0-2 on this call so far, as I took the wrong Mississippi team last week, underestimating the strength of Florida’s offense. For this one, I’m heading away from the Power-5. Air Force is a 7-point underdog against Navy, and while it is Air Force’s first game of the year, they haven’t lost at home to the Midshipmen since 2012. Navy hasn’t exactly looked very impressive, so give me the Falcons in the upset in their season opener.
Despite starting slow against Arkansas, Georgia eventually found their rhythm and looked like an elite team last week. The only problem is that the Razorbacks have probably one of the least talented rosters in the entire Power Five, so the fact that the Bulldogs struggled at all against them is concerning. For me, the main issue lies in the quarterback position. Georgia has three solid options, but none of them are star-material. On the other hand, Auburn’s Bo Nix threw three touchdowns in the second half against Kentucky and looked like one of the better passers in the SEC. I believe Nix will be tested against Georgia’s defense; however, I trust his consistency and poise under pressure. Expect Auburn to pull off the upset.
Alabama seems like the best team in the SEC by a wide margin. The roster is stacked both offensively and defensively, and I would not be surprised if they remain undefeated going into the playoff. While Mac Jones is not the flashiest quarterback, his offensive weapons will certainly elevate his play this season. Receiver Jaylen Waddle accumulated 134 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri, and, while he did not look overly impressive last week, star running back Najee Harris should have a big game against Texas A&M’s mediocre run defense. The Aggies almost lost to Vanderbilt, so I do not think that the Tide will have any trouble in this matchup. Alabama will win but not cover as their starters will get some rest in the fourth quarter.
SMU’s Shane Buechele is one of the most entertaining quarterbacks in college. He commits more interceptions than one would like; however, Buechele’s big-play ability always seems to keep the Mustangs in reach of victory. He is ranked second in passing yards through three games, and SMU’s roster also boasts Ulysses Bentley IV – the nation’s leading rusher. This high-powered offense will give Memphis’ defense trouble as the Tigers gave up 424 yards against Arkansas State. Expect Buechele to lead the Mustangs to an exciting upset, which may finally boost his team into the top 25.
Ever since choking against the Jags in week one, Indianapolis has looked pretty solid on both sides of the ball early in the season. The Colts defense has impressed holding their last two opponents under 15 points, and I expect them to perform well against a streaky Bears’ offense. If Phillip Rivers can keep his interceptions to a minimum, Indianapolis should cruise to victory covering the spread.
While the Bills have certainly played down against inferior opponents, their victory against Los Angeles proved that they can hang with some of the more talented teams in the NFL. Josh Allen has elevated his game throwing for over 1000 yards in only three games. He has also kept his turnovers to a minimum — only committing one interception. The Raiders’ defense allowed Sony Michel to dominate and let the Patriots score almost 40 points last week, so I believe that the Bills will have a huge day offensively. Buffalo will win by a large margin covering the spread.
I doubted Kansas City last week, but I will not make that mistake again. The Chiefs scored at will against the formidable Ravens’ defense, and I think that they will at least accumulate 30 points against New England. Patrick Mahomes has been excellent so far as he has the highest QBR in the NFL. The Patriots have strung together some impressive defensive performances, but they have yet to shut down an elite offense. Belichick should keep things interesting early, but Kansas City will pull away late in the game covering the spread.
For my upset pick, I am begrudgingly trusting the Eagles to finally turn things around this week. Carson Wentz has been awful in 2020 throwing six interceptions and only three touchdowns. I believe that Wentz is too talented to continue this very troubling trend and think that he will finally bounce back against the injury-riddled 49ers. Nick Mullins did look like more than a capable replacement for Garoppolo last week, but everybody should pump the brakes on his hype train as San Francisco was playing the Giants, who just might be the worst team in the league. It will be a tough matchup, but I believe that Philadelphia can earn a win because, if they do not, their fanbase might start calling for Wentz to be replaced soon.
This is one of the first marquee matchups of the year in college football, and I expect it to be a good one. Auburn got a solid performance from Bo Nix last week against Kentucky. Nix will likely need to perform even better this week if the Tigers are going to upset the fourth-ranked Bulldogs. Last week was a tale of two halves for Georgia against Arkansas. The Bulldogs struggled mightily in the first half, but when they put in quarterback Stetson Bennett, the Bulldogs looked like a different team. I like the Bulldogs to take care of business this week against Auburn. Georgia wins and covers.
Texas A&M looked less than impressive last week against a Vanderbilt team that has consistently been at the bottom of the SEC. Kellen Mond needs to be better for the Aggies, as he was only 17-28 for 189 yards last week. Alabama, on the other hand, looked smooth from start to finish. Mac Jones has not proven himself completely, but he has sure looked to be a solid quarterback so far. I think the Tide will dominate in this one but the seventeen point spread is a little too much. Give me the Tide to win but not cover.
This American Athletic Conference matchup looks to be a good one between SMU and Memphis. In its last two games, SMU’s offense has looked spectacular, putting up 50 or more points in each of those games. Memphis struggled in their opener against Arkansas State, and they have had four weeks off between that game and Saturday’s matchup. I expect Memphis to start the game slowly because of this. SMU will build an early lead and use their prolific offense to win this one outright.
Although the Bears are currently 3-0, they have looked less than impressive in each of their victories so far this year. Nick Foles was able to ignite the Bears offense last week in their comeback victory over the Falcons, and he might be the guy the Bears need. Even if Foles isn’t perfect, he has shown that he can rally an offense before and lead them to victory consistently. The Colts boast a 2-1 record but their two wins are against the Vikings and Jets- arguable two of the worst teams in the NFL this season. I think Philip Rivers and the Colts’ offense struggles against the Bears’ defense this week, and Foles does just enough to give the Bears the outright win.
This Bills and Raiders matchup looks to be an interesting one. At times, Josh Allen and then Bills have looked to be one of the best teams in the NFL. Last week, though, the Bills blew a 28-3 lead against the Rams before coming back to win at the end. The Raiders offense appears to rely heavily on running back Josh Jacobs. Jacobs didn’t have much success against the Patriots last week, and the Raiders struggled to get much of anything going. The Bills’ run defense has been decent so far this year, so I will take the Bills to win and cover in this one.
The way the Chiefs took care of business against the Ravens last Monday was truly impressive. I knew the Chiefs were good, but I didn’t realize that they were that good. Patrick Mahomes was sensational in Monday’s night win and had a QBR of 97.7. If Mahomes keeps this up, I think it will be hard for the Chiefs to lose this season. If anyone can match Mahomes’ play, though, it might be Cam Newton. Newton has made some mistakes this year, but he has fit very well in the Patriots’ offense and has looked like a top 5 NFL quarterback. I think Newton and the Patriots hang for a while, but the Chiefs pull away at the end and cover the spread.
Oklahoma-Iowa State looked to be one of the top Big 12 match-ups heading into the season. Both teams have already lost this year, however, in surprising upsets and this game doesn’t hold the same importance that many expected. Spencer Rattler was absolutely awful in the Sooners’ loss last week versus Kansas State. While I think he will play much better for the Sooners against the Cyclones, I don’t see Oklahoma winning this game. Iowa State has a history of starting the season off slowly, and they also have a history of pulling off upsets in Ames. Give me Brock Purdy and the Cyclones to give Oklahoma their second loss of the season.
I was not impressed at all by Georgia last week, even though the final score showed a blowout. They really struggled at times against a mediocre Arkansas team. Auburn, on the other hand, looked outstanding on both sides of the ball against Kentucky. JT Daniels was recently cleared to play by the Bulldogs, but he has had to learn a whole new system. Georgia was uncharacteristically poor on the ground last week, averaging only 2.9 yards per carry, and it doesn’t get easier this week. Bo Nix will take advantage of the gaps in the Georgia defense, and Auburn wins outright.
I’ll admit, heading into last week, I thought this might be a down year for Alabama. I was proven wrong by the end of the first quarter. That being said, I think Texas A&M is a very good team, and their performance against Vanderbilt was not indicative of their talent level. I said in the preseason edition of the roundtable that I thought this was the year the Aggies put it all together, and I still believe that. But it won’t be enough to beat Alabama, or even come close. Alabama wins and covers.
Shane Buechele is one of the best quarterbacks in college football, and he wasn’t even the center of SMU’s offense last week. Running back Ulysses Bently IV ran for over 200 yards, averaging nearly 12 yards a carry. Memphis will provide much more resistance, but that run game will open up play action for Buechele, who will have a big game. Memphis’ defense won’t be able to slow down the Mustangs, who win outright.
The Bears might be the worst 3-0 team in NFL history, barely scraping by against three bad teams. Nick Foles injected life into their offense, but it’s about time their luck runs out. The Colts have also faced mediocre opponents, so it’s hard to judge Phillip Rivers just yet, and Marlon Mack’s injury hurts. However, I still see the Colts finding a way to win this one. They’ll build a big third-quarter lead and won’t choke it away. Colts win and cover.
The Raiders have been one of the most impressive teams of the year. I thought it was over for Derek Carr, but the move to Las Vegas seems to have transformed him into a top-tier quarterback. The Bills have been very impressive as well, as has Josh Allen. However, I’m going against conventional wisdom here and picking the Raiders to win outright, Jon Gruden gets another big win in Las Vegas.
The Chiefs were so impressive last week against the Ravens, that it’s tough to pick against them, no matter the spread. This Patriots team, however, has been seriously impressive. Bill Belichick has proven he can win no matter who’s on the roster, and I think this will be a close game. I’ll take the Chiefs, simply because of Patrick Mahomes, but they don’t cover.
Let’s see if I can go back to back on upset picks. Mike Leach and Mississippi State impressed me last week, but they could be due for a letdown this week against Arkansas. The Razorbacks looked fantastic for a half against a very good Georgia team-despite my dismissal of them while picking Auburn-and this week they’ll put it together. KJ Costello will not perform nearly as well, and the weak Bulldogs defense will show itself. Razorbacks win this one as 17 point ‘Dogs.
Two SEC heavyweights in 4th ranked Georgia and 7th ranked Auburn going at it will make for some quality entertainment this weekend. For Georgia, their offense, especially at the quarterback position leaves much to be desired. They might have been able to find their stride in the latter half of the game against Arkansas but they will need to be firing on all cylinders to take on a much better Auburn team. Bo Nix in contrast put on a solid and serviceable performance against Kentucky. The one thing that Georgia does have going is their defense. Georgia will be able to rely heavily on their defense in this one and sneak in a few scores to take the win but will not cover.
The Aggies have a lot to figure out after squeaking out a win against Vanderbilt 12-17. There is no doubt the A&M offense is much more potent than what they produced last week but I don’t think that it will be enough against one of the better SEC teams in Alabama. A&M will find a way to rebound here in this game but I don’t think they will have an answer for Mac Jones and the strong Tide running game. Alabama wins but does not cover.
SMU will likely be in better form than Memphis after getting three games under their belt. Shane Buechele along with Ulysses Bently IV will have a big showing against the Tigers who had a rough go of it against Arkansas State. Memphis might be well-rested but it will be tough for them to get out of the gates to match the pace of the Mustangs. Look for SMU to hit quick early and win outright.
Compared to the other 3-0 NFL teams, the Bears are certainly the weakest link, barely beating the Lions, the Giants, and finding a near-miracle comeback against the Falcons. Nick Foles was a hero for Chicago last weekend but I think that there are more issues to be addressed on this team than just the QB position. Indianapolis has looked solid after week one and I think that they will continue that trend against Chicago. Colts win and cover.
The Bills have been one of the more solid teams in the NFL this year despite the near choke against Los Angeles last weekend. Their matchup against the Raiders looks to be one of the better games on the slate. Vegas will look to rebound after a tough loss against New England but I don’t think they will have enough to top Josh Allen. Bills win and cover.
The Chiefs stepped up their game in a big way after looking shaky against the Chargers. Their win against Baltimore makes it hard to bet against them like I did last weekend. Cam Newton and the Patriots are still a solid team and I don’t think this will be a cakewalk for Mahomes but the Chiefs look like the team to beat in the AFC. Kansas City wins and covers the spread.
For my upset pick this week I’ll head to the NFL and take the LA Chargers over Tampa Bay. The Chargers looked like a solid team when they played at home against Kansas City so it was a big shock to see them play so poorly against a struggling Carolina team. Justin Herbert did rack up 330 passing yards and a TD in his game last weekend which should bode well coming into this matchup. Look for the Chargers to pull off an upset against Tom and the Bucs.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.