Picks column: Against the wind

semerson@macon.comOctober 26, 2012 

Statement No. 1: Normally, a betting line doesn't move more than a point or two during the week, unless there's an injury or other major new development.

Statement No. 2: Earlier this week the line came out for the Georgia-Florida game, and it was a relatively close, respectable one: Florida by 3.5

Statement No. 3: Then within, oh, about five minutes, the line jumped up to six, based on the hordes of people who noticed that through the transitive property of games against a common opponent (South Carolina), then Florida would beat Georgia by 61 points.

Every game is different, luckily for the Bulldogs, and I feel very confident in predicting that Georgia will not lose this game by 61, or even 41, or even 21. A few days ago I was asked to submit my prediction to the Florida Times-Union, the Jacksonville paper, and without much thinking the score I spit out on my keyboard was Florida 27, Georgia 20.

I do expect this game to be close. The Bulldogs are not 28 points worse than South Carolina, and Florida is not 33 points better. I do buy in to Georgia having some spark this week after the Shawn Williams comments, as well as a general emotional spark from having another chance at an SEC title. It also helps that Florida's pass rush isn't its specialty, so Aaron Murray and company should be able to make some plays, unlike in Columbia.

But can I pick the Bulldogs? No, not yet. Not until we've seen them win the big game. Not after a lackluster win at Kentucky, which should have been when the Bulldogs took out their frustrations from the loss to South Carolina. And not until we see that Georgia has ironed out its problems on defense and special teams.

Put another way: I won't be surprised if Georgia plays much better and wins. I expected it to play much better. But I can't expect it to win. Pick: Florida (6.5) covers.

Of course, all this prescient analysis could prove worthless if the wind is gusting at 30-plus mph and there are monsoon-like conditions. So, you know, keep that in mind too.

MISSISSIPPI STATE at ALABAMA (-24): The stat the season so far may be that the Crimson Tide have been trailing in a game just once this year - by one point, and that was for 15 seconds, to Ole Miss. (Wow, Ole Miss must be good!) The Tide's smallest second-quarter lead has been 13 points. So the thinking there, if you're an MSU fan looking for a glimmer of hope, is that Alabama hasn't faced any adversity this year and could struggled if the game is close. Maybe there's some truth to that. But it assumes this game would be close for awhile. And, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure there's also no truth to Alabama wilting in a close game. Pick: Alabama covers.

TENNESSEE at SOUTH CAROLINA (-14): Critics of Aaron Murray's big-game performances should take note of Tennessee QB Tyler Bray, who CLEARLY has issues against better teams. Bray has averaged 348 passing yards in non-conference games. But he's averaged just 217.5 yards per game in SEC games. And that includes a game against Georgia's big-play prone pass defense. Remember when people opined that Bray would contend for first-team All-SEC if he stayed healthy? Not so much. Pick: South Carolina covers.

TEXAS A&M (-15) at AUBURN: The Auburn offense is a bigger train wreck than Taylor Swift's love life. Pick: Auburn covers, Texas A&M wins.

KENTUCKY at MISSOURI (-14): One recalls with amusement the heady days of the preseason when Missouri was predicted to finish third or fourth in the SEC East. Now here we are in late October and the Tigers are still seeking their first-ever SEC win. Even without QB James Franklin, and even with Kentucky looking a bit better, Mizzou finally gets it this week. Or else Gary Pinkel might start to hear some Chizik-style grumbling. Pick: Missouri covers.

Ole MISS at ARKANSAS (-6): A few weeks ago this would have been considered the battle for the basement of the SEC. But Auburn now has that pretty much locked up, and Arkansas is playing a bit better. Ole Miss is also sshowing signs of being a dangerous trap game next week for Georgia - but it bears noting the Rebels' three FBS wins have come against teams with a combined record of 4-18. Pick: Arkansas wins.

NOTRE DAME at OKLAHOMA (-11.5): Love the constant refrain about "college football is better when Notre Dame is winning," because college football has really plummeted in interest the past 15 year. ... Pick: Notre Dame covers, Oklahoma wins.

UMASS at VANDERBILT (-32.5): Because my role is to inform, you should know that there are actually three UMass institutions: Amherst, Boston and Lowell, and there's also a medical branch in Worcester. UMass-Boston's mascot is a lighthouse, because it's nickname is the Beacons. A lighthouse as a mascot! For this info I can thank my beautiful wife, my own personal Wikipedia page. Pick: UMass covers, Vanderbilt wins.

DUKE at FLORIDA STATE (-27.5): There's probably no chance David Cutcliffe gets an SEC job because everyone is looking for a younger or bigger name. But for all you Tennessee fans, you could do a lot worse than the guy who was the OC when you won a national title. Just sayin'. Pick: Duke covers, Florida State wins.

COLORADO at OREGON (-45.5): I can't believe I'm about to pick a team to cover a 45-point spread in a conference game, but Oregon is that good and Colorado is that bad. Pick: Oregon covers.

The rest:

BYU beats Georgia Tech (-2.5)
Ohio State beats Penn State (-1)
Louisville (-3.5) covers Cincinnati
Kansas State (-7) covers Texas Tech
Boston College (-2) covers Maryland

Last week: 9-6 vs. spread, 11-4 overall.

Season: 47-58 vs. spread, 74-31 overall.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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