– Indianapolis, Ind.
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (13-1) and No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (13-1) are set to square off in a rematch of their SEC Championship Game on Monday, January 10th at 8:00 pm in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Alabama, having won the first contest by a score of 41-24, comes in as a slight underdog across most sports books following the two SEC powerhouses’ semifinal game blowout wins. However, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have fared quite well when touted as an underdog of late (5-1).
Alabama was last given the underdog line against Georgia in December’s contest, although the Crimson Tide had been favorites since their 2015 meeting in Athens before that.
Now, Alabama (13-1) and Georgia (13-1) will travel north to Indianapolis for a chance to claim college football’s crown in one final game. Despite the Tide having an incredible 7-1 record against the Bulldogs during Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, many experts believe the pendulum will swing on Monday night.
Georgia opened as a 2.5-point favorite on most sports books following their Orange Bowl win over Michigan. The total for the game sits at 52 in the over/under category.
According to ESPN’s FPI Simulator, the Bulldogs have a 58.4% chance to knock off the Tide. Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight’s simulations give Georgia a 56% chance to get revenge on Alabama.
In the efficiency ratings provided by ESPN, Georgia ranks No. 1 overall, while Alabama comes in at No. 2. The Bulldogs are listed as No. 2 offensively and No. 1 defensively, while the Tide are No. 3 offensively and No. 5 defensively.
On paper, Georgia should win this game. The Bulldogs have had prettier statistics than Alabama throughout the regular season and looked better when playing common opponents. Georgia defeated its common opponents by a total of 112 points, while the Tide only won by 39 combined points.
In every prediction model and efficiency rating on available, the Bulldogs rank ahead of Alabama, even with the 41-24 drubbing in Atlanta.
Based off numbers, one could imply that Georgia simply had a bad day in the SEC Championship Game and should bounce back on Monday night. After all, Kirby Smart did just that in the 2017 SEC Championship Game rematch vs. Auburn, following a beatdown on the Plains.
However, this is Nick Saban and Alabama we are talking about. Despite the Tide having one of Saban’s most inconsistent teams of the dynasty and their lowest overall rating since 2014, they are still Alabama, as proven in last month’s meeting.
Just when you thought the balance of power in the SEC was about to turn on December 4th in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Alabama became Alabama again.
So, if you’re a numbers guy and trust the data to reign supreme in this second meeting between these two SEC foes, the Bulldogs are your team. Meanwhile, those who understand Saban’s greatness and the psychological edge the Tide seem to have over Georgia each season, will be backing the Tide.
As someone who knows these teams like the back of their hand, I truly don’t know what to expect come Monday night. Georgia is statistically better, but given Alabama’s ability to handle Georgia over the Saban era, I almost refuse to pick against the Tide.
If there were significant value on either money line, I’d be tempted to take a gamble here that Smart’s made the proper adjustments since December or Alabama will just out scheme Georgia yet again. However, I don’t really like the risk factor in either money line on this game.
This is the national championship and you know you’re going to bet it regardless of value. For the sake of making a bet, I’m going to take Alabama plus the points, but with a unique twist.
If you are able to find Alabama at +3 or higher on a book, take it. I feel comfortable putting money down with a field goal cushion riding on Nick Saban. Otherwise, I just see this game going in so many different directions that I refuse to buy into either side all that much.
There might be value on the total, as the last two matchups between these teams reached 65 points. Monday night’s matchup will be played indoors, so adverse weather conditions should not be too big a factor. With the current total sitting at or around 52 on most sports books, I’d be leaning towards betting the over instead of the spread.
I like this over bet up to around 55 points and am leaning Alabama +3 if I had to make a spread bet. If your book has the Tide at +2.5, consider boosting the spread up to +3 for around (-150). Anything below +2.5 probably isn’t worth boosting, however.
Finally, I am going to give my true thoughts on this game in a few key points.
If Alabama can match the level of intensity it brought to Atlanta and Georgia does not make any major adjustments, this is an easy pick. I’d like Alabama by at least a touchdown in the rematch, depending on how many interceptions the defense can bring in off quarterback Stetson Bennett.
I just think Kirby Smart will throw the kitchen sink at Alabama in this matchup, given how all of the previous meetings have turned out.
Georgia would be foolish to run a similar gameplan to what it had in Atlanta and I don’t think they will.
I believe soon to be departed defensive coordinator Dan Lanning will work with Smart to draw up a better defensive gameplan, causing more pressure to be put on quarterback Bryce Young. The Tide will be without star wide receiver Jonathan Metchie for the full game on Monday, after suffering an ACL injury in the second quarter of the SEC Championship Game.
Alabama still has projected first-round pick Jameson Williams available after a scare returning a kickoff against Cincinnati, but the Tide could be missing Emil Ekiyor and Chris Owens on the offensive line.
I am concerned for the Tide having just one true threat at wide receiver heading into this game, as Williams and Metchie were the only key contributors in the passing game all year.
The comeback against Auburn and the two postseason games with Georgia and Cincinnati helped to get Ja’Corey Brooks, Slade Bolden and Cameron Latu going a bit, but Alabama is still thin at wide receiver and tight end, behind Williams.
The primary key to this game is simple. If Alabama can get the ball downfield to Williams like it did in Atlanta and the Tide defense can create havoc on Stetson Bennett like it did in the past two meetings, this game won’t be all that close.
If the Bulldogs are able to shut down Alabama’s passing attack and stick to the run more on offense, it will be the first time a national championship heads to Athens in 41 seasons.
This is a game I can see going in 14,984 directions.
(The number of days since Georgia’s last national championship by kickoff on Monday).
Alabama wins by double digits with ease if this plays out like Atlanta. Georgia conquers the mountain if it plays like it did in Miami and shuts down a chunk of the passing attack.
I lean somewhere in the middle of all those things. I think Georgia will make this game more competitive and create the adjustments necessary to stay in the game. However, I just don’t see the Bulldogs doing enough to fully re-write the score from what it was in December.
Give me Alabama by a touchdown, en route to a three-peat as national champions. Yes, you heard that right. Alabama will win AND repeat next season after bringing back Heisman winner Bryce Young, the majority of its current roster and adding Jahmyr Gibbs and Eli Ricks in the portal.
Alabama 34, Georgia 27
Give me the Tide over Ohio State in next year’s championship game, with Bryce Young and CJ Stroud having a quarterback battle for the ages in their sunny, Southern California hometown.
Georgia sneaks back into the playoff after another loss to Alabama in Atlanta, while losing to the Buckeyes in the semifinal game in Glendale.
The fourth spot comes down to a collection of teams, including Baylor, Utah and Michigan State, who become the Tide’s next victim at Bryant-Denny East in Atlanta.