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This is it. The SEC Championship Game. It's basically a playoff game as the winner will be playing in the BCS Championship come January. Alabama sits anywhere between 7-point and 8-point favorites in all books. The Crimson Tide were considered by many to be unstoppable this year until they started playing tougher opponents. They have only had two overly difficult games this year, one was a comeback win at LSU and the other was a home loss against Texas A&M. The same can be said about Georgia who got destroyed from the start at South Carolina and got by Florida on neutral grounds. Both schools are in the same boat, yet Alabama is a sizable favorite.
The last time these teams played was in 2008 when Matthew Stafford and Julio Jones were still around so you can't put much into that game. While Alabama has the top ranked defense in the nation, each school has a Top 20 offense and defense. These teams are No. 2 and No. 3 in the country for a reason.
The Crimson Tide have that defense, but their offense has also been super-efficient this year. AJ McCarron has a 25 to 2 touchdown to interception ratio. His two interceptions came in their loss against Texas A&M and the last one actually cost them the game on the goal line. Nevertheless, McCarron has been safe with the ball and made safe decisions for most of the year. The Bulldogs feast on turnovers. In their win over Florida, they forced six turnovers. It will be vital for McCarron to be safe with the ball in this game. His main option in the passing game is Amari Cooper who has 19 more receptions, 330 more yards and four more TDs than any other receiver in the offense. Their running backs have stayed healthy for the most part all season and are what keeps this offense moving. Eddie Lacy leads the way with 1,001 yards and 14 TDs, but T.J. Yeldon provides a needed change of pace with 847 yards and 10 TDs to his name.
Alabama's defense hasn't looked as good against the bigger time opponents such as the Aggies and the Tigers, so it will be interesting to see what they will be able to do against a potent Georgia attack.
Aaron Murray was in some talks of Heisman candidacy early in the year, but his numbers just aren't gaudy enough to put him in consideration. Gaudy or not, he's been excellent for the Bulldogs. He has thrown for over 3,000 yards for the third straight year, but has bettered his TD to INT ratio with 30 TDs and just seven INTs. The only problem is that his worst days are against the best teams. Against South Carolina and Florida, Murray tossed for 259 yards, one TD and four INTs. That's in two games. To beat Alabama, he'll need a better effort than those performances. In his last four games, Murray has 13 TDs and zero INTs which is a good sign. Their ground game will also be very important led by Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Gurley was big for the Bulldogs against Florida, running for 118 yards and a TD which was the difference maker. He has 1,138 yards and 14 TDs in his freshman season.
The Crimson Tide are only 1-4 ATS vs. a team with a winning record, but 6-0 ATS in their last six neutral site games. The Bulldogs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games and 2-5 ATS in their last seven neutral site games. Points wise, the over has hit in their last four meetings (remember, last game was 2008). Surprisingly, the under has hit six straight times for Georgia and is 6-1-1 in Alabama's last eight games following a ATS win.
What really stands out for both of these teams is the schedules. Neither of these teams have played what you'd consider a tough SEC schedule. Each has played a couple of tough opponents, winning one and losing one. Georgia for example, barely got by Tennessee in a 51-44 shootout and Kentucky, 29-24. Their clam to fame was their win over Florida. Alabama's wins were much more impressive not allowing any team but Texas A&M past 17.
Our model likes Alabama by 9 when using season to date stats but by much less when using only the last 5 games. We're going to toss our model here and go against it. We think Alabama is the better team here, but Georgia is hot and is in a spot that doesn't come often. The chance to win and advance to a title game can make good teams great, if just for one day. Call it a hunch. These two could play 10 times and Alabama would likely win 9. But we think this might be that 1 out of 10 Georgia wins. We don't play games based on hunches though, so in the real world, this will be a pass for us. We'll watch from the sidelines and see how our hunch plays out. For the sake of picking this game, we'll take Georgia +7.5