No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 7 Florida Gators
Line: Alabama -17
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
When: Saturday, 12/19, at 8:00 p.m. ET
The top three Heisman Trophy candidates will all take the field in the same game when No. 1 Alabama and No. 7 Florida meet in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday night.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is a -175 favorite, while Crimson Tide wide receiver Devonta Smith follows at +110. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask was the betting favorite for nearly a month, but he is now listed at 9/1.
The Crimson Tide were anywhere between 11.5-13-point favorites in the look-ahead line for this game several weeks ago. They opened as 14-point favorites in the game-week market before getting steamed to -17 or -17.5 by Wednesday afternoon.
Saturday’s total opened at 72 and the early action has bumped it up to 74.5. The ‘over’ has cashed in five of the last six meetings between these two teams. The ‘over’ has hit at a 6-3 clip in the nine games between the Gators and Tide in the SEC Championship Game.
Much of the line adjustment in this game comes down to Florida’s loss to LSU last week. The Gators entered as 23-point favorites, but the Tigers grabbed the upset in bizarre fashion. Florida cornerback Marco Wilson drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag late in the fourth quarter when he threw a shoe after a third-down stop on what ended up being the game-winning drive.
The Gators turned the ball over three times and they were also without superstar tight end Kyle Pitts, who was a late scratch. Pitts has caught 36 passes for 641 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and is a mismatch against any team he faces.
Alabama enters this game as the clear No. 1 team in college football and is a -160 favorite over the field to win the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide have covered the spread in seven consecutive games, covering by an average of 13.6 points per game.
Jones has completed 76.4 percent of his attempts for 3,321 yards. He has a 27-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has only been sacked eight times all season. Then there is Smith, who has easily been the best wide receiver in the country. He has caught 83 passes for 1,327 yards and 15 touchdowns, making himself a Heisman candidate in the process.
All of the weapons in the passing game have made it easy to overlook star running back Najee Harris, who is averaging nearly six yards per carry and has scored 22 touchdowns on the ground. He also has 249 receiving yards on 27 catches.
Alabama’s defense has been getting some attention lately, not having allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points since mid-October. However, the Crimson Tide have not faced a good offense during that stretch.
Trask is going to have to do damage against that unit if Florida wants to hang around on Saturday. He has completed 70.2 percent of his 369 attempts for 3,717 yards. Trask brings a 40-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio into this game.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney has hauled in a team-high 62 receptions for 831 yards and nine touchdowns. Toney and Pitts, who will be back this week, are going to need to have big games.
Alabama is on the seven-game winning streak against-the-spread and it is also 5-1 ATS in its last six games against Florida. The Gators have gone ‘over’ the total in eight of their last 12 games, while Alabama has gone ‘under’ in four of its last six.
Since Dan Mullen took over before the 2018 campaign, Florida has been an underdog eight times, compiling a 5-1-2 spread record with four outright wins. The Gators have only been double-digit ‘dogs once on Mullen’s watch. They lost 42-28 at LSU last season as 14-point puppies to push, but we’ll note that UF had two empty red-zone trips in the fourth quarter.
The pick: Florida +17.5
There are still some 17.5’s floating around as of Wednesday afternoon. I think the value has to be on Florida in this game. Pitts missed last week’s game, but he will play on Saturday night. There is just nothing substantial to warrant a 5-point adjustment from the look-ahead line. Sure, Alabama should be upgraded slightly and Florida should be downgraded based on last week’s games, but it does not add up to five points through multiple key numbers. The Gators are going to have a great shot at a backdoor cover if they need one at the end of the game. Alabama’s defense is getting too much love for shutting down some bad offenses—the early-season struggles against Texas A&M and Ole Miss should not be completely discarded.