No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs
Line: Georgia -2.5
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium
When: Monday, 1/10 at 8:00 p.m. ET
No. 1 Alabama will try to repeat as champions for the first time in the playoff era when it faces No. 3 Georgia on Monday night in a rematch of last month’s SEC title game.
The Crimson Tide have been phenomenal in the underdog role, winning outright in five of their last six games when catching points. One of those victories came last month in Atlanta when Nick Saban remained unbeaten against former assistant Kirby Smart in a 41-24 win as 6-point ‘dogs.
It looks like Alabama will be an underdog again on Monday night. The Crimson Tide opened as 2.5-point underdogs before the line briefly moved to 3, but the betting action has pushed the line back down to 2.5 as of Saturday afternoon. Oddsmakers set the total at 52.5, but some books were at 52 as of early Sunday.
Georgia bounced back from the disappointing performance in the SEC title game with a comprehensive effort against Michigan, blowing out the Wolverines as a 7.5-point favorite. Quarterback Stetson Bennett threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-11 final.
Alabama was no match for Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl, dominating in a 27-6 win. Running back Brian Robinson paced a rushing attack that went for more than 300 yards, posting 204 on his own. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young threw for a season-low 181 yards, but he was not asked to do much.
Young was without star wide receiver John Metchie, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Georgia. Freshman Ja’Corey Brooks stepped up with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. He is going to face a tougher challenge on Monday, as Georgia will be looking to build on its defensive performance against Michigan.
The Bulldogs held the Wolverines to just 88 rushing yards, keeping them out of the end zone until garbage time. They allowed nearly six times their season average in points against Alabama in the SEC title game, though.
Young gashed them for 421 passing yards, with wide receiver Jamison Williams accounting for 184 of those. Robinson Jr. only had 55 rushing yards, but he might be asked to do more following Metchie’s injury.
Georgia’s offense, meanwhile, was not the primary issue in the loss to Alabama. Bennett did throw two interceptions, but he also posted 340 passing yards. Tight end Brock Bowers led the team with 139 receiving yards.
They will be facing an Alabama defense that is led by linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who has 17.5 sacks and 33.5 TFL’s. The Crimson Tide are allowing just 82.1 rushing yards per game, so it will be interesting to see if James Cook and Zamir White have success this time around.
Georgia has lost seven consecutive games against Alabama, including all four with Smart at the helm. The Crimson Tide have covered the spread in two of the last three meetings. Alabama and Georgia have gone ‘over’ the total in nine of the last 10 head-to-head games.
The pick: Georgia -2.5
This one has been an obvious decision for me since the line came out. The spread was never going to open near the number it closed at in the SEC title game (6), but it should be closer to -3.5 or -4. One of the biggest things that separates pros and joes is the ability to not get lost in a one-game sample size. I was on the Crimson Tide at +6 in Atlanta—they looked great in that outing—but Georgia has been dominant outside of that contest. I expect some regression from the Alabama offense without Metchie on the field. They were able to mask his absence against Cincinnati, but Georgia’s defense will not allow the rushing attack to have the same level of success. Smart will finally break through against Saban on Monday night.