SEC

Vegas says Alabama is a heavy favorite, but the numbers give Georgia a shot

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart pose with the NCAA college football championship trophy at a press conference in Atlanta. Neither No. 1 Alabama nor No. 4 Georgia is anxiously awaiting their playoff fates this season, but whoever wins the SEC championship game showdown is definitely in the playoffs. The Crimson Tide could even get in with a close loss. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart pose with the NCAA college football championship trophy at a press conference in Atlanta. Neither No. 1 Alabama nor No. 4 Georgia is anxiously awaiting their playoff fates this season, but whoever wins the SEC championship game showdown is definitely in the playoffs. The Crimson Tide could even get in with a close loss. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) AP file

If Alabama crushes Georgia as a 13-point favorite, that would probably confirm that Nick Saban’s crew is head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. Georgia is very good. Many respected computer models have Georgia up close to the other top national contender Clemson in terms of true talent.

Handicapping Saturday’s game is tricky because Alabama’s 2018 level of dominance is something fans and bettors aren’t used to seeing. Can you trust stats when the Crimson Tide are often so far ahead that they call off the dogs and run out the clock? Would trends and angles from past seasons work for such a unique creature?

If you only look at rankings of per-game yardage averages, a point spread of Alabama in the range of -13 isn’t justified.

*Alabama: #4 on offense, #6 on defense, vs. the #55 schedule (according to Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings in USA Today).

*Georgia: #13 on offense, #12 on defense, vs. the #28 schedule.

Alabama’s better … but not SO MUCH better that it should be favored by two touchdowns. And they’d probably rank even closer if they had played equivalent schedules.

Yet, when you look at the best possible regular season litmus test … road games for each played in Baton Rouge against a high-quality LSU team … it looks like ‘Bama might win by about 50!

Alabama won at LSU 29-0, winning total yardage 576-196 on 7.3 to 3.3 in yards-per-play.

Georgia lost at LSU 36-16, losing total yardage 475-322 on 5.9 to 5.0 in yards-per-play, while also losing the turnover battle 4-0.

Georgia absolutely imploded at LSU, getting blown off the point of attack while handing the ball away left and right. THAT version of Georgia has no chance to stay close Saturday, let alone dream of an upset.

There were four common opponents for the season: LSU, Auburn, Missouri, and Tennessee. Alabama’s average result was a 45-13 win (plus 32 points), while Georgia’s was a 31-22 win (plus 9 points).

The case for Alabama (-): This team is so talented that it can control its destiny vs. any caliber opponent. And, like LSU, it’s defensive strengths can throw a brick wall in front of Georgia while forcing miscues. It will be very tough for the Bulldogs to cover two touchdowns if they can’t score more than one themselves.

The case for Georgia (+): Some would argue that this is a motivational mismatch. Georgia has to assume it MUST win to get into the playoff, while Alabama knows that it can lose and still get in with its resume. Things have been coming so easily for the Crimson Tide that it may lose composure when its opponent doesn’t blink. And, the Georgia loss at LSU was an outlier that reminded key Bulldogs players about the importance of intensity vs. elite opponents. Focused, prepared Georgia at its best can hang within two touchdowns of an Alabama side that comes out a bit flat.

Remember to use the SEC Championship to scout possible edges in Alabama’s playoff matchups.

Other Notes:

Alabama is a heavy favorite in global betting markets to win the National Championship. Current odds center around 2/5, which is -250 on the money line (you have to risk $25 just to win $10 or anything in that ratio). Clemson is second at around 7/2 (that’s +350, or risk $10 to win $35). Notre Dame is around 11/1 or 12/1 because the Fighting Irish would likely be big dogs in consecutive games were they to spring a semifinal upset. Georgia is most commonly 12/1, Ohio State 14/1, and Oklahoma 25/1. Check your local stores for the latest prices.

Generally speaking, the public likes betting favorites in conference championships. They often wait until game day to place their action because of their work schedules. Sharps (professional wagerers) who want to back underdogs will wait as late as possible in an effort to get the most points. Something to think about as you watch the market Saturday. The public will probably be “pulling” on Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and maybe Clemson (though that line is already huge). Value-betting sharps hunting for dogs will bide their time because any additional half-point could matter.

With the New Orleans Saints’ work already done for Week 13, Sunday’s marquee match-up in the NFL is the Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) at the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1). The game time was changed to 7:20 p.m. due to NBC’s flex scheduling. Pittsburgh will likely be laying more than a field goal at kickoff with Chargers star Melvin Gordon out with an injury. Pittsburgh’s global odds to win the AFC center around 5/1 (behind Kansas City at 2/1 and New England at 9/4). The Chargers rank fourth in the AFC around 13/2.

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