Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 4:00 PM
The college football game we've been waiting for all season has finally arrived. The long-established superpower against the new kids on the block. We were delayed from getting it in the SEC Championship game because of an upset. But...now...Alabama and Georgia square off. And, it's not just for a conference title, it's for all the marbles!
You probably know that this is likely to be a defensive struggle. The Over/Under of 45 points is very low for a college football championship game. Last year's winner scored that by themselves! This is going to be a smash mouth game featuring physical run-based teams. If you're going to pick a winner, you need to focus on rushing categories.
Both teams were elite. As much press as Georgia's running backs recieved for scoring touchdowns and winning games, Alabama's rush attack was right there with them. Well over 100 programs are measured in major college football. The option-teams own the top five spots every year because they ONLY run the ball. Georgia and Alabama are truly elite in this skill set. And, this season, were equally elite.
This is why Alabama is favored. While both were good against the run, nobody was better than Alabama! You saw that Clemson's talented rushing game could barely move the ball in the Sugar Bowl until garbage time. Georgia will have to try to mix in some passing. The jury is out on whether its true freshman quarterback is capable of doing that under this big a spotlight. Those stats suggest a lot of punts, and a few field goal attempts. Which defense will allow the fewest touchdowns? The team that's favored to win by more than a field goal.
Alabama #5 (plus 13)
Georgia #30 (plus 5)
This is where it could get interesting. Alabama is known to make the most of opposing turnovers. But, they can't do anything against opponents who don't turn the ball over! If you watched Alabama/Clemson closely, you noticed that the Crimson Tide had a fairly bad offensive game. The team cashed in field position points caused by Clemson turnovers. Georgia definitely has a chance to hang close if they can play clean football. Georgia can win outright if Alabama tries to force things and gives points away. Teams who live by the forced turnover like Alabama turn mortal when the other team keeps its cool. That's how Auburn beat them in the regular season finale.
Strength of Schedule
And, here's a sleeper stat that could make things interesting too. Maybe Alabama has the #1 rush defense in the nation because they played a cupcake schedule most of the season. Maybe Georgia would have been #1 and Alabama #20 if the teams traded schedules. We're not suggesting that both aren't elite defenses. But, the perceived differences between these teams might be an illusion created by differing schedule strengths. If that's true, then this a true pick-em, or maybe even Georgia should be the favorite.
The case for Georgia is that Alabama is overrated after cashing in mistakes against a soft schedule. The case for Alabama is that its run defense will completely shut down Georgia's strength the way it did Clemson's...which would then force the Bulldogs into passing situations that lead to turnovers.
JIM HURLEY'S full team of experts will leave no stone unturned to make sure you get the winner.
Network's STATHEADS have crunched every number from every boxscore to get as true a read as possible on both teams. Emphasis has been placed on what happened vs. bowl caliber competition. We also spent some extra time charting out Kirby Smart's tendencies when he was an assistant at Alabama. You know THAT is going to matter!
Network's COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running simulations since the matchup was set. Frankly, we were running them by halftime of Alabama-Clemson because that result was already obvious. We know what the right number "should" be. We know the range of variance in either direction from that number.
Network's WISE GUY SOURCES offshore and in Las Vegas have alerted us to all the sharp syndicate moves and dumb money tendencies. It's not as simple as you think in this one...because Alabama was a favorite that the sharps loved last week vs. Clemson. Don't try to out-think the "rumors" you're hearing from various media sources. Sign up with the man in the middle of an information hurricane for the biggest college football game of the season!
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We'll be back with you early next week to talk about the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. Will New England be ready to perform after this week's media soap opera? Is Philadelphia a contender or a pretender? And, what did Wildcard Weekend teach us about potential second-week shockers?
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