2018 National Championship Sportsbook Odds and Prediction
An all-SEC title game means the conference will crown its ninth national championship in the last 12 years. Alabama and Georgia didn’t face one another in the regular season, but have been on a collision course for this all year long.
Aside from one slip-up to Auburn, Alabama has rolled this season, collecting double-digit win after win — none more impressive than a 24-6 shellacking of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.
A victory on Monday would deliver Nick Saban his sixth national title (all but one coming with the Crimson Tide) and cement his legacy as the greatest college coach ever, and tie his Tuscaloosa predecessor Bear Bryant for most in the sport’s history.
Over/under 45 points: Georgia vs. Alabama (-4.5)
Georgia is definitely battle-tested following a gutsy 54-48 double-overtime triumph over Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. The Bulldogs have already ended a 12-year SEC championship drought, now look to win their first national title since 1980.
You can’t analyze this game without addressing the biggest subplot: Saban against Kirby Smart. By now, you know the history between these two. Smart was Saban’s longtime assistant, following him through stops at LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and eight seasons as a defensive coordinator at Alabama. Saban is a perfect 11-0 against former assistants-turned-head coaches. But then again, Saban has never won a championship at Alabama without Smart running his defense.
Knowing that, brace yourself for a defensive slugfest on Monday. That side of the ball is the backbone to both coaches, and the statistics prove it. The Tide and Dawgs rank first and fourth, respectively, in points allowed across the country.
Though, Smart’s defensive prowess is being questioned after his team was gashed last week to the tune of 531 yards by the Sooners. However, the unit’s second-half domination — including five consecutive stops following intermission and allowing only one offensive touchdown — illustrates that Smart can adjust accordingly.
No one is questioning Saban’s defensive unit after they suffocated the Tigers to 188 total yards. Third time was the charm for Saban after Clemson averaged 37.5 points in the two previous meetings. Not facing Deshaun Watson certainly helped, but Alabama’s start-to-finish domination can’t be glossed over.
Aside from defense, a trademark of Saban, Smart, and the SEC as a whole is a pulverizing run game. Whichever team gains more on the ground on Monday will likely end up the winner.
Georgia’s running back tandem of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb has the upper hand, but only slightly. The two seniors combined for 326 rushing yards and five scores in the Rose Bowl. Chubb and Michel both topped 1,000 yards rushing this year — a first in Georgia history.
Behind both backs, along with freshman (and future star) D’Andre Swift, the Bulldogs averaged 267.4 yards on the ground this season, ranking eighth nationally. Throwing fresh bodies might be Georgia’s best plan of attack against the top-ranked ‘Bama rush defense that’s holding opponents to 91.8 rushing yards a game.
The Tide deploy a one-two punch themselves in Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. The two fueled an Alabama run game that averages 255.8 yards per game, 10th best in the nation.
However, unlike Georgia, ‘Bama’s quarterback is prone to burning defenses with his feet, too. The oft-criticized Jalen Hurts has 808 rushing yards this season, second to only Harris on the team. While Hurts isn’t a dynamic playmaker, he’s proven that he won’t lose games either. In 246 pass attempts this season, Hurts has just one turnover.
The true freshman Jake Fromm has a similar reputation for being a game manager. An injury thrust Fromm to the starting lineup in the season opener, and he hasn’t looked back. Fromm passed for 2,383 yards, 23 touchdowns, and only five interceptions this year.
The key for Fromm will be keeping his composure. Saban’s menacing defenses have a knack for flustering even the most experienced throwers. Jack-of-all-trades safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will be tasked with confusing Fromm. Aside from safety, Fitzpatrick also lines up at cornerback and linebacker. Identifying where Fitzpatrick is on the field will be priority number-one for Fromm.
All things considered, expect a closely-contested, defensive affair in this one. These two coaching staffs know each other too well for anything else to happen. Monday will be a heavy dose of run, run, run and the team that dominates at the line of scrimmage will prevail. Betting the under is the easy bet. As for the game itself, we like Georgia to cover due to having the slight advantage at the running back position. Brace yourselves for an old-fashioned war of attrition!
Pick: Georgia (+4.5) and under
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