The college football season comes to a close Monday night as the two best teams battle it out one more time. The Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide are coming off of convincing semifinal victories in the college football playoff. Now, they face each other for the second time all year, and it figures to be a battle.
Alabama won the first contest, beating Georgia in the SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide looked dominating at times, and people are starting to wonder if Georgia will have what it takes this time around to give them a better game. Oddsmakers seem to think so, as Georgia enters as a slight favorite. Who prevails? This is a preview of the game, and a look at some betting options to examine.
Can Georgia Slow Down Bryce Young?
How did Alabama win the first game? It mostly came down to the big night of eventual Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. His 421 passing yards and four touchdowns were a complete surprise against a Georgia team shutting every other team down with ease. He was confident the entire night passing and running the football, almost making it look too easy at times.
Young came back down to earth in the semifinal, but that could have been by design. The Crimson Tide didn’t need Young to be at his best to beat Cincinnati, passing for just 181 yards and three touchdowns. They very well could have decided they don’t want to show all their cards in the semifinal.
Georgia can’t deal with a night like that for Young in the rematch. Keeping him in the pocket will force him to make passes that are a bit uncomfortable. If he has too much time to run around, he can do damage with his legs.
Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith will also play a big role in the rematch to put pressure on Young. The offensive line for Alabama wasn’t that sharp against Cincinnati, and these two defenders were much better than anyone the Bearcats had on their roster. If they can get after Young a bit and put some pressure on the Heisman winner, it’s going to be a huge advantage for Georgia’s style of play.
With so much time to prepare, George’s coaching staff has an improved game plan ready to go in this one to try to slow Young down. Whether or not they execute is another question.
Stetson Bennett’s Confidence
The biggest storyline heading up to this game involving Stetson Bennett talks about his underdog story. He was indeed at one time a walk-on at Georgia, and he’s unlike his counterpart Young in a lot of ways. However, in a one-game setting, he only has to be good enough to outduel Young and bring home a title for Georgia.
Georgia doesn’t need Bennett to be great to win, but it helps to see him have success early. He had one of the best games of his career against Michigan in the semifinals, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns. If he can put together anything similar to that against Alabama, Georgia will be in great shape.
In the first matchup, he threw for 340 yards, but it was the two interceptions that did him in. One of them ended up being taken back all the way for a touchdown, and that type of ball control just can’t be acceptable in the rematch. Giving Alabama any type of momentum on defense is a recipe for disaster.
A key for George’s offense is that they are at their best when all of their best players are involved. Expect Bennett to pass the ball around and utilize the array of weapons that they have. Force-feeding one player isn’t going to get the job done against a good team like Alabama.
There’s a lot that goes into the over/under line in a national championship game. On one hand, these are the two best teams in the country, so they know how to pick up points. On the other hand, they also know how to get stops against quality opponents, so will it be a defensive battle?
George’s defense put up some historic numbers this year, but they’ll need to get out of their comfort zone a bit if they fall behind as they did in the SEC championship game. If the same thing happens, Georgia will have to open things up and pass more than usual.
With two teams familiar with each other, the defense has the advantage. Also factoring in the big-stage factor, and the under seems like the smarter bet. It’s hard rooting for a lack of points, but getting to 52 or more points combined might be a struggle.
Pick: Under 51.5
Alabama vs. Georgia
When the line was first released, Georgia was favored by as much as six points. That has now gone down to just three points, and could go down even more before the game kicks off. A lot of people have put money down on the more known team in Alabama, but will they actually be able to win this game?
Georgia has the better team on paper, but Alabama already has the blueprint to beating this team. Maybe the game won’t go the same as it did the first time around, but the Crimson Tide have a ton of experience on both sides of the ball. They won’t be intimidated by the bright lights, and they’ll be ready to go against the team they’ve had success against already.
As for Nick Saban, he is rarely viewed as the underdog by the betting odds. It’s a bit surprising to see them still the underdog, but Saban has won his last couple of games in similar situations. Adding one more to the résumé in 2022 would be a perfect ending to the season.
Alabama had that one loss in the regular season, but they haven’t shown any signs of vulnerability since then. Expect them to find a way to get it done in the championship game and go home as winners once again. The fact that they are getting three points makes it an even safer bet.