SEC fans are loving life with Georgia and Alabama facing off in the National Championship Game. While it should be a fun, competitive Game, some are turned off that this is more or less another SEC title Game. But if these teams didn’t come out of the SEC, there would be no arguing about whether they deserved to be here. The Crimson Tide opened as -4.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
It’s been an impressive second season for Kirby Smart at Georgia, taking the Bulldogs from eight wins to the Championship. Not many thought they’d be here after escaping past Notre Dame in the early season, but after running through the SEC East, it was only a matter of a time. The only blip on the Schedule is the trip to Auburn that didn’t end up mattering as they beat the Tigers 28-7 on a neutral field. Georgia needed two overtimes against Oklahoma, but grabbed the win on the back of 317 rushing yards on 9.3 yards per carry.
For Alabama, this was always expected, even after losing 26-14 at Auburn in the regular season finale. The Tide had trouble late in the season, but still managed close wins against A&M, LSU and Miss. State. They maybe didn’t have the toughest Schedule, but you can’t fault ‘Bama that Florida State lost its starting QB in the opener and had trouble reaching six wins (even if they were the ones to injure Deondre Francois). In the semis, Alabama won through its defense stopping Kelly Bryant and Clemson from getting anything going and that’s what will need to be the case in this Game.
All signs point to this matchup being similar to the Alabama-Clemson Game than the Georgia-Oklahoma one. For starters, both defenses rank near the top in terms of almost every defensive stat. Alabama allows 11.5 points per Game while Georgia is at 13.2. Both have better rush defenses, but at times have been questionable against the pass. The Tide were slightly better in that aspect allowing 2.8 yards per carry with the Bulldogs allowed 3.5. After Georgia gave up 242 rushing yards to the Sooners in the semifinals, that’s where Alabama will attack.
The team that wins in the trenches should win the Game. The Tide will use its combo of Damien Harris (983 yards, 11 TDs) and Bo SCarbrough (573 yards, 8 TDs), as well as quarterback Jalen Hurts (808 yards, 8 TDs) getting his fair share of carries in the option. Hurts has rarely beat opposing defenses in the air this season and there’s no reason to bet on him to do that in this Game. Even against Clemson, most of his 16 completed passes were short screens and he only ended up with 120 passing yards. When Alabama isn’t dominant on the ground, it usually has trouble moving the ball and the only reason it won by 18 points against Clemson was because of a couple turnovers. Otherwise, the Tide managed just 3.4 yards per carry.
The question is if Georgia’s defense can step up to that same level. The Bulldogs were run over by Auburn in the first meeting and then contained them in the SEC title Game. Oklahoma ran easily against them as well, although most of that came in the first half when the Sooners dropped 31 points. The problem for Georgia is that Alabama hasn’t really allowed anyone to run on them this season. Even in the loss to Auburn, the Tigers managed just 3.4 yards per carry.
That’s an issue because Georgia also has a run-first offense between Nick Chubb (1,320 yards, 15 TDs) and Sony Michel (1,129 yards, 16 TDs). Chubb and Michel have been unstoppable for most of the season, but if those two can’t get going, there’s no telling what this offense will look like. They were contained in the Auburn loss and Jake Fromm couldn’t do enough to keep that Game competitive. In this huge spot, the freshman quarterback will be extremely hard to trust, even after back-to-back big wins. If the running Game doesn’t work, everything will be on Fromm to win this Game for Georgia and that’s a tall ask against the Alabama defense. His main priority may simply be to not turn it over after Kelly Bryant cost Clemson in their loss.
The Crimson Tide are 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral-site Games, but 1-4 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 1-5 ATS in their last six Games against SEC teams. The Bulldogs have covered in their last Four Games, are 6-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 against the SEC. In this matchup, the over is 5-1 in the last six meetings and the underdog has covered in the last Four.
Our Pick – All of Our numbers, including Our model, say Alabama is the better team by a nose. In fact, Our numbers have Alabama by 4 to 6 points, suggesting the oddsmakers have this one right.
One interesting thing we noticed is that at a sportsbook known for it’s “square” or recreational clientel, the line actually went from an opener of -4.5 up to -5. Whereas, at a couple of books that have no problem with “sharp” or wiseguy action, the line opened at -4.5 and dipped to -3.5.
This Game, like any close Game, will be decided by mistakes and turnovers. Now, to be clear, this is NOT a strong play for us. We have had a tremendous Key Release season hitting 65% (very rare) and this Game won’t be includedas a Key Release.
But we do like Georgia in ths Game. No, we don’t have any numerical handicapping edge, which is what we look for, it’s actually nothing more than a feeling that this is simply Georgia’s time. We’ve felt that way about this team for most of the year and it led to Georgia being Our highest rated Key Release of the year last week.
In fact, with Georgia down 31-17 at the half last week, there was little doubt in Our mind that they would come back and eventually win. It’s simply their year, and who better to lead them to a National Title than former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Georgia +4.5