Alabama-Oklahoma Betting Guide: Defense Optional in 2018 College Football Playoff

Dec 30, 2018 07:20 PM EST

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Quinnen Williams and Kyler Murray

2018 College Football Playoff Betting Odds: Alabama-Oklahoma

  • Odds: Alabama -14.5
  • Over/Under: 81
  • Date: Saturday, Dec. 29
  • Location: Miami, Fla.
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

>> All odds as of Friday afternoon. Download The Action Network App to get real-time bowl odds and win probabilities on your bets

There probably hasn’t been a more fascinating matchup in the College Football Playoff in its five-year history.

Oklahoma will bring a historically elite offense — one that somehow improved without Baker Mayfield — to the semifinals against an Alabama team with its best-ever offense and its great-but-not-best-ever defense.

Can the Sooners get enough stops to keep it close?

How Odds Moved for Alabama-Oklahoma

By Danny Donahue

This has been perhaps the least exciting spread to follow over the past month. After opening at -13.5 in early December, Alabama was up to -14 within two days. Since then, many books haven’t touched the line at all, while a few have wandered a half-point in either direction for a short time before ultimately settling back at -14.

The total, on the other hand, has been a far more interesting story. Opening at 79, it was already set to be the highest in College Football Playoff history. It even made its way up from that number for a significant time, reaching as high as 82 before beginning a descent.

Since that time, its fallen all the way to 77. Currently, 47% of bettors accounting for 68% of dollars are playing the over.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

— Nick Saban is 43-31 against the spread (ATS) vs. ranked opponents at Alabama. When favored by double-digits in these games, his record improves to 21-12 ATS.

— The over is 19-14 in bowl games with over/unders of more than 70 points since 2005.

By Steve Petrella

— Saban’s regular season games since 2005 have gone under 47.5% of the time.

But in SEC Championship, bowl and College Football Playoff games, Saban is 15-5-1 to the over.

By Evan Abrams

— The two highest-scoring teams in college football playing a bowl game of this importance with a total above 70. This should be a fun shootout, right?

Since 2005, when two teams averaging at least 40 PPG face off in bowl season, the under is 12-7, going under the total by 7.1 PPG.

— Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the two lone teams remaining in bowl season averaging 30+ PPG on offense and allowing 30+ PPG on defense. In bowl season, those types of teams are recipes for disaster.

Since 2005, teams averaging at least 30 PPG, while allowing 30 PPG or more, are 26-50-1 ATS (34.2%) in bowl season, failing to cover the spread by 4 PPG.

Over the last two seasons (2017 and 2018), these teams are 1-14 ATS, not counting the Memphis-Wake Forest bowl game this season in which both teams fell into this spot.

Two Key Injuries

By Steve Petrella

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been dealing with an ankle injury for much of the season, and says he’s at about 80-85% right now. That’s a scary thought considering how bad he looked in the SEC Championship Game.

For Oklahoma, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is the injury to watch, though he’s expected to play. He was the Sooners’ most dangerous receiver, catching 75 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 scores. At just 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Brown relies on his speed, so a lower leg injury may take away some of his effectiveness.

Two Elite Offenses …

By Stuckey

These are the two best offenses in all of college football, no matter how you look at it. Oklahoma ranks No. 1 overall in S&P+ offense, including first overall in explosiveness and efficiency. It has the No. 1 rushing offense, and the No. 2 passing offense — it’s only No. 2 because Alabama is No. 1.  Alabama ranks No. 2 overall and No. 2 in efficiency and explosiveness.

These two teams also rank first and second in scoring, as Oklahoma leads the country with 49.5 ppg, while Bama comes in second at 47.9 ppg.

Yards per play? Yup, 1 and 2. Oklahoma at 8.7 and Alabama 7.9.

How good is 8.7? Here are the teams that have averaged over 8.0 yards per play in the past 20 seasons:

  • 2017: Oklahoma 8.3
  • 2006: Hawaii 8.6
  • 2018: Oklahoma 8.7

… But a Glaring Defensive Mismatch

By Stuckey

I could go on and on, but you get it. The difference comes on defense, where Alabama is also elite, while Oklahoma has major issues.

  • S&P+ overall: Alabama 8, Oklahoma 89
  • Rush Defense: Alabama 4, Oklahoma 53
  • Pass Defense: Alabama 7 Oklahoma 91
  • PPG: Alabama 4, Oklahoma 95
  • YPP: Alabama 7, Oklahoma 101

As you can see, just absolutely dreadful numbers for Oklahoma, while Alabama’s ranks mirror its offensive ranks.

Three Key Mismatches

By Stuckey


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