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FBS Championship: Alabama vs Georgia Money Line Pick

Georgia Bulldogs(13-1) @ Alabama Crimson Tide(12-1)

  • Where: Mercedez-Benz Stadium. Atlanta, GA
  • When: January 8, 2018 8:00 pm EST
  • Spread: Georgia (+4) vs Alabama (-4)
  • Moneyline: Georgia (+160) vs Alabama (-180)
  • Over / Under: Over 45 (-110) vs Under 45 (-110)

The Year of Our Lord (and Roland Emmerich) 2012 was the last time a pair of teams from the Southeastern Conference met to decide a national championship. Alabama whipped LSU 21-0 to take the crown. ‘Bama also crushed Notre Dame 42-0 the following year, just to let everyone know how much more sense an all-SEC final made in determining FBS superiority.

Postseason play hasn’t always been rosy for the conference since then, with a glut of over-recruited QBs failing to accomplish what they were groomed since 8th grade to do – win a title for a powerful southern program. The SEC has won only 1 out of 3 College Football Playoff brackets since the 4-team showdowns began in 2014-15.

Georgia or Atlanta will improve that percentage this season. The CFP final is being held in Atlanta, just a half hour drive from the Bulldog campus. But odds-makers have installed the Tide as 4 or 5-point favorites.

The Tide is in

Alabama could conceivably dominate on defense for 4 quarters to reach the grail yet again. Given the program’s strength of recruiting (an injury to a 5-star starter usually means a 4 or 5-star youngster is coming in) and the size and speed up front, a shut-down performance must always be factored-in as a possibility.

Nick Saban’s resurgent ‘D exposed Kelly Bryant of Clemson, intercepting 2 passes and holding the Tigers to less than 200 yards. A stunning statement by a ‘D that was maligned after losing the Iron Bowl.

But Clemson is a finesse offense – Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs just want to plow on the ground. Led by Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, the UGA backfield rushed for almost 10 yards per carry against the Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl. Sure, Alabama’s got more in the front-7 than the OU Sooners did…but there’s not a single NCAA team who can shut down the Georgia running game right now.

Alternatively, Jalen Hurts could prevail in a shoot-out. Our friend Travis Pulver at Sports Information Traders points out that Georgia LB Anfernee Jennings is injured, taking away a threat in the pass rush. Hurts has been dazzling as a ball-carrier, rushing for 150+ yards in a 41-10 clobbering of Fresno State in Week 2 and leading the team in rushing against LSU.

But the underclassman has had pass attempts severely limited by coaches in 2017. He hasn’t proven that he can lead Alabama to a win with his arm. The QB played well in the loss to Auburn, but his 24 attempts against Clemson matched his highest total for the year. If Georgia applies any pressure, Saban will be hesitant to put the game in the sophomore’s hands. The Bulldogs sacked Baker Mayfield 5 times last Monday.

Dangerous Dawgs

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Consider the formula the Tide uses to defeat most ranked teams – hang around, fight, and ankle-bite in all 3 phases until the opposing offense becomes impatient and makes a fatal mistake.

It worked against FSU in the season opener and worked against Clemson in the most recent game. It didn’t work, however, against Auburn – a school that lost to Georgia 28-7 in the SEC Championship.

Alabama’s rush vs Georgia’s OL is the most important match-up. Jake Fromm is a nifty QB who just proved his mettle in a long, tense battle with an opportunistic Sooner defense. But he’ll be in an obvious passing scenario at some point, and that’s where the ‘Bama defense comes to feast.

Georgia’s OL has played at a high level. An issue is that if Alabama succeeds in winning TOP and reversing their fatigue-driven dilemma from last year’s CFP final, Fromm will have a fresh, hungry front-7 to contend with on drive after drive. Damien Harris is averaging almost 8 ypc for the Tide, and can convert a handful 1st downs if given touches.

The UGA rushers are the X-factor. Saban doesn’t have anyone with the productivity or stamina of Chubb or Michel. Harris’ 19 carries against Clemson amounted to his busiest game of the season, and he hasn’t had a 100-yard game since October. The Bulldogs rushed for 200+ yards against Mississippi State and 238 against Auburn in December, wrecking either team’s chance of controlling 4 quarters.

MSB’s National Championship Money Line Pick

The underdog has been better than the favorite against common opponents in games that occurred after the first 1-3 weeks of the season. Georgia has whipped multiple schools that gave Alabama serious problems, so there’s no reason to assume ‘Bama has an advantage on the LOS.

2018 is the Year of the Dog, but it could also be the Year of the Backfield in the south. Take the better crew of RBs and the better bet with a wager on the underdog Georgia Bulldogs on Monday night.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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