Georgia vs. Alabama: Our Expert’s Top Picks, Angles & Best Bets for Saturday’s SEC Showdown
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: George Pickens (1) and Kearis Jackson (10).
Alabama and Georgia each control their own destinies as the only remaining undefeated teams in the SEC. A win on Saturday night would go a long way in cementing public sentiment regarding the victor’s claim for a College Football Playoff spot.
So, in honor of the most important game of the nascent 2020 college football season, we’ve gone above and beyond to cover this matchup from nearly every betting angle possible. The mainstay contributors from our college football betting team have delivered their favorite bets for Georgia-Alabama. Plus, we also fielded betting recommendations from The Action Network Staff at large, including betting recommendations from Brandon Anderson and Sean Zerillo.
The brief was simple: What are you most eager to bet from this Saturday night game? Yet, the responses were anything but ‘simple.’ Among our 12 contributors, five of them sided with the over on the game total. Only two preferred a side on the spread, and those two individuals are on opposite sides of the ledger! Two more opted for a moneyline bet with the underdog Bulldogs, and — surprisingly enough — three people highlighted exotics or player prop bets as their favorite bets on the board.
With that much diversity of opinion, you’re sure to find something worth betting on for Saturday’s epic SEC Showdown.
Georgia at Alabama Staff Best Bets
Without further ado, let’s dive in to each of our 12 staff best bets for No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Alabama (navigate to a specific author or bet type by clicking the respective links below):
- Danny Donahue: Over 57.5 (-114)
- Reed Wallach: Over 57.5 (-114)
- Matt Wispe: Over 57.5 (-114)
- Stuckey: Over 57.5 (-114)
- Sean Zerillo: Over 57.5 (-114)
- Mike Calabrese: Georgia 1H Moneyline & Alabama to Win (+625)
- Darin Gardner: 3 Bulldogs Player Props to Bet
- Collin Wilson: Georgia QB Stetson Bennett Over 240.5 Passing Yards
Danny Donahue: Over 57.5 (-114)
Let me start by saying that sharps care about a game’s value — not its hype. That said, there are times where the biggest games offer value, and this is one. So I’m tailing.
As of writing, bettors are split down the middle on this total. But even with the 50-50 distribution, the number has been bumped up by two points from 56 to 58.
Why? Because sharps are finding value on the over.
Two Sports Insights Bet Signals have been triggered on the over — at 56.5 and 57.5 — confirming the professional activity, and convincing oddsmakers to adjust their lines.
Further confirming that side, while also giving even more reason for a line move, the 50% of bets that have hit the over have accounted for 84% of actual money landing on the total.
Reed Wallach: Over 57.5 (-114)
The unknown of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s availability makes me think twice about touching a side in this one. Instead, I’d rather wait to for a live-betting opportunity if I end up taking a position on the side.
However, I do have a strong lean towards the over.
This Alabama offense can put a number up on anyone. We know that. The offense is averaging nearly nine yards per play and can dominate on the ground or through the air. Crimson Tide Quarterback Mac Jones has completed an absurd 66 of his 83 passes, and the Tide is averaging more than five yards per rush.
Not even the formidable Georgia defense will be able to keep Jones and the Alabama offense down. However, Bama is vulnerable to get touched up pretty good on the other side of the ball. The Crimson Tide defense ranks in the bottom third of active FBS teams in generating Havoc.
Georgia has held up very well on the offensive line, allowing only 11 tackles for loss through three games. This unit should give Stetson Bennett IV sufficient time to pick apart this weak Alabama defense. I’m not sure that the Bulldogs offense can outscore the Tide’s, but Bama’s shaky D will allow Georgia to hang around in what could become a shootout.
I’d play this game total up to 58.5.
Matt Wispe: Over 57.5 (-114)
Alabama boasts a 55% success rate and ranks third in points per opportunity. And while Georgia’s defense is elite, it nonetheless allows an above-average success rate on passing plays. So, Alabama’s receivers should be able to make plays in this matchup.
The Crimson Tide’s matchup with Ole Miss last week exposed Bama’s defense. It may be full of talent, but clearly this defense can be scored on. The key matchup to watch when the Bulldogs have the ball is down in the trenches. Georgia reports an above-average rushing success rate at 45.7%, while Alabama allows a 40% success rate on rushing plays.
It might seem crazy to bet the over on two teams in the top 25 for stopping drives, but their minor weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball align with the other’s strengths. These two offenses should soar beyond the four touchdowns each will require to hit the over.
Stuckey: Over 57.5 (-114)
Coming into the season, I had high expectations for a major turnaround from the Alabama defense. I attributed most of the Tide’s struggles on that side of the ball last year to massive turnover and key injuries that plagued a very inexperienced unit.
However, after going back and watching the Ole Miss game, I have serious concerns about this Alabama defense. I know the Ole Miss offense will make most defenses look silly this season, but Alabama had real fundamental issues in regards to coverage and communication.
Plus, this defensive front just isn’t getting a push, nor is it generating pressure to make up for some of those issues on the back end. Entering Week 7, Alabama ranks 67th out of 76 teams in Sack Rate (58th on passing downs) and outside the top 30 in every single Football Outsiders defensive-line metric.
I don’t think these are issues that can be fixed in one week. And if Nick Saban can’t man the sidelines on Saturday, that will put Alabama at a disadvantage when it comes to making in-game and halftime adjustments to what Georgia is doing on offense. From what I’ve seen so far, I was forced to downgrade Alabama’s defense, and I don’t think Georgia will have any issues moving the ball and finishing off drives with 6s more often than not.
On the other side of the ball, it’s strength on strength: We arguably have the best offense in college football taking on the best defense. The Tide have NFL talent at receiver, running back and all along the offensive line. Throw in how well Mac Jones is playing and you have an offense that should get to 30 with ease against any opponent — even vs. an absolutely dominant Dawgs defense.
I think this spread is about right. Since I make it around 5, I would take Alabama if it got down to -3 and would take Georgia if it got up to +7. If neither occurs, I’ll just have a play on the total. I think both offenses will shine bright under the lights in what should be a very competitive back-and-forth affair.
Give me the over at anything up to 58.
Sean Zerillo: Over 57.5 (-114)
It was always going to be difficult for Mac Jones to replace Tua Tagovailoa as Alabama’s starting quarterback. Tagovailoa was the No. 1-ranked college passer by Independent Quarterback Rating (IQR) in 2019 (146.6) and the No. 3-ranked passer (140.6) in 2018 behind Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts.
But Jones was impressive when forced into action last season — finishing fourth in the nation with a 134.1 IQR. Both his on-target throw rate (74.8%) and yards per attempt (10.7) were a touch below Tagovailoa’s metrics (77.3% and 11.3, respectively). Nonetheless, Jones still ranked as one of the best quarterbacks in the country when he did play.
And Jones is off to a hot start in 2020, boasting an 85.2% on-target throw rate, the third-highest mark for passers with at least 50 attempts; while averaging 13.3 yards per attempt, the highest mark for any qualified QB.
Defensively, the Tide continue to get shredded through the air. Their adjusted catch rate allowed on defense has decreased slightly from 84.3% to 83% year over year, but the Tide is allowing more than 2.5 additional yards per pass attempt (6.00 to 8.54).
Steve Petrella: Alabama -4 (-110) at BetMGM [Bet Now]
I wrote this up as my favorite bet for the week, and I’ll reiterate my position here. Alabama’s defense got burned by Ole Miss, but Georgia won’t test it in the same way. Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett is still overrated and doesn’t have the arm talent to beat the Tide.
Much has been made about Saban dominating his assistants (21-0 straight-up). But, I think that record has more to do with the offenses those assistants have trotted out — predominately pro-style and without a dynamic quarterback — rather than the coaching itself. However, Kiffin did challenge him in a lot of ways other previous assistants haven’t.
This tweet tells you the whole story. Bennett’s been pretty fortunate.
Costello: 9 INTs
Interceptable pass rates under pressure almost identical. https://t.co/grI0cm7yu8
— Bud Elliott (@BudElliott3) October 15, 2020
You can’t ignore Alabama’s offense vs. Georgia’s defense, two of the top units in the nation, when talking about this game.
I’m almost always going to take the elite offense in situations like this, and Alabama is beyond elite. Jaylen Waddle is uncoverable. DeVonta Smith was somehow relegated to an afterthought before exploding for a 13-164-1 receiving line against Ole Miss. Jon Menchie has the highest average depth of target (aDOT) in the SEC and routinely roasts anyone trying to take away the other two Bama receivers. Mac Jones has been really steady under center.
Saban’s absence does make me nervous, but it’s not Bill Belichick on the other sideline. Kirby Smart falters in-game all the time.
Offense over defense here. As of writing, there’s still a -3.5 at FanDuel, and I’ll lay -4 at MGM, as well.
Brad Cunningham: Georgia +4.5 (-112)
One of the best matchups of the season is going to be Alabama’s offense versus Georgia’s defense. Both sides rank inside the top 10 in passing and rushing success, so something has got to give on Saturday night. Georgia’s defense leads the nation by allowing the fewest rushing yards per attempt (1.5) and ranks fourth in passing yards allowed per attempt (5.2). So, Mac Jones and company are going to have much more difficult time moving the ball than in their first three games against Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.
The real story of this game is going to be if Georgia’s offense will be able to move the ball on Alabama. Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin’s offense gashed the Tide last Saturday for 7.52 yards per play and 13.1 yards per pass attempt. Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett may not have been the planned starter going into the season, but he’s been efficient in his first three starts, throwing for 8.2 yards per attempt, five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
I’ll be honest: I do not know how impactful Saban’s absence from the sidelines will have on the outcome on Saturday night … but whatever effect there may be, it certainly won’t be positive for the Crimson Tide.
Even before the news broke regarding Saban’s COVID-19 diagnosis, I had this game around a pick’em, because I think Georgia’s defense is capable of shutting down Steve Sarkisian’s offense.
If Stetson Bennett is able to move the ball like Ole Miss did last Saturday night, then Georgia has a real shot at winning this game. Give me the Bulldogs +4.5.
Brandon Anderson: Georgia Moneyline +172 at FanDuel [Bet Now]
Nick Saban is undefeated against his former assistants. Oh, you’ve heard?
College football broadcasts just love to flaunt that statistic in viewers’ faces all game, and it’s up to 21-0 now. We get it. Saban is really good against his old assistants. Or maybe Alabama is just really good against … well, everyone.
But, join me in a little narrative fun. Saban might be undefeated against his former assistants, but are his assistants undefeated against his former assistants? With Saban testing positive for COVID-19 this week, that throws this thing into a loop. How involved was Saban in game-planning after his diagnosis? How much of his fingerprints will be on the actual in-game decisions?
Alabama is really, really good with elite offensive weapons, but we haven’t seen Mac Jones in a huge game yet — and certainly not against an elite defense like Georgia’s. I need to see Jones prove his mettle against Kirby Smart’s guys.
And rallying back to that narrative fun: If Alabama loses this game, is Saban’s undefeated streak against assistants over? Does he drop to 21-1* or stay at 21-0*? And how do we treat Alabama in the polls if the Crimson Tide loses arguably its biggest game with such an obvious asterisk? Doesn’t that just feel like the sort of thing college football fans will be debating all season long until the Crimson Tide inevitably make the playoffs and we get our answer?
It’s inevitable. Take the midnight train to Georgia, and ride that moneyline and elite defense for all they’re worth.
Ace DeCardano: Georgia Moneyline +172 at FanDuel [Bet Now]
I found a very interesting trend while combing our BetLabs database: During Nick Saban’s head coaching tenure, Alabama is 0-5 against the spread (ATS) and 1-4 straight-up (SU) as a home favorite of less than a touchdown.
Alabama Results During Nick Saban’s Tenure
As a Home Favorite with a closing spread of -6.5 or fewer:
Furthermore, the Tide reports a 1-7-0 ATS record and a 3-5 SU record in this same situational spot when it opens as a home favorite of 6.5 points or fewer.
I have to lean toward the Georgia moneyline. As of writing, FanDuel is still offering the Bulldogs at +172.
Exotics & Player Props
Mike Calabrese: Georgia 1H ML & Alabama to Win (+625)
When Nick Saban came down with COVID-19 and sportsbooks temporarily pulled this game off the board, the value in this SEC heavyweight bout evaporated. Catching six points with an elite Georgia defense was a potential gift, but now that the markets have reopened and established Alabama as a four-point favorite, I’d prefer to play a prop bet in this spot.
Just so we’re clear, I’m fully aware that Alabama is a virtually invulnerable offensive juggernaut: Scoring (1st), yards per play (1st), QB Rating (2nd), third-down conversion rate (2nd), plays from scrimmage of 30 yards or more (7th) — the list goes on and on. But, if there was one Achilles’ Heel that you could spot — and trust me; you have to squint — it’s the Tide’s first three drives of the game.
Through three games, Alabama has a pair of punts, an interception and a lost fumble to their name during their first three drives. Were the rest touchdowns? Yes; but, like I said, you have to squint to find any holes in this team’s armor.
Given Georgia’s defensive prowess, Alabama could start slowly to open the game, thereby granting the Dawgs an opportunity to seize a halftime lead. If that happens, you’ll have plenty of hedging opportunities holding a first-half plus full-game ticket at north of 6/1.
Darin Gardner: 3 Bulldogs Player Props to Bet
- Tight End Tre’ McKitty
- Wide Receiver Kearis Jackson
- Running Back James Cook
Alabama has had tremendous struggles defending the middle of the field this season. The Tide is very strong on the outside with cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe, and opposing offenses have been targeting the middle of the field in order to avoid those two.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral passed for 365 yards versus Alabama, and 324 of those yards went to tight end Kenny Yeboah (181 receiving yards) and slot receiver Elijah Moore (143 receiving yards). In Bama’s previous game against Texas A&M, it allowed tight end Jalen Wydermyer to go for 82 yards on eight catches and allowed WR/RB Ainias Smith to catch six passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Based on Alabama’s elite skill on the outside, combined with the precedent set by teams early this season to attack the middle of the field, a few Bulldogs players stand out as strong prop bets: Tre’ McKitty, Kearis Jackson, and James Cook. McKitty played his first game of the season last week against Tennessee and finished second on the team in receiving yards.
Kearis Jackson has emerged as a star in the Georgia offense and has totaled 300 yards in three games. He is tied for seventh in the nation in receptions of 20 or more yards per game. On top of that, in the Auburn game, Jackson logged the second-most receiving yards in a game for any Georgia receiver in the Kirby Smart era. Jackson is Georgia’s primary slot receiver, which should provide an advantageous matchup against an Alabama defense that struggles to defend the middle of the field.
Alabama’s top safety Jordan Battle will miss the first half after being ejected for targeting against Ole Miss, and the Tide have had major problems with the rest of its safety room. Co-starter Daniel Wright was benched in the Ole Miss game, and the Tide only has two players listed on the depth chart behind Battle and Wright. It is tough to speculate on what these lines will look like in the prop market, but my cutoff on playing the over for McKitty would be in the mid-40’s. For Jackson, I like it at anything under 80.
Collin Wilson: Georgia QB Stetson Bennett Over 240.5 Passing Yards
Georgia has played in three games, featuring closing totals of 53, 44.5 and 43, respectively. The game total against Alabama exceeds any previous Bulldogs number at 58 points and rising.
Bennett has previously thrown for 211, 238 and 240 yards, but those performances do not paint the entire picture. Bennett only logged nine offensive possessions in Georgia’s game against Auburn. Then, against Tennessee last week, the Bulldogs had closer to the national average with 13 offensive possessions.
The weakness of Alabama’s defense has been in the back seven. The Crimson Tide ranks 62nd in passing success rate allowed and ranks 48th in preventing explosiveness. With Stetson Bennett expected to throw more than his three-game average of 28 attempts, it’s expected that he will exceed his previous best of 240 yards.
Look for Kirby Smart to go uptempo in certain spots in order to avoid the Crimson Tide rush defense that ranks eighth in line yards. For Georgia to win the game, Smart knows that Stetson Bennett must throw downfield.
Bennett posted a 55% success rate against the toughest pass defense on the schedule in Arkansas. And, for added context, Georgia ranks 35th in success rate on passing plays.
Without Jordan Battle in the back seven for the first half, Bennett should test the Alabama secondary early and often.