College football game of the week preview and best bets: Georgia Bulldogs vs Alabama Crimson Tide
Just like in college football rivalry week – when Michigan and Ohio State took center stage – one game stands above the rest in championship week. As has been the case several times in recent years, it will be the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship.
Saturday’s festivities at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta would have been watered down just a bit if Alabama had lost to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but the Crimson Tide’s borderline miracle comeback raises the stakes in the SEC title game. Georgia is a lock for the College Football Playoff regardless, but whoever wins will now go into the national semifinals as the No. 1 team in the land. Despite its victory over Auburn, Alabama – already with a setback against Texas A&M – is out with another loss barring some bizarre results in other games combined with a brain cramp by the CFP committee.
Is another loss something ‘Bama can avoid? Let’s break down the two teams and the head-to-head matchup in this week’s biggest game in college football — and the biggest one in the entire sports world.
Breaking down the Georgia Bulldogs
Since Georgia scraped past Clemson 10-3 way back in the opening game of the season, no team has played the Bulldogs closer than a 17-point margin. They have destroyed 10 of their 12 opponents by 24 points or more. Since a relatively unspectacular 30-13 defeat of Kentucky on Oct. 16, these are UGA’s results: 34-7 over Florida, 43-6 over Missouri, 41-17 over Tennessee, 56-7 over Charleston Southern, and 45-0 over Georgia Tech.
Head coach Kirby Smart’s crew boasts arguably the best defense in college football history. The ‘Dawgs are holding opponents to a mind-boggling 6.9 points per game (Wisconsin and Oklahoma State are tied for second in the nation at 16.4 ppg allowed). Defensive tackle Jordan Davis is a +5000 seventh favorite (FanDuel Sportsbook) to win the Heisman Trophy. Davis won’t win it, but it’s obviously rare for a defensive player to even be in the discussion. That says a lot about Davis himself and also the Georgia defense as a whole.
Breaking down the Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama is accustomed to being the undefeated team and the favorite (not a +6.5 underdog!) in the SEC Championship. It has to be said that this year’s team, however, is lucky just to be going in with 1 loss. In addition to their 41-38 blemish against Texas A&M on Oct. 9, the Crimson Tide beat Florida by 2 points, LSU by 6 points, Arkansas by 7 points, and Auburn by 2 points in quadruple-overtime.
Bryce Young is expected to win the Heisman Trophy (-220) and John Metchie III (323 receiving yards in the last 2 weeks) is a force, but beyond that head coach Nick Saban’s squad is not as talented as it has been in the recent past. The skill-position players outside of Young and JM3 aren’t especially dynamic and the defense has been a disaster at times. Brian Robinson Jr. being sidelined (he is questionable with an undisclosed leg injury) would only add to the Tide’s uphill battle.
Predictions and best bets: Georgia and the under
I have been hammering Georgia and the under throughout the season and there is no reason to mess with success (5-2 ATS in last 7 SEC contests; Under is 6-2 in last 8 overall). The Georgia-and-the-under strategy has worked out handsomely for bettors in 2021; I think it will again. No opponent has been able to score on the Bulldogs. Can Alabama? Based on the fact that Robinson is hurt and the Crimson Tide managed to put only 24 points on the board in a 4-overtime game against Auburn, it doesn’t seem likely. At the same time, Stetson Bennett (21 TDs, 5 INTs) is playing mistake-free football at the helm of UGA’s offense, Zamir White and James Cook pack the best 1-2 running-back punch in the nation, and receiver George Pickens is back from a torn ACL.
Do I have full faith in the ‘Dawgs engineering another blowout? Absolutely. Can they score enough points by themselves to take this game over the 50.5 total? I doubt it. In 6 of their last 7 games against SEC competition, fewer than 50 points have been scored. And, for once, Alabama isn’t that much different from normal SEC competition.
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