For the seventh time since the 2008 season, Alabama will be an underdog come Monday night when it plays Georgia for the NCAA football championship.
Under coach Nick Saban, all the Crimson Tide has done wearing that label is win five of those six games outright.
“I think Saban probably uses that in the locker room,” says DraftKings Sportsbook Director Johnny Avello. “They love that role. ‘Guys, they got us as the underdog today. So, let’s go out and show ’em.’ The spread has been used for many years as motivation for teams.”
Oddsmakers pegged the Crimson Tide as a 6.5-point underdog in the SEC title game in Atlanta on Dec. 4. Alabama slapped Georgia, 41-24. In the rematch with the national title on the line, it’s as if last month’s memories are long faded.
“Georgia was clearly the best team during the whole regular season, then it was taken to the woodshed by Alabama,” says Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of the Westgate SuperBook.
“Now Georgia is looking at the revenge factor in the championship game. It’s a good storyline, even if it is another all-SEC matchup. I truly believe the revenge factor is going to play big in this game.”
NCAAF · Mon (1/10) @ 8:15pm ET
|Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN|
Alabama Crimson Tide (13-1, 8-6 ATS) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (13-1, 9-4 ATS)
PointsBet Line: Georgia -3, Total 52
After that victory over Georgia and former Saban lieutenant Kirby Smart, Saban’s record against ex-assistants improved to 25-1, with an average game edge of nearly 24 points.
Smart dropped to 0-4 against his former boss. What’s more, in all four of those games Smart squads had a lead at some point.
“Well, you gotta take at look at that,” says South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews. “It isn’t happenstance. Saban has lost only one, to Jimbo Fisher.”
Fisher’s unranked Texas A&M team upended top-rated Alabama, 41-38, in College Station, Texas, on Oct. 9, 2021.
So the title game involves Alabama in the highly unusual role of an underdog, in which it has fared very well, with a protégé trying to match schemes against the mentor, a scenario the Tide maestro has dominated.
In a couple of contests in which he’s involved, BetMGM Director of Trading Jeff Stoneback did not hesitate selecting the Crimson Tide.
“Alabama showed that it was the better team last time they played, and I don’t think anything has really changed,” he says. “Saban’s dominance over his [former] assistants will continue, and he’ll get another national title for his résumé.
“And you’re getting points. It does seem too good to be true. I’d be shocked if we don’t need Georgia once the game kicks off.”
Lights, Camera …
Someone strolled into the South Point and wagered $40,000 on Georgia -2.5, so Andrews bumped the line to 3. Someone else put $40,000 on Alabama plus those points, so Andrews cut it back to 2.5.
“And another guy comes in and puts forty grand on Georgia giving two and a half, so I put it back to three,” says Andrews. “And we’re just getting started. I think it’ll be a pretty good game, betting-wise.”
Early in the week, at BetMGM, there was a 3-to-2 ticket count to Alabama but there had been twice as much money wagered on Georgia. Toward the end of the week that had changed, with twice as many tickets written on the Tide, who had a 54% money edge.
“Since [Wednesday], we’ve blown past Georgia,” says Stoneback, “as far as money, on the Alabama side. The public is now coming in on Alabama, and I would not be surprised to see the line come off the 3.”
At the SuperBook in the preseason, a patron risked $16,500 on Georgia, at 8-to-1 odds, to win it all, and another customer placed $5,000 on the Bulldogs, at those odds, to win the crown.
“So we’ve dug ourselves a hole with Georgia,” says Kornegay. “And since we’ve posted the championship game, it’s been hot and heavy on both sides.”
Late Thursday night, books differed only in price. Georgia -3 was everywhere, but that cost was -115 at Circa Sports, for example, where Alabama at +3 was -105. At DraftKings, Bama +3 was -115; Georgia -3 cost -105.
If possible, it’s always prudent to shop.
Big Bets, Big Game
The SuperBook has taken a $187,000 bet on Alabama to win straight up, at +125 on the moneyline. Wednesday, it took a $145,000 moneyline wager on Georgia, at -150, to win straight up.
Superiors have asked Kornegay daily which side the house needs. “I said, ‘We need Bama.’ How often do we get to say that? Then the next day when I was asked, I said, ‘It’s Georgia.’ So it’s been pretty hot.”
The SuperBook ticket count, on the spread, has been even. But with the moneyline, 70% of the action has been on the Tide.
“It’s feeling like a Super Bowl,” says Kornegay. “Eighty percent of the total action has been on the ‘over.’ People are playing the dog on the moneyline and laying the points with the favorite.”
Seven of Georgia’s past nine games have finished ‘under’ the total, as have four of the past six Alabama tilts.
Avello, at DraftKings, agreed with Kornegay about the magnitude of this game.
“This,” says Avello, “is going to be one of the biggest-bet college football games of all time.”
Avello sounds as if he’s working the entrance to a grand carnival when an inquiry is made about his shop’s proposition menu.
“We’re working on a bunch of them,” he says. “Remember, some jurisdictions allow player props, some don’t. So, it depends on which jurisdiction people are in.”
The South Point, SuperBook and BetMGM will post such individual action Sunday or Monday.
At DraftKings, says Avello, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s passing yards have been set at 314.5 (he averaged 321.6 during the season), Georgia QB Stetson Bennett at 249.5 (202.9 season avg).
Passing touchdowns for Young is 2.5 (under at -170), 1.5 (over at -130) for Bennett.
Last month, Young riddled the Georgia defense for passing touchdowns of 67, 55 and 13 yards, and he also ran one in for an 11-yard score. Four touchdowns. In its 12 previous games, the Dogs’ defense had allowed seven total TDs.
Alabama sophomore strong safety Jordan Battle capped the Tide scoring festival with a 42-yard interception return for a TD. ’Bama rang up 536 yards of offense against Georgia, which hadn’t allowed 400 to any foe (four were in the 300s) this season.
There are many more DraftKings props. “Oh, yeah,” says Avello. “We don’t mess around. We’re loaded.”
Rushing-yard props for Alabama players:
64.5 – Brian Robinson Jr. (averaged 97.5 for the season)
19.5 – Trey Sanders 19.5 (30.9 avg)
42.5 – James Cook (46.5 avg)
For the Bulldogs:
13.5 – Stetson Bennett (21.8 avg)
46.5 – Zamir White (55.1 avg).
In receiving yards, 13 players are lined, 10 for receptions, and there are figures on first, last and anytime TD scorers. The combined rushing and receiving yards for Trey Sanders is 20.5—he averaged 36.1 in 10 games.
“On the side, we’ve seen decent balance,” says Avello. “The moneyline appears to be all Alabama. People are taking ’Bama to win this game straight up. The way our network bets a lot of times, they like to bet the underdog—especially a quality underdog getting points.”