It was pretty much a foregone conclusion by the middle of September that Georgia and Alabama had another date with destiny. Now we can watch it play out.
This is what we have waited for and it’s finally here. Georgia is on the top of the mountain of college football with a generational defense and an efficient offense that is as relentless as its stop troops.
This is far from Nick Saban’s best Alabama squad, yet, it comes into this contest as one of the four best in the sport.
Georgia Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday, December 4, 04:00 PM EST at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
FanDuel and other top sportsbooks had Georgia as a four-point favorite before Alabama played in the Iron Bowl. After the Bulldogs thrashed Georgia Tech and the Crimson Tide needed four OTs to stave off Auburn, Bama went to +6.5.
This will be the first time in 93 games that Alabama is an underdog, having last happened in October of 2015 (vs. Georgia, won 38-10). That’s the longest such streak of being a favorite against the betting odds since 1978. For further context, the second-longest streak (72 games according to ESPN Stats) is also owned by Nick Saban squads from 2009-2015. That means the Tide will receive points for the second time in 12 years. Let that sink in.
Has Georgia’s Time Finally Arrived?
In his sixth season at Athens, this is Kirby Smart’s best team. Though Georgia could have and probably should have won a national title 47 months ago against Alabama, before falling in OT as 12.5-point underdogs, this squad is what Smart is all about.
Smart is a defensive coach at heart and he has remarkable talent on all three levels of his defense and depth to back it up. The Bulldogs have the best defense in points allowed at an incomprehensible 6.9 points a game. That’s against opponents that have scored 27.5 PPG. Georgia is also No. 1 in total defense and concedes a ludicrous 3.7 yards per play. The most points scored on the Dawgs defense is 17 by Tennessee, permitting a touchdown with about three minutes in the game when holding a 41-10.
On offense, Georgia ranks 25th in rushing at 202 YPG and though conservative by nature, the passing game ranks 5th in yards per pass attempt, as they will take deep shots down the field.
Smart has the team to take this one, but will they play in the moment?
Alabama’s Chance to Surprise
Nick Saban gets to pull the “underdog speech” out of the back of the desk drawer. He’ll have to reread it since he has not used it in six years and only twice since 2009. Every coach would love to have such a problem having the No. 7 passing offense.
Though Saban is thrilled with how freshman quarterback Bryce Young has played, if you take away the November New Mexico State matchup, in the other three games, Alabama has averaged 60.3 YPG rushing after sacks. That is a net average of 1.8 yards a carry, which is a recipe for defeat against Georgia’s stop troops.
Young cannot be in 2nd and 3rd and long all game and the offense will have to run the ball enough to stay on target for down and distance.
The Crimson Tide’s run defense has come a long way since the Florida debacle in which they allowed 245 yards on the ground. The goal of Saban’s defense is to make QB Stetson Bennett a passer, slowing down the Bulldogs run game. If the Tide’s defense can do this, that can alter the dynamic of this battle.
What Covers the Sportsbooks Numbers?
For college football picks, Alabama to have a chance to knock off Georgia, they have to bottle up the Bulldogs offense and grab a lead and keep into the fourth quarter. Even though Smart’s crew is headed to the playoffs, they are also chasing the history of becoming one of the best defenses ever. If Young can hit a couple of big plays that result in touchdowns, the pressure is on No. 1.
Nevertheless, will Young even have time to make plays? Bama’s O-Line is a weakness and nobody is more ready to exploit it.
The Dawgs D is not like Wisconsin’s, who leave themselves vulnerable trying to create pressure. Alabama will be able to pass the ball, but unless they can run a little, there will be negative plays and fewer points.
With this, we’ll lean with Georgia 24-17 and our official play will be the Under 50.5.
NCAAF Pick: Under 50.5 (-110) at FanDuel