Georgia Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (-13.5)
Sat. 12/1, 4:00 p.m. ET in Atlanta, GA
Three things you need to know before betting on Georgia-Alabama:
1. The best stat to sum up Alabama’s regular season may be this: The Crimson Tide became the first team since 1888 (Yale, in case you’re wondering) to win its first 12 games by 20 or more points. That being said, the Tide haven’t faced a team like Georgia all year. Or, more accurately, all season—because on January 8, in the final game of the 2017 college football season, a Bulldogs team with a similar offense and the same quarterback gave Alabama everything it could handle in a national championship game for the ages.
Since then, Alabama has manhandled renowned defenses (LSU and Auburn) and tempered offenses led by dual-threat quarterbacks (Texas A&M and Mississippi State). But it hasn’t faced an elite and balanced opponent like Georgia in 11 months. What sets the Bulldogs apart is their running game. Georgia averaged over 200 yards on the ground in 2017 and have done so again this season. Alabama went 0-5 against the spread last season against teams that averaged more than 200 rushing yards per game, and it is 1-3 ATS when facing such teams this season. As the season has rolled on, Georgia’s dynamic duo of Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift has only gotten stronger. Swift is averaging 124 yards per game in November, while Holyfield is averaging 84.
2. No one will argue that Alabama’s last five games have been nothing short of dominant. Its “worst” showing might be a 50-17 win over The Citadel. But since its loss at LSU, Georgia’s own five-game win streak has been something to behold as well. With its own “worst” showing coming in a 27-10 victory over Auburn, it’s clear that Kirby Smart’s team has put its 20-point loss in Baton Rouge behind it.
Georgia and Alabama have played four common opponents during the regular season: Missouri, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. While Alabama’s shutout of LSU carries serious weight, Georgia defeated the other three teams with ease, just like the Tide.
3. College football watchers know what to expect from Tua Tagovailoa—plenty of yardage and points. But lost in all the Tua talk has been the play of Georgia QB Jake Fromm. The sophomore has completed 69.1% of his throws in 2018, compared to 62.2% last season, and has already matched his 24 passing touchdowns from 2017 while throwing two fewer interceptions. Nick Saban’s Alabama teams have been susceptible to explosive passing attacks, and Fromm has only gotten more comfortable throwing the ball to his impressive crop of receivers. Three Georgia wideouts have hauled in touchdowns of 59 yards or more this year, and that doesn’t even include Riley Ridley, the Bulldogs’ most reliable downfield target.
Last but not least, there’s one area where Georgia has an unquestionable advantage over Alabama: special teams. While Rodrigo Blankenship has been near-automatic for Georgia, Alabama’s kickers have missed five of 16 FG attempts and six extra-point tries. Entering last week’s Iron Bowl, Alabama kickers earned touchbacks on less than half of their kickoffs.
After 12 one-sided Alabama wins, it’s hard to pick against the defending champs on the moneyline. But with each point squandered critical to the rematch’s ATS result, Georgia looks like the smarter play here.
Pick: Georgia (+13.5)
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)
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