2018 SEC Championship Betting Guide: Does Georgia Have Blueprint to Shock Alabama?

2018 SEC Championship Betting Guide: Does Georgia Have Blueprint to Shock Alabama? article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa

Alabama-Georgia Betting Odds for SEC Championship

  • Odds: Alabama -13.5
  • Over/Under: 63.5
  • Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS

>> All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

Sick of seeing Georgia and Alabama face off in big games? Sorry, but you’ll have to get used to it. The two national powers meet in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, 11 months after playing for a national title on the same field.

Kirby Smart’s Georgia is being hailed as the “new Alabama” because of its recruiting prowess, brand name, money and overall potential. Saturday will be the first in a long line of tests to see how close UGA really is to becoming like Nick Saban’s empire.

Odds Moves for Alabama-Georgia

By Danny Donahue

It took only about 10 minutes for this line to jump from -10.5 to -13 after it opened on Sunday afternoon. Since then, however, movement has been much harder to come by.

Fifty-nine percent of bets accounting for 67% of dollars have come on Alabama, which finally made another move to -13.5 late Wednesday night.
Movement on the total has been equally rare this week. The over has drawn 69% of bets and 77% of money, but this number has risen by just one-half point despite the support.

The Blueprint to Slow Down Alabama

By Steve Petrella

The real blueprint is to hope Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has a dinged up knee. But if you can’t get that — he looked much healthier in the Iron Bowl last week — here’s what you need to do.

Get after the quarterback.

The only defense that really slowed down the Tide was Mississippi State (don’t make the case for LSU, it gave up almost 600 yards). The Bulldogs had three sacks and six tackles for loss against Bama and gave up only 305 yards. MSU’s defensive line is among the most disruptive in the country.

Every team wants to get after the quarterback, of course. I make this point because I don’t think Georgia can. The Dawgs have 20 sacks all season and rank 78th in sack rate.

Even last year with that unbelievable defense, they ranked just 68th, and we saw Tua pick them apart in the second half of the national title game.

Georgia’s secondary is excellent, but it can only hang on for so long. The Bulldogs will need to bring extra pressure to get after Tua, and he might make them pay a few times. He did last season.

The Blueprint to Score on Alabama

By Steve Petrella

Fortunately, Georgia’s offense has the makeup of a team that can put up some points on Alabama.

The Tide have been somewhat susceptible to big plays this season, ranking 76th in IsoPPP+ thanks in part to a young secondary. Georgia ranks 10th on offense by the same measure.

The Bulldogs also have balance. Alabama shut down mostly one-dimensional teams that couldn’t stretch the field like LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.

Georgia ranks top 10 in rushing and passing S&P+, and I think Jake Fromm is the most underrated quarterback in the country. He’s been top 10 in yards per attempt in each of the last two years, but still gets the game manager label.

Why I’m Betting Georgia

By Collin Wilson

It’s not a shock that there are many statistical equalities between Kirby Smart and Nick Saban-led teams. A few come in the form of strength of schedule (Georgia 33rd and Alabama 35th), overall passing S&P+ rank (Georgia No. 4 and Alabama No. 1), and offensive rush efficiency (Georgia No. 7 and Alabama No. 3).

There are not many advantages in what each team does best. The Alabama passing attack, led by Tua Tagovailoa, ranks 1st in Passing Downs S&P+, specifically 4th in explosiveness.

The Bulldogs will combat Tagovailoa with the No. 1-rated Passing Downs defense, specifically ranking fourth against explosiveness.

Yes, the Alabama passing attack against the Georgia passing defense are direct statistical mirrors in S&P+ overall rank and in explosiveness.

Georgia’s biggest weapon is the rushing attack, led by Elijah Holyfield, and D’Andre Swift. Smart should implement a strategy to play ball control and keep the Alabama offense off the field. Georgia is sixth in rushing S&P+ going against Alabama’s S&P+ defensive rank of fifth against the rush.

The advantage Georgia has is rush explosiveness, with a ranking of 12th to Alabama’s defensive rush explosiveness rank of 66th in standard downs. Holyfield and Swift may have big strikes on first and second down.

This game will be decided in a couple of key areas, specifically special teams, quarterback Jake Fromm in passing downs, and red zone points scored. The team that wins those three categories will win the game straight up.

Georgia may have the advantage in special teams, but two other key areas may get Alabama the straight-up victory. Alabama is No. 1 in the nation in sack rate, which will fluster Fromm. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s play calling in passing downs and in the red zone will dictate the outcome of this game.

We mentioned Georgia’s rush explosiveness earlier, as Holyfield and Swift should be able to break runs. If the Bulldogs running back duo does not house a touchdown, there could be issues.

Georgia is a top 20 team in red zone scoring percentage (90.5%) but is middle of FBS in touchdown efficiency (64%). That does not bode well against an Alabama team that is allowing touchdowns in the red zone just 65.44% of the time, ranking in the top 5 in the nation.

On the flip side, Georgia’s defense is 109th in opponent red zone scoring percentage at 89.3%. The cover of this game will be decided in the red zone, as Tagovailoa should punch in every attempt while Georgia may settle for Rodrigo Blankenship field goals if explosive runs are not touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

The Action Network power ratings make this game Georgia +9, while S&P+ is Georgia +4 and ESPN FPI is Georgia +4.5. The number is too high, but as we side with Georgia, keep an eye on every single play within the 20-yard line.

Collin’s Pick: Georgia +13.5

Why Is This Number So High?

By Stuckey

I also think this line is way too high, and think Georgia has a slight motivational edge, as it seeks revenge for a heartbreaking national championship loss and needs this game to reach the College Football Playoff, while Bama likely still gets in with a loss.

Is that in the back of their heads? Maybe, maybe not. But I know Georgia has wanted this one for a while. I expect it to be close and the Tide have no close game experience this year, which could end up hurting them.

More importantly, I think Georgia matches up fairly well. The Bulldogs have a balanced offense (a must vs. Alabama) and can hit some explosive plays in the rushing game. Their defense can also limit explosive plays as well as any team in the country. Remember the name of cornerback Deandre Baker.

Georgia will also have the edge on special teams. Do not be shocked if the Dawgs bark outright and shock the world on Saturday.

A Tough Point Spread to Create

By Ken Barkley

I went into this thinking “well, there’s no way both Stuckey and Collin are also picking Georgia, so it’ll be good to have a little back-and-forth in the guide.” Whoops. No back-and-forth here. Just me also saying Georgia is valuable, especially if it ever touches 14 (which it’s very close to doing as of this writing).

For both teams, this is close to the best of everything they’ve faced this season. Alabama definitely hasn’t faced an offense like Georgia (it dominated Ole Miss, but the Rebels are so imbalanced I’m not sure that’s a good measuring stick) and Georgia’s defense, given recent play, is at least as good as the LSU and Mississippi State units the Tide played this season.

For Georgia, it definitely hasn’t seen anything like Tua since … Tua shredded the defense for a national championship. And Alabama’s defense, for all the gripes, is now squarely in the top 10 of S&P+.

When teams haven’t seen anything like the other team all season in terms of balance, I think it makes it very difficult for the market to set an accurate number. Sometimes those can be the most valuable spots, because there’s more unpredictability involved. There are fewer points of comparison.

We really don’t know what will happen, or at least, we have less of a basis to attach a solid probability to it. Compare that to something like Clemson, which has been playing some form of Pitt all season — an average-ish ACC team that fits within the standard parameters in most categories.

Given less predictability, but a very high spread, I really think the value has to be with the underdog. Many projections have this closer than 14, and what’s interesting is those same projections are also using Georgia data from the entire season. I really think this Georgia team is much different than the one that started the year, with so much defensive production to replace.

If anything, season-long data would undervalue the Georgia you’re getting now, probably more than early-season Alabama, which was beating awful teams by 50 and has looked elite on a consistent basis. I’ll take Georgia, and be praying a 14 pops somewhere before I make my bet.

Barkley’s Pick: Georgia +14

Why UGA Has Special Teams Edge

By Stuckey

Georgia will have a huge edge on special teams, mainly thanks to kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. For those who don’t remember, he drilled a 51-yard field goal in overtime before Alabama won the national championship. That field goal will be forgotten by most, except bettors, as it ensured Georgia +4.5 covered for me and others out there.

One aspect of Blankenship’s game that needs to be focused on is touchbacks. He has 74 — the second most in the country — and his kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks at an impressive 84.1% clip. In two games in this stadium last season, eight of his 11 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

Why is that so important? Because Alabama leads the nation in average starting field position after kickoffs (as if its elite offense needed any help).

Well, Rodrigo can limit that field position edge and make Alabama work a little bit harder to get down the field. Bama’s punting and kicking game have had shaky moments this season, but it doesn’t really matter when you beat everyone by 20-plus points. If this game stays close (which I think it can), special teams will play an enormous role and Georgia has the edge.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

—More than 60% of spread tickets are on Alabama. It has been profitable to bet against the public in conference championships games. Since 2003, teams getting less than 50% of bets have gone 44-32-3 (58%) against the spread (ATS). Teams like Georgia receiving less than 40% of tickets have gone 24-15-1 (62%) ATS.

By Evan Abrams

—Alabama enters the SEC Championship winning its games by more than 35 PPG this season (35.3).

Since 2005, Alabama will be just the second team to play a conference championship game with a +35 margin of victory for the season. 2013 Florida State was winning by 42.7 PPG entering the ACC title game vs. Duke as a 30-point favorite and won, 45-7.

—Alabama has played at home in Tuscaloosa over the last three weeks against Mississippi State, The Citadel and Auburn, going 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS.

Under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide have played 11 road or neutral games coming off a home stand of at least three games. Alabama is 11-0 SU and 8-3 ATS, covering the spread by 13.1 PPG.

By Stuckey

—Alabama is the first team since 1888 Yale to win its first 12 games by 20+ points each.

—Alabama has been favored in 124 of its last 125 games with the one exception coming in 2015 at Georgia. The Tide rolled, 38-10, in that game.

By Steve Petrella

—Saban is 14-0 SU and 10-4 ATS against his former assistant coaches.

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