National Championship Odds & Picks: How Collin Wilson & Stuckey Are Betting Alabama vs. Georgia
Ryan Collinsworth/The Action Network.
- Alabama faces off against Georgia on Monday evening in the CFP title game.
- Here's how Collin Wilson and Stuckey are betting on the national championship.
This entire college football season has led to this game.
The National Championship between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs serves as the last contest of the 2021-22 season, which means it’s also the last college football game to bet until August. That’s nearly eight months of waiting.
So, let’s make the most of what we have while we have it. Two of our top college football experts — Collin Wilson and Stuckey — are taking advantage of the opportunity and have hand-picked a number of bets for Monday’s national title game.
Check out both of their betting breakdowns below, along with all of their favorite bets.
Now, pack your bags and grab your keys — we’re taking one final trip to Green Dot City before the season is over.
2022 College Football National Championship Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|8 p.m. ET|
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Alabama vs. Georgia
The conclusion of the college football season will be a legendary rematch between two of the top programs in the nation.
The 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship will not only be the second time Alabama and Georgia have met this season, but also four years and two days since the 2018 overtime thriller for the title.
Plenty of student-athletes became household names that evening before hitting the NFL, as a 51-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal was outdone by a Tua Tagovailoa torpedo to DeVonta Smith for a Crimson Tide victory.
This version of the national title will once again showcase more than a dozen names that will soon play at the professional level.
The perfect season from Georgia ended in a lackluster performance with a loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship. Head coach Kirby Smart professed how elite the quarterback and offensive line play was for the Crimson Tide.
Failing to execute kept Smart from beating his former boss for a fourth consecutive time since leaving his post as Alabama defensive coordinator and taking on the head-coaching job at Georgia.
The Bulldogs bounced back in the national semifinal by dominating Michigan. Georgia led, 27-3, by halftime, limiting the Wolverines offense to just one possession past the 40-yard line and neutralized Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson by averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
The Bulldogs piled up seven tackles for loss and three turnovers, as the revelry of the Michigan victory brought back confidence and a trip to Indianapolis for revenge.
Continuing the streak of national semifinal blowouts, Alabama put up a covering victory in the Orange Bowl. Cincinnati was held without a touchdown and posted just two successful conversions in 15 attempts on third and fourth down.
The Crimson Tide played terrorizing defense with eight tackles for loss and six sacks.
The Bearcats represented the Group of Five’s first-ever appearance in the playoff but left without a whimper after five punts and just four drives that crossed the Alabama 40-yard line.
Head coach Nick Saban will search for that “yummy rat poison,” as the Crimson Tide will be underdogs once again versus Georgia.
These head coaches have been in this position before, as the 2011 National Championship for Alabama was a rematch that ended with revenge over an undefeated LSU team.
Saban and Smart led the Crimson Tide effort in a shutout of the Tigers, but both head coaches implied that the prior rematch experience will have no play-calling impact on this national title game.
The biggest concern for the Crimson Tide to repeat as champions are key injuries.
John Metchie III was the leading receiver for Young after hauling in 96 catches and eight touchdowns on the season. Just as DeVonta Smith won the Heisman last season, Metchie has been a staple in downfield blocking for other receivers.
The Crimson Tide entered halftime of the SEC Championship with 24 points, but Metchie’s ACL injury with one minute left in the second quarter left Young looking for answers in the second half.
Metchie recorded 324 snaps in a wideout position versus 164 snaps in the slot.
Slade Bolden received the lion’s share of looks in the fourth quarter of the SEC title game, ending with seven targets. Bolden posted 316 snaps on the season from the slot, making his presence of the utmost importance in the national title game if Alabama continues to attack between the hash marks.
The senior caught all three targets against Cincinnati, but the game plan was centered around the ground attack.
When asked before the Cotton Bowl who would fill the shoes of Metchie, O’Brien immediately rattled off Ja’Corey Brooks and JoJo Earle. Brooks ended the semifinal game with five targets and four catches, while Earle was targeted just once against the Bearcats.
Brooks was scattered on the field with 12 snaps from the slot and 18 from out wide, similar to the distribution of Metchie. Burning future NFL cornerback Arquon Bush led to a 44-yard touchdown and plenty of trust from Young.
— Lukas Weese (@Weesesports) December 31, 2021
The duties of covering Jameson Williams will once again fall on the shoulders of cornerback Kelee Ringo and safety Lewis Cine, as both defenders were targeted five times and beat for two touchdowns.
Although Williams lines up in the wideout position on 72% of snaps, his double move off the line of scrimmage has been deadly in creating space. Williams has been most successful in crossing routes between the hashes, exactly where Alabama attacked Georgia in the conference title game.
There will be a collective effort to recover from the loss of Metchie, but the expectation is a bump in Brooks targets and the increased usage of passes to a tight end.
Jahleel Billingsley was targeted a career-high six times against Georgia with two receptions.
Keep an eye on the injury status of Williams, who took a special teams shoulder hit that sent Alabama’s most explosive player to the medical tent.
Another area of health concerns revolves around offensive linemen Emil Ekiyor and Owens. Ekiyor has played 923 snaps at the right guard position, while Owens was shifted all season in place of both Damieon George Jr. at right tackle and Darrian Dalcourt at center.
If Owens is unable to play, George may get the start at right tackle after last seeing action against Auburn and allowing five pressures and two sacks. Amari Kight is another tackle who could possibly fill the role, but he has just 64 snaps of experience on the season.
In the case of Ekiyor, JC Latham is expected to see the duties at right guard after playing 55 snaps against Cincinnati. The Bearcats posted two pressures and a quarterback hit in Latham’s limited snaps in the Cotton Bowl.
Alabama struggled in late SEC play against LSU, Arkansas and Auburn because of the offensive line, and the National Championship game will be no different if injuries persist.
The offensive line will be most tested in pass blocking, as Saban went light in the run game against the Georgia front seven.
The Bulldogs are one of the best zone-read defenses in the nation, as running backs Robinson and Trey Sanders combined for just 19 zone reads.
Alabama was quick to abandon the run and throw on 44 attempts in the SEC Championship.
Not only will Alabama flirt with tempo, but Young should also have a consistent quick release considering the offensive line. The Heisman winner has not thrown an interception on any pass released in less than 2.5 seconds on the season, where his highest NFL rating ranges from 1.5 to 1.75 seconds.
Defensive coordinator Dan Lanning will be leaving Athens for the head coaching position at Oregon, but he must first make Young as uncomfortable as possible.
Georgia has sent pressure with six defensive players on just 2% of snaps through 2021, but the loss of Metchie before halftime in the SEC Championship changed that strategy. The Bulldogs sent six defenders on more than a half-dozen snaps in an effort to flush Young from the pocket.
Without Metchie, look for Georgia to increase a 28% blitz rate with more than just the front four defenders.
Entering the SEC Championship game, tight end Brock Bowers had just 46 targets on the season. Georgia is a run-first team, averaging 46% out of 11 personnel, 61% out of a two-tight end set and a whopping 68% run rate when three tight ends are on the field.
That all changed in the conference title game, as the freshman tight end from California had 15 targets with all but two coming inside the hash marks.
Brock Bowers has 6 touchdowns in his last 4 games.
Only 4 other Power 5 TEs had more than 6 touchdowns all season.
TBD on human status.pic.twitter.com/MPZFlJWvl2
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) January 4, 2022
Bowers recorded just five catches on as many targets in the semifinal victory over Michigan, as a quick lead led to a heavy dose of rush in the Orange Bowl.
Both Saban and Smart have mentioned that the game plan for the national title will not be all that different from the SEC title game, with the exception of a few wrinkles.
One area that is a constant: No single Crimson Tide defender could contain Bowers.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett had a remarkable day with three touchdowns and 340 passing yards. Two turnover-worthy plays occurred once Alabama generated a two-score lead, forcing the Georgia offense into fifth gear.
Bennett is now bolstered by a healthy offensive line, as left tackle Jamaree Salyer returned to action after a lengthy absence. Salyer shut down Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, allowing just a single pressure in 69 snaps.
The health of Salyer will prevent Bennett from pressured dropbacks, as Michigan generated only seven pressures and zero sacks in the Orange Bowl.
This also opens up lanes for a Bulldogs rushing attack that posted 4.6 yards per rush against Alabama without their star left tackle.
The stable of running backs that includes James Cook and Zamir White was highlighted by a Kenny McIntosh toss sweep touchdown pass against Michigan.
Georgia’s initial game plan was to have an even distribution of run and pass, as the Bulldogs had passed just four more times than they ran before the third quarter deficit became two touchdowns.
The focus of the ground attack was away from Alabama edge Anderson, while the passing game targeted the middle of the field. Specifically, Bennett targeted strong safety Brian Branch on 11 passing attempts, generating three first downs and a score.
Cornerback Josh Jobe was targeted eight times, but with a turf toe injury, there will be more attempts at Kool-Aid McKinstry. The freshman corner was burned on an explosive pass to George Pickens.
Welcome back, George Pickens#CFB
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 4, 2021
Cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis has graded out as one of the best coverage defenders on the Crimson Tide but was limited to just 15 plays against Cincinnati with a hip issue. If the injury persists, Khyree Jackson is expected to get the start at cornerback after appearing in just three games this season with 50 coverage snaps of experience.
Expect Bennett to find Bowers over the middle against Branch and Pickens out wide against McKinstry, as Georgia exceeded the national average for two-plus first down drives by 12% in the SEC Championship game.
The Alabama defense could not be taken advantage of in the semifinals by Cincinnati, as the Bearcats had just four scoring opportunities. The Crimson Tide have posted a Finishing Drives rank of 89th, evidenced by allowing 31 scores in 37 opponent red-zone attempts.
Georgia scored early and often against Alabama, but a Bowers mistake led to an interception, while Kearis Jackson drops limited opportunities.
Better execution on the offensive side will lead to a score closer than that of the SEC title game number posted in Atlanta.
Alabama vs. Georgia Betting Picks & Props
Betting the Spread
The loss of Metchie cannot be stated enough, as the connection with Young goes far beyond targets and total receiving yards.
Besides being a downfield blocker, Metchie also changes routes on the fly when directed by Young. Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner does not have this same relationship with any other target on the roster.
BRYCE YOUNG FINDS JOHN METCHIE.
Bama has the lead! 😤😤
— 247Sports (@247Sports) December 4, 2021
Metchie’s absence allows Georgia to not tip its hand in coverage. Williams often lines up in heavy or bunch sets, a formation that forces the defense to expose its hand in coverage. Without Metchie, Georgia may now double-cover and spy Williams freely while playing one-on-one coverage against Bolden, Brooks and other Alabama targets.
Not only does the loss of Metchie change the defensive plan for Lanning, but the potential offensive line injuries also change the pressure scheme to the one used more often second half of the SEC Championship. Georgia rarely uses more than four rushers to generate pressure, but the Bulldogs spent the final 30 minutes flushing Young out of the pocket with at least five rushers.
Taking a page from LSU, once the right side of the Alabama offensive line had a weakness, the Tigers ran heavy stunts while flashing zero coverage to generate sacks.
BRYCE YOUNG IS SACKED , LSU BALL!
Alabama Crimson Tide leading 20-14 with less than 3 minutes to play!
— SportzStew Ⓥ (@sportzstewcom) November 7, 2021
With so many potential injuries on the Alabama side of the ball, Georgia will be aggressive in exposing those areas.
Williams will draw double coverage, Young will be forced from the pocket through the right side of a replacement offensive line, and the Crimson Tide defense will be asked to stop the middle of the field against Bowers while potentially missing two key defensive backs.
The Action Network projection is Georgia -2, but with injury at key positions on both sides of the ball, there are plenty of questions surrounding the Crimson Tide.
Look for the Bulldogs to harass the Alabama offensive line and win their first National Championship since 1980, taking Georgia at -3 or better.
Betting the Total
The Action Network projection places the total at 51, leaving no value in the current market of 52.5. These teams do have frequent periods of no scoring, as the SEC Championship featured just three points in the first quarter and seven points in the third quarter.
The initial game plan out of the gate and after halftime favors the defense, but the in-game adjustments show why Smart and Saban are two of the best in the business.
When points come, they generally hit in a flurry, making it important to know which numbers are key through live betting. The range in focus for a live over is 44, which hits in 2.7% of college football games. The number in focus for a live under is 65, which hits in 2.2% of college football games.
The early market indicates all of the tickets and dollars have landed on the over with no movement at most shops from 52.5. There are indicators that this game should go over the total.
With Alabama’s offensive line struggles, the Georgia defense will get Young into space and force shots downfield. Considering Young has committed just 11 turnover-worthy plays on the season and five interceptions, rushing yards and deep targets will keep the chains moving.
Bennett will have a juxtaposition opportunity downfield with injuries to Jobe and Armour-Davis in the Alabama secondary. Smart was surprised by Alabama’s tempo, which may force the Bulldogs to increase their pace similar to the Crimson Tide at 22 seconds per play.
Any two-score lead in this game will increase pace on the other side.
Finally, the referees may be handing out free yards to each offense. Head official Heydt’s record for personal fouls and pass interference shows there is a high probability of multiple flags in this game.
Giving the Georgia and Alabama offenses free plays is a sure-fire way to get the final score over the posted total. While there is a lean to the over pregame, the sharp play is patience through the first quarter before taking a better number live.
First Touchdown Scorer
Assessing the first touchdown, it’s important to know how coaches handle the coin flip. Alabama won the coin toss in seven games this season and deferred to the second half every time. On one occasion, the opposing team won the toss and elected to receive, the start of many mistakes for New Mexico State.
The Alabama defense allowed just one opening-drive touchdown — its lone loss to Texas A&M. In the five games Alabama received the ball first, only three resulted in an opening touchdown. Metchie and Jase McClellan provided two of those touchdowns, but both are unavailable for the national title game.
Against Southern Miss, Williams opened the game with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Similar to Alabama, Georgia won the toss in five games this season and deferred to the second half every time. In the eight games Georgia received the ball first, the Bulldogs scored on half of the opening drives.
Jermaine Burton hauled in a 73-yard pass against UAB, while James Cook ran 23 yards for the first score against South Carolina. In a smashing of Arkansas, Georgia scored first on one of two total touchdowns from Zamir White.
The running back was active once again in the semifinal, as White and Bowers had two touches apiece in the red zone on the opening drive against Michigan.
BROCK BOWERS GIVES GEORGIA (-7.5) THE EARLY LEAD! pic.twitter.com/H8NKEUBY3m
— PFF Bet (@PFF_Bet) January 1, 2022
In six opening defensive drives, Georgia allowed just one touchdown in the form of a Hendon Hooker touchdown pass against Tennessee. The handicap on first touchdown is clear: Both teams will opt to defer winning the coin toss, and both defenses have been excellent at preventing opening-drive touchdowns.
Alabama’s first touchdown candidates will be targeted through the air, while White and Bowers are the top options for Georgia.
White will certainly receive his touches and may be the grinder Georgia needs to slow the game down with a lead, but when the fireworks kick off in this game, there will be a heavy dose of Bowers, who should account for a third of all Georgia targets.
The wild card in this game is tight end Darnell Washington, who received one target on the Georgia’s third drive in Atlanta, resulting in the Bulldogs’ first touchdown.
Darnell Washington hit the silencer celly after this TD snag 😤
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 4, 2021
That touchdown catch was by design, as Washington was Bennett’s only look on the second-and-goal play that followed a failed first-down rush by White.
For Georgia first touchdown props, look for Brock Bowers +700 or better and a long shot on Darnell Washington at +5000 or better in the market.
The Alabama prop is a bit trickier, considering the Georgia defense has allowed just eight red-zone touchdowns this season.
Williams is listed at +500 for the first touchdown of the game, properly priced considering the explosive passing and special teams touchdowns throughout the season.
When Alabama does get into the red zone, there has been a clear pattern of Sanders and Bolden attempts, both seeing numerous touches against Cincinnati and all the way back to Arkansas.
Although Young scrambled for a touchdown against Georgia, this is not the preferred red-zone attempt, as the Heisman winner has nine fumbles on the season.
Sanders and Young are both well outside of +2000 to score the first touchdown, but considering what the Georgia defense does to zone reads, there may be better choices than rushing options for the Crimson Tide, including the short odds on Brian Robinson Jr.
Cameron Latu fumbled in the red zone against Arkansas and didn’t receive another look until the Cotton Bowl.
The Alabama passing attack will be between the hash marks, a specialty for Latu. The tight end posted an 18-of-21 mark between the hashes and is out of Saban’s doghouse.
Latu had not posted a touchdown since Week 11 against New Mexico State but was targeted just once against Cincinnati, resulting in a touchdown. Any number at 20-1 or better deserves a small investment on the Alabama tight end.
Bryce Young to Cameron Latu for another Bama TD! pic.twitter.com/RcaAg47P65
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2021
Finally, while Williams deserves all the attention, it’s Brooks who had the highest number of targets against Cincinnati in place of the injured Metchie.
Brooks posted explosive touchdowns against Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. If oddsmakers drop Brooks beyond 20-1, the freshman wide receiver will be on my card.
The better bet might be total yards over considering his increased role without Metchie.
There is a direct correlation between pressuring Young and the amount of rushing yards posted. Young rushing the ball has never been an option, as he’s totaled -11 yards on the season when having a designed run called.
However, teams that present pressure end up producing plenty of scramble yard opportunities for the Alabama quarterback. Georgia produced eight quarterback hurries in the SEC Championship, and Young responded with 40 scramble yards. Tennessee produced five pressured pockets, resulting in 54 scramble yards for Young.
Both Arkansas and Auburn presented similar results, and Young gained a combined 41 scramble yards.
Young averages 6.1 yards per carry, and Georgia created eight pressures against a healthy Alabama offensive line without recording a sack.
Betting the Bryce Young rushing yards over prop is in order, but because sack yards and kneel-downs count against that total, I would begin betting at any number at 8.5 up through 29.5. This number will take steam on game day, so the size of the bet becomes smaller as the number crosses 30.
As far as Alabama rushing attempts, running zone read with Sanders and Robinson against the Georgia front will not be in the cards for offensive coordinator O’Brien.
The Crimson Tide threw 51 times and rushed on just 27 attempts in the SEC title game. Both Robinson and Sanders were limited to 3.5 yards per rush as the Alabama ground attack was stuffed on 54% of attempts.
Early markets have Robinson’s total yards at 80.5 and Sanders at 31.5. Those numbers are a reflection of the Cincinnati game and not the Georgia front seven against an unhealthy Alabama offensive line.
Take the under on both running backs’ total yards, with Robinson down to 49.5 and Sanders to 24.5.
Young will be passing often considering the rushing attempts will be limited in efficiency. Both Bolden and Brooks have picked up the slack for Metchie, with Bolden being more of a possession receiver moving the chains and Brooks being the home-run hitter.
With Williams and Bolden properly priced in the early market, there is value on Brooks’ total yards. After posting a combined 115 yards on 10 targets against Auburn and Cincinnati, Brooks total receiving yards over 34.5 is a play up to 44.5.
The potential loss of Jobe to turf toe will increase the number of targets on Kool-Aid McKinstry. Bennett immediately targeted McKinstry in the conference title game with two completions and 55 yards. Both Bowers and Pickens produced explosive plays against the freshman cornerback.
Other Alabama defenders to give up explosives include linebackers Henry To’oTo’o and Christian Harris, each surrendering 30-yard passes to Ladd McConkey and Bowers, respectively.
The longest touchdown number is set at 52.5, a number Williams has eclipsed in eight games for the Crimson Tide. Look for the Alabama linebackers and cornerback McKinstry to give up explosive passes from Bennett to eclipse this number.
Collin Wilson’s National Championship Betting Card
- Georgia -3 or Better
- Live Wagering — Over 44 OR Under 65
- First Touchdown Brock Bowers +700 or Better
- First Touchdown Darnell Washington +5000 or Better
- First Touchdown Jameson Williams +500 or Better
- First Touchdown Cameron Latu +2000 or Better
- Bryce Young Over Rushing Yards 8.5 through 29.5
- Brian Robinson Jr. Under Rushing Yards 80.5 through 49.5
- Trey Sanders Under Rushing Yards 31.5 through 24.5
- Ja’Corey Brooks Over Receiving Yards 33.5 to 44.5
- Longest Touchdown Over 52.5 Yards or Better
Alabama vs. Georgia
And then there were two.
The college football season will come down to an all-SEC rematch of the National Championship from four seasons ago between Alabama and Georgia. Both teams come into this showdown at 13-1 after dominant 20-plus point wins in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Despite Alabama getting the better of Georgia in the SEC Championship, oddsmakers made the Bulldogs a slight favorite. The market has since pushed up that spread a bit to -3 with a total of 52.5.
For what it’s worth, favorites have gone 11-12 against the spread in true national title games since the inception of the BCS back in 1998.
Saban brilliantly plays the underdog angle to prepare his team, but he’s rarely ever an actual underdog.
Unless things drastically change, Saban will close as a dog for only the 11th time since taking over at Alabama. He went 6-4 ATS in the 10 previous games. Amazingly, it’s only happened two other times since 2010. I can’t think of a better betting-related stat that speaks directly to Alabama’s dominance over the past 15 years.
Both occurrences came against Georgia — one in this year’s SEC Championship and the other in Athens during the 2015 regular season. The Tide won both outright by margins of 17 and 28 as 6.5- and 1.5-point underdogs, respectively.
Since Saban’s arrival in Title Town, Alabama has played in eight National Championships with six titles and two runner-up finishes. Bama went 4-4 ATS in those eight games, closing as a favorite in each one.
Alabama’s blowout of Ohio State last year ended a streak of four straight non-covers in the National Championship. However, this will mark the first time Saban has ever been an underdog in the title game at Alabama.
Although, Saban did win one national title as a head coach prior to taking the Alabama job. That came back in 2003 at LSU when the Tigers beat Oklahoma, 21-14, as 6.5-point underdogs.
It’s taken almost 20 years with eight national title appearances in between, but it appears that Saban will close as an underdog in the championship for a second time.
Leading up to the game, I’m sure everyone will hear multiple times about Saban’s record against his former assistants. That record now stands at 25-1 with an average margin of just under 24 points per game.
Can we please stop with that angle? Of course Saban has a dominant record against his former assistants. They usually coach clearly inferior teams. Alabama was a favorite of at least a touchdown in 23 of those 26 games, including 21 times as a double-digit favorite and 18 as a favorite of 14-plus.
Also, that one loss came earlier this season in College Station when Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M stunned Alabama as 19-point underdogs. Plus, it’s not like Kirby Smart (0-3 vs. Saban) didn’t have his team in prime position to beat Saban in the 2017 national title game when Georgia fell in overtime.
Saban does boast an impressive 16-10 ATS (61.5%) mark in those 26 head-to-head matchups, covering by an average margin of 5.15 points. However, I don’t think this angle has any relevance to who ends up winning this particular game.
Breaking news: Saban is one of the greatest coaches in college football history and has covered over 55% of his games against all opponents at Alabama by an average margin of just under a field goal.
The First Dance
After dominating opponents throughout the regular season, Georgia laid an egg in the SEC Championship as near touchdown favorites.
Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young had a monster day, averaging 16.2 yards per completion and 9.6 per attempt while setting the SEC title game record for most passing yards in a half. In fact, Alabama had more passing yards in the first half than 12 of Georgia’s other 13 opponents had for the entire game. He also had three effective scrambles for 40 yards.
Star wide receiver Jameson Williams went off as Young’s favorite target. He finished with seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow wideout John Metchie III added six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Most importantly, Alabama’s much-maligned offensive line exceeded expectations against Georgia’s dominant front. While the Dawgs still generated pressure at a respectable 36% clip, it didn’t lead to Havoc or enough negative plays.
On the other side, Stetson Bennett didn’t have his most efficient day passing, playing with a serious deficit for the time all season. He threw for an impressive 340 passing yards and three touchdowns, but he also had two costly interceptions — one in the red zone and another that Alabama returned for a touchdown to essentially seal the victory.
Ultimately, Young had a sparkling performance against a Georgia secondary that had its worst day of the season, while Bennett made too many critical mistakes trying to dig his team out of a hole.
It’s the Rematch
We have a rare same-season rematch in a National Championship. That’s only happened two prior times, with the loser of the first matchup getting their revenge in both instances:
- 2011: Alabama beat LSU, 21-0, after losing at home, 9-6, in overtime in the regular season.
- 1996: Florida beat Florida State, 52-20, after losing on the road, 24-21, in the regular-season finale.
It’s a sample size of two, but it reiterates to not overreact to the result of one game. It’s just one data point in a high-variance sport. Look no further than the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs, who lost to Auburn, 40-17, in the regular season and then won the rematch, 28-7, in the SEC Championship.
In regards to rematches in bowls overall, teams that lost the first meeting have gone 15-7 in the second meeting, including nine straight wins. Those teams have also improved the margin from the first game in 20 of those 22.
Along those lines, I think some will put too much emphasis on Alabama’s beatdown of Georgia in the SEC Championship. Again, it was just one game.
If you take a look at both teams’ bodies of work over the course of the season, Georgia was clearly the more dominant team and best in the nation by any measure.
After beating Clemson by a touchdown in the season-opener, the Bulldogs were never really threatened the remainder of the regular season. They won each of their final 11 games by at least 17 points — and that margin would’ve been 24 had Kentucky not called a timeout and scored on the final play of the game.
Including their semifinal win over Michigan, Georgia’s 13 wins came by an average of 32.9 points per game.
Meanwhile, Alabama almost stumbled numerous times throughout the regular season. pulling out victories in four of the five one-possession games it played as large favorites. That included a major upset loss at Texas A&M as just under three-touchdown favorites.
Alabama’s overall average margin of victory was over a touchdown less than Georgia with a very similar schedule.
For another lens, take a look at their four common opponents:
- Florida: Georgia won 34-7, Alabama won 31-29
- Tennessee: Georgia won 41-17, Alabama won 52-24
- Arkansas: Georgia won 37-0, Alabama won 42-35
- Auburn: Georgia won 34-10, Alabama won 24-22
Against those common SEC foes, Alabama scored 149 and allowed 110, while Georgia scored a similar 146 points but only allowed 34. From a net perspective, Alabama was only +39 compared to Georgia’s +112.
And even if you focus on the season-long metrics, Georgia really had no weaknesses on either side of the ball. Conversely, Alabama had major inconsistencies in coverage and along the offensive line.
Bottom line: Georgia was the much better team this season and deserves to be the betting favorite ahead of this highly-anticipated showdown.
My power ratings show value on Georgia, which I project as a 4.5-point favorite. I also truly believe things will play out much differently this time around for a number of reasons.
In the first matchup, Georgia played many different coverage looks on defense in the first half. I’m not sure if it was trying out new looks or if it overthought things based on what it believed Alabama’s game plan might’ve been.
Additionally, Chris Smith wasn’t fully healthy playing free safety, and it had a new slot cornerback.
I expect Smith, who should be at 100% health, to man the STAR position for this one, and for Georgia to use a much higher frequency of press man coverage with more blitz packages. That’s essentially what LSU and Auburn did to slow down this Alabama offense. That’s the blueprint, and Georgia has even better personnel to execute that game plan.
This is still an Alabama offensive line that allowed a 35% pressure rate during the regular season. Seven of its 11 FBS opponents had a higher pressure rate than their season average. Expect Smart to use more blitzes and for Georgia’s pressure to lead to more Havoc.
Alabama also won’t have the services of star wide receiver Metchie for this meeting. He’s so important on underneath routes, particularly on third downs. He’s also an elite blocker.
Metchie’s absence will also make it much easier for Georgia to focus on containing Williams.
That’s basically the key when Alabama has the ball, as I don’t think the Tide will get anything on the ground against the best run defense in college football. If you remove Young’s scrambles in that SEC Championship, the Tide had only a 27% Rushing Success Rate.
On the other side of the ball, I expect Stetson Bennett to play much more efficiently — mainly because I don’t think Alabama will race out to a big lead again.
It all starts with the Georgia defense. That allows Bennett to utilize play-action on early downs, when he’s most effective. That also keeps the ferocious Alabama pass rush, led by the unbelievable Will Anderson, from pinning its ears back and coming after the quarterback.
It all starts with the defense for Georgia, which I expect to perform at a much higher level this time around — similar to the group we saw in every other game. Yes, Alabama will still hit some explosive plays. After all, the Tide have a Heisman quarterback and one of the best receivers in the country with five-star talent all over.
But this is also a historically dominant defense that had one hiccup all year.
Meanwhile, this Alabama offense had quite a few hiccups and now will have to make do without Metchie and a few potential concerning injuries on the right side of the offensive line. The same can be said for the Alabama defense that now has injuries at cornerback.
I think Georgia is the side here and have some pending moneyline and futures positions myself. I like the Dawgs at anything under a field goal but prefer the moneyline at -140 or better.
In the 23 National Championships since 1998, the over has gone 14-9 thanks to a recent run of six straight.
Over that stretch, games have averaged a combined total points scored of 55.8 and an even higher 66.4 since the start of the College Football Playoff. For what it’s worth 15 of the 23 have hit at least 55 points.
On the surface, my first thought was to go over in this one. I bet the over in the SEC Championship, which I thought was too low for these two teams on a fast track. We have that same scenario, and I don’t expect much running from either team against two elite run defenses.
Don’t be surprised if Alabama uses even more pace than usual as well. It had success doing so in the first meeting to neutralize some of Georgia’s defensive line rotations.
However, this number has opened higher than the first meeting. It currently sits at 52.5, which matches my projection on the dot. Plus, I have a position on Georgia, which I think has more correlation to the under than over since I believe the reason the Bulldogs will win this one is due to the effectiveness of their defense.
As a result, I’m passing on the total pregame but may see something worth betting in the live market.
I reached out to a few contacts I have at various sportsbooks. They all indicated the same thing: most of their sharp accounts bet Georgia on the open, driving this to -3.
Now, the question becomes where does this line go from here? It’s a National Championship, which means there will be a flood of public money as we get closer to kickoff. In a game with this much volume, public money can matter.
I assume most casual bettors will side with Alabama as an underdog. Therefore, I’d guess this line has a better chance of coming back down to 2.5 before it goes to 3.5 unless there’s just persistent, overwhelming sharp support for the Bulldogs.
I want to point out how much Alabama has struggled to cover tight ends this season. Here’s what 11 FBS tight ends did against the Tide this season compared to their averages against other opponents..
Eight of the 11 surpassed their season averages against other teams. Six had their best game of the season against the Tide.
That includes Georgia’s Brock Bowers, who set SEC Championship game records for catches and yards by a tight end. He finished with 10 receptions on 16 targets for 139 yards and a touchdown.
What has caused these struggles? Alabama coverage busts, especially at linebacker with Christian Harris and Henry To’oTo’o. That pair had the second- and third-most snap counts among Alabama defenders.
Out of 188 linebackers with at least 250 snaps, To’oTo’o and Harris rank 176th and 160th in coverage, per PFF, respectively. They also both have allowed an opposing QB rating of 120 or worse and rank in the bottom 50 in missed tackle rate.
That said, Alabama is one of the most analytically sound and well-coached programs in the country. After Bowers torched the Tide, I’m sure they will have a game plan in place to make sure he doesn’t burn them again.
The Georgia tight end still might still get his given some of Alabama’s coverage deficiencies, but running back James Cook might benefit from the extra attention Bowers may get.
Some other props thoughts I have:
- I’d like to target George Pickens, who I think will have favorable matchups.
- Jameson Williams will garner plenty of attention and likely have inflated prop numbers.
- I’ll be looking for Stetson Bennett over props — both passing and rushing.
- Jahleel Billingsley has my interest for some over props for Alabama.
Make sure you follow along on the Action Network app to see which ones I ultimately add prior to kick. As always, shop around for the best prices if you do want to bet into the prop market.