The college football season reaches an appropriate conclusion on Monday night as the two best teams in the NCAAF ranks face off in Indianapolis when the Georgia Bulldogs take on the Alabama Crimson Tide.
A defense unlike anything the college game has seen for some time has steered the Bulldogs to its first National Championship game in five years, going 13-1 through the regular season before easing past Michigan in the playoffs. Georgia’s only defeat this term was inflicted by the team they face at Lucas Oil Field, Alabama making a mockery of the Bulldogs’ vaunted defense to claim the SEC Championship 41-24.
That victory for Alabama is part of an eight-game winning streak Nick Saban’s men are currently enjoying, the Tide putting an early loss to Texas A&M behind them to also go 13-1 and reach the National Championship game for a ninth time in Saban’s 13 years as head coach.
Despite their championship pedigree and wide-margin victory in the last meeting, the Crimson Tide enter the season finale as 2.5-point underdogs and are 10/11 to cover the spread, with the Bulldogs 5/6 in the handicap market and 20/29 straight up.
The Bulldogs are unlikely to be thrashed again but given Alabama’s 15-5 record in bowl games under Saban and their history against Georgia, taking the Tide with a 2.5-point start is too good an opportunity to pass up.
Young Has Key to George Defence
Let’s not forget Alabama also have the Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in Bryce Young, who finished with 421 yards and three touchdowns in that SEC Championship win over Georgia.
The sophomore’s showing against Georgia was the standout performance in an excellent season for Young, who enters this game having thrown for 4,503 yards, 46 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He’s formed a strong connection with wide receiver Jameson Williams, the duo working in tandem to take down the Bulldogs as they exposed their secondary.
Fellow receiver John Metchie was also key in that game and Alabama’s season overall but will miss this game with a knee injury. Without Metchie, Georgia can focus their attention on Williams and Young might not be able to pile up the yards as easily.
Bulldog Spirited Needed by Georgia
Georgia have the class to avoid another heavy loss having allowed an average of 7.2 points and 269.9 yards per game across their other 13 matches in the regular season. They shut down a highly-rated Michigan offense in the playoff semi-finals and in Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean have two sure-fire first round draft picks.
Their defense is unquestionable top notch, particularly across the line and can be excused the heavy loss to ‘Bama as an off day. Where the bigger doubt over Georgia lies is with the offense, which is led by walk-on Stetson Bennett IV. He’s had to fight his way to the top at Georgia and while he’s proven himself a serviceable quarterback, he is yet to show he can cut it against a top defense.
In his two meetings with Alabama, Bennett IV has thrown five interceptions with Georgia losing both games by 17 points. The Alabama defense has improved as the season has gone on and shut down Georgia’s rushing attack in the SEC Championship game, putting the game on Bennett IV, who couldn’t deliver. With Bennett perhaps not up to the task and the Georgia defense expected to improve, backing under 52.5 points at 20/23 holds some appeal.
Saban the Master of his Apprentices
While Alabama’s edge over Georgia on the field still needs to be proven, one area where they definitely have an advantage is in the coaching battle. Saban has seen it and done it all in the college game, winning six of his previous eight National Championship games, including defeating Georgia in 2017.
Working with Saban and the successful programme at Alabama has proven a pathway to many head coaching positions, including former defensive coordinator-turned Georgia coach Kirby Smart. He’s proven to be a great hire for the Bulldogs, winning 65 games over six years, but he’s been unable to better his old master Saban, losing all four encounters with Alabama.
Those defeats form part of a seven-game losing streak Georgia may struggle to snap on Monday night. 5/4 chances Alabama have a mental edge that is tough to overcome for a lot of college sides and Georgia, despite being a highly-talented team, could be beaten before a ball is even touched come game time.
*All odds correct at time of writing.