Observer Roundtable Week 5: Bulldogs take on Crimson Tide in regular season
Patrick Gallagher – 68 points (14)
Liam Coolican – 57 points (16)
Dominic Gibson – 44 points (INACTIVE)
Nate Moller – 44 points (12)
Aidan Thomas – 41 points (5)
#3 Georgia @ #2 Alabama (-5.0)
Boston College @ #23 Virginia Tech (-11.0)
UCF (-3.0) @ Memphis
Chicago Bears @ Carolina Panthers (-3.0)
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)
Green Bay Packers (-1.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Crimson Tide actually showed weakness defensively in last weekend’s matchup against Ole Miss, but I expect that Nick Saban will make the necessary adjustments for better performances moving forward. Alabama’s offense was still phenomenal as Najee Harris ran for over 200 yards while collecting five touchdowns, and Mac Jones looked confident under center throwing for 417 yards. Georgia may have the best defense in the nation, but the Tide’s star power should prove too much to overcome. Alabama will remain undefeated while just barely covering the spread.
Virginia Tech seems to have one of the most prominent offensive units in the ACC. The Hokies are managing to average about 43 points per contest while displaying consistent performances from both their running and receiving attacks. Boston College did come close to upsetting a talented North Carolina team earlier this season; however, I am not convinced that the Eagles can play at this level every week. Virginia Tech should not have too much trouble on Saturday, so expect the Hokies to win big and cover the spread.
This Saturday, Tulsa will have to play against their third straight ranked opponent, and, although they are coming off of a bye week, I still think that the Golden Hurricanes will show some signs of mental exhaustion. Tulsa’s quarterback, Zach Jones, bounced back from a slow start to the year by throwing for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns against UCF, but he will be faced with his toughest challenge yet facing a staunch Cincinnati defense who have not allowed over 20 points in a single game this season. The Bearcats have a more complete roster than the Hurricanes, so I am confident that they will achieve victory and cover the spread.
After three straight victories, the Panthers appear to have some real momentum heading into this Sunday. Carolina has impressively obtained these results without their best player, Christian McCaffery, but I believe that they are overachieving due to the general lack of high-end talent on their roster. Chicago’s offense may leave much to be desired, but their elite defense will stifle any hope of a Panthers win. Expect the Bears to keep pace with the Packers and upset Carolina.
I have been burned before, but I just cannot help buying into Cleveland’s hype this year. Sure, Baker Mayfield has not been impressive and the Browns’ defense ranks in the bottom half of the league for yards allowed; however, something just seems special about this Cleveland team. Coach Stefanski has really unlocked his offense’s true potential as the Browns lead the NFL in rushing yards while the receiving core is looking solid from top to bottom. Pittsburgh is an elite franchise, but their defense showed some flaws versus Philadelphia. I think that the Browns will take advantage of this development, earn a huge upset, and open up the race for the AFC North title.
In what might be the easiest pick of the week, I expect Aaron Rodgers to completely outshine Tom Brady in Tampa. Rodgers has undergone a bit of a renaissance in 2020 leading the league in QBR while having an impressive 70.5 completion percentage. On the other hand, Brady has struggled to adjust to Bruce Arians’ offensive system throwing for four interceptions on the season with a 64.3 completion percentage. The Buccaneers will figure themselves out as they have too much talent to miss the playoffs, but I do not think that this will happen against Green Bay. The Packers should cruise to victory covering the spread by a wide margin.
After watching last week’s game in Notre Dame Stadium, I was actually pretty surprised by Florida State as they displayed some toughness against a much better team on the road. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis showed promise throwing for over 200 yards and the rushing attack also seemed better than expected. North Carolina has one of the better rosters in their conference; however, the Tar Heels have been far from dominant as both BC and Virginia Tech had chances to win against them. I predict that Travis will continue to improve and help pull off one of the most shocking victories of the year.
Georgia is 3-0 with three blowout wins, but in two of those games, they have come out of the gate slowly. The only way they’re going to keep up with Alabama is in a shootout, and while the Crimson Tide’s defense may be the worst it has been in years, if Georgia doesn’t score on their opening few drives, the game could be out of hand by the second quarter. No Nick Saban adds an interesting wrinkle, but I believe in Alabama’s offense. As good as Georgia’s defense is, the Tide’s offense is better. Alabama wins and covers.
Virginia Tech’s offense has been on a roll to start the year, averaging nearly 500 yards per game. However, North Carolina exposed its defensive weaknesses by putting up 56 points last week. Boston College has actually proven itself to be a solid team this year, defeating a very good Pittsburgh team and narrowly losing to North Carolina. Former Irish quarterback Phil Jurkovec will have a big day, but Virginia Tech will still put up enough points to get the win but won’t cover.
UCF has played poorly in back to back weeks, struggling for much of the game against East Carolina and falling to Tulsa last week. Memphis is coming off a tough road loss to SMU, but they have the advantage of a bye week. UCF’s defense has been very poor, and I’ll give Memphis the edge at home. Memphis wins outright in a high-scoring affair.
It’s tough to believe in the Bears. They might be one of the worst 4-1 teams in NFL history, but they keep finding ways to win football games. The Panthers have also quietly been on a roll, winning three straight games, even without Christian McCaffrey. This game will be a defensive battle because neither offense is prolific. The Bears defense is slightly better, but I have to go with the Panthers. Bridgewater leads a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter and Carolina wins and covers.
The Steelers offense is meshing at the right time. Mike Tomlin is playing to Ben Roethlisberger’s strengths perfectly, and if his season ended today, he would have the highest passer rating of his career. The Browns have won four straight, but mostly against sub-par teams, and I think the Steelers stay undefeated. Pittsburgh wins and covers.
Aaron Rodgers has been unbelievable so far this year, and he’ll have another big game this week. The Bucs and Tom Brady have not lived up to the lofty expectations thus far, and this Packers team is the best team they’ve faced so far. The Packers defense has looked vulnerable at times, but I expect Rodgers to outduel Brady. Packers win and cover.
I’ll try to keep my good fortune and pick an upset for the fourth consecutive week. There is a real lack of Power-5 games with upset potential this week, so I’ll turn to UTSA. The Roadrunners had some impressive wins to start the season, and they kept it close with BYU for four quarters. Army has been impressive as well but has struggled in the past two weeks, and UTSA’s explosive offense isn’t a great matchup for them. UTSA gets the upset at home.
It’s been a while since Georgia and Alabama have met in the regular season, and the anticipation leading up to this game is huge. Without Nick Saban on the sideline, it will be interesting to see how the Tide performs. Their defense struggled a lot last week against Ole Miss, and I anticipate the Bulldogs keeping it close for most of the game. Alabama pulls away at the end and covers, though.
Phil Jurkovec has performed well for the Eagles this season, and he led his team to an upset against Pittsburgh last weekend. I think the Eagles come to play in this one, and I expect them to be up at halftime. The Hokies are the more talented team, though, and they avoid losing a second game in a row. Hokies win but don’t cover.
UCF and Memphis were two teams that had aspirations for a New Year’s Six Bowl that were likely crushed due to an early-season loss. Both teams will look to rebound in Saturday’s game, but I like UCF to take this one. Although they lost to Tulsa a couple of weeks ago, this team is still one of the better non-Power 5 teams in my opinion. Knights win and cover.
The Bears are maybe the biggest fluke of the NFL so far with a 4-1 record despite not looking overly impressive in any game this season. They will face Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers this weekend, who have also been overachieving so far this season. I think this one is close but I will take Nick Foles and the Bears to continue their early-season success.
This Browns-Steelers matchup has big implications for the AFC North with the Steelers currently sitting at 4-0 and the Browns at 4-1. Although the Steelers are undefeated, they haven’t shown much this year with slim victories over the Giants, Broncos, Texans and Eagles. It’s dangerous to believe in the Browns, but I am going to do just that and take the Browns outright here.
The Packers’ offense this season has looked absolutely flawless, and Aaron Rodgers is performing as good as ever. Brady and the Buccaneers have shown flashes of greatness this year, but I don’t think their offense is ready to match the explosiveness of the Packers. I will take the Packers to win and cover in this one.
Although Pittsburgh got upset by Boston College last week, I firmly believe that this Panthers team is still very talented. Kenny Pickett is one of the more experienced quarterbacks in the ACC, and I think the Panthers can upset Miami. The Panthers spoiled the Hurricanes’ magical run in 2017, and I expect them to hand them another loss this year.
In what should be a big SEC heavyweight bout, Alabama and Georgia will face off against each other outside of a conference title game setting. The Crimson Tide defense looked extremely shaky at best against Ole Miss, giving up 647 yards. Both teams will put up a good amount of points but Alabama should win and cover.
Virginia Tech has made it clear they can score points, especially with their stout running game. Boston College has made a case for one of the more solid teams, coming close to beating out North Carolina and squeaking one out against Pitt. As solid as Jurkovec and the Eagles might be, I don’t think it will be enough to slow the roll of the Hokies. Virginia Tech wins but does not cover.
UCF and Memphis both had high aspirations to start off the season this year. In what was scheduled to be a showcase game, it has instead turned into a desperate rebound attempt from both programs. Memphis will have the benefit of rest via a bye week, coming off a tough loss to SMU and should be fresher to take on the Knights who struggled in their loss to Tulsa. Memphis wins outright.
They don’t ask how, they ask how many and that seems to be what the Bears live by as they are one of the more odd 4-1 teams. They’ve found ways to win games they shouldn’t with their only loss being to Indianapolis. The Panthers have found their stride in the last three matchups and will look to carry their momentum into this contest. While it seems like anything can happen with this Chicago team, I think that Foles and company will fall short. Carolina wins and covers.
The Browns are a difficult team to get behind when it comes to their hype. Some weeks they look like a complete team and others they serve up a letdown performance. However, the Steelers team they are facing has some issues to address, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Pittsburgh seems to have their offense figured out but I don’t think they’ll be able to outscore their problems. I’ll take the Browns outright.
Aaron Rodgers is having himself a stellar start to the season along with the rest of his offensive pieces. The Buccaneers have shown flashes of a capable team but last week’s loss against the Bears shows how much they need to figure out. Green Bay should win and cover.
For my upset pick, I’m going to take the Bengals over the Colts. Cincinnati will be coming off of an embarrassing loss but bear in mind to the Ravens. Other than that blowout, Joe Burrow has kept games extremely close. I think that they will find a rebound game here and win a close one against Indianapolis.
I’m not going to overreact and say Alabama has a bad defense, but there is some cause for concern after giving up 48 points to Ole Miss. Georgia has been solid under Stetson Bennett, and their defense has been extremely good. Had it not been for a defensive touchdown by Tennessee last weekend, Georgia would have allowed 14 or fewer points to their first three opponents. This defense may be historically good, and I think they’ll pull off the upset on Saturday.
BC has been surprisingly decent so far in a 3-1 start, while Virginia Tech struggled defensively against UNC last weekend. That being said, I still think the Hokies are the far better team and will be able to put up a lot of points this weekend — Hokies win, but Phil Jurkovec helps BC cover the spread.
UCF is a 3-point favorite on the road in a pair of unranked AAC squads vying to stay in contention for a New Year’s Six bid. Both suffered tough upsets their last time out, but I like Memphis to rebound faster under Brady White. Tigers win outright.
The surprising Panthers are three-point favorites against the Chicago Bears, but the offense is not good enough to move the ball effectively against this Chicago defense. Meanwhile, the defense has surprised, but the Bears have enough playmakers in Jimmy Graham, Allen Robinson and David Montgomery to make plays. Bears take the road victory outright.
I bet against the Browns last week, and it backfired. However, the Steelers have been really good this year, and I’m going to do it one more time. Pittsburgh is unbeaten and Chase Claypool is emerging as a serious problem in a deep receiving corps. The defense is getting sacks at a historical clip, and I’ll take the Steelers to win and cover.
It’s an unbeaten Aaron Rodgers taking on Tom Brady and his 3-2 Bucs this weekend in what should be a great one. Quite frankly, all the numbers say to ride the Packers in this contest, as Green Bay hasn’t been held under 30 points. However, I’m going to say Tom Brady doesn’t fall to .500 and avoids a second consecutive loss with an outright win at home.
And finally, for my upset pick, which I flunked last week with a horrible Texas State call, I’m headed to the ACC. Pittsburgh has lost two straight and will be looking for a much-needed conference win. Miami got exposed last week against Clemson, and time will tell if they are an actual contender, with no real quality wins to their name yet. Pitt always seems to spring an upset, so I’m sending it on this one. Give me the Panthers over the Hurricanes as 13.5 point underdogs.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.