Daily Sports Picks: Georgia, Alabama Clash in College Football Title Game

Jan 8, 2018

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One of Oskeim’s Daily Sports Picks for Monday, January 8 involves the national championship game between Georgia and Alabama.  Be sure to check back on a regular basis for more daily sports picks.

Tonight’s game inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium marks the fourth College Football National Title game.  Alabama is making its third consecutive appearance under the bright lights, while the Bulldogs are making their first-ever trip under head coach Kirby Smart.

Surprisingly, this is just the third meeting between these two squads in the last eight years.  Alabama arrives off a dominating 24-6 win over Clemson, while the Bulldogs reached college football’s pinnacle by defeating Oklahoma in a dramatic double-overtime finish.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is 9-4 SU and 8-5 ATS in bowl games during his tenure in Tuscaloosa, while Smart is a perfect 2-0 SU and ATS in postseason play with the Bulldogs.

Much will be made of the fact that Saban is 11-0 SU and 9-2 ATS in bowl games against his former assistants, winning those games by an average of 28.7 points per game.  However, the Crimson Tide were favored by an average of 17 points in those eleven games so blowouts were to be expected.

Alabama is averaging 37.9 points and 450 total yards per game against teams that would combine to allow 5.6 yards per play to a mediocre attack.  However, the Tide’s offense has performed significantly worse against teams with above-average defenses.

Against Clemson, Alabama’s offense was worse than it was against Auburn, posting season-lows in yards (261) and yards per play (3.95).  Indeed, this yards per play output was Alabama’s losest since 2013 against Virginia Tech. Moreover, nearly a one-third of the Tides’ offensive plays from scrimmage resulted in either zero or negative yards.

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has consistently struggled against elite defenses, and that trend continued last week against Clemson.  Specifically, Hurts averaged just 4.3 yards per pass attempt, which was 0.3 yards per pass play worse than what his season numbers would have projected.

In three college football playoff games, Hurts has averaged 102.7 passing yards per game and has two 20-yard pass plays.  Hurts hasn’t thrown for more than 131 yards in any of his three playoff games and that trend will continue against a deep and talented Georgia secondary.

The Tides’ ground attack averaged 3.7 yards per rush attempt against a Clemson defense that would have yielded 3.8 yards per carry to a mediocre group of running backs.  In other words, Alabama’s ground game also underperformed against the Tigers last week.

Georgia takes the field with an elite stop unit that is allowing 15.7 points and 289 total yards per game at 4.6 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 6.0 yards per play to a mediocre defense.  The Bulldogs have also limited opponents to a mere 5.7 yards per play away from home this season.

Sports bettors look at Georgia’s 54-48 win over the Sooners and immediately conclude that its defense was a complete no-show.  However, astute bettors will point to the fact that the Bulldogs allowed just 6.6 yards per play to a potent Oklahoma attack that would average 8.9 yards per play against a mediocre stop unit.

Georgia’s defense is 1.6 yards per play better than average overall and actually performed at an even higher level against the Sooners last week, rating 2.3 yards per play better than average!

Just like the talking heads on television will spit out the utterly meaningless 11-0/9-2 ATS Saban stat from above, equally lazy handicappers will sp0on field you the myth that Georgia’s defense is overrated.  FAKE NEWS!

In fact, Georgia’s defense played one of its best games of the season against college football’s best attack led by the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner.  Georgia also possesses a powerful ground game led by Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift.

The Bulldogs became the first team in Rose Bowl history to have three touchdown runs of 35 yards or longer!  In the Tides’ last three games versus SEC opposition, they allowed 150+ rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.  In its previous 19 games, Alabama allowed six rushing touchdowns and 100+ rushing yards just three times.

Overall, Georgia’s ground attack is 1.7 yards per carry better than average (6.6 yards per rush play against teams that would combine to allow 4.9 yards per rush play to a mediocre group of running backs.

I have also been impressed with the development and composure of quarterback Jake Fromm, who is averaging 8.3 yards per pass attempt against teams that would combine to allow 5.6 yards per pass play to a mediocre quarterback.

Veteran offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will once again put his young quarterback in a position to win and Fromm won’t beat himself (just 5 interceptions in 14 games).  Fromm’s incredible success on first downs over his last four games is also extremely relevant when facing an elite defense like Alabamas.

Fromm is 23-of-28 with four touchdowns and six completions of 20+ yards on first downs over that span.  He was 9-of-10 in the Rose Bowl and I expect Chaney to develop a similar game plan for tonight’s championship game.

Let’s also note that Alabama starting linebacker Anfernee Jennings has been ruled out for tonight’s game, while safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is coming back from a kidney injury suffered last week against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

Where is the betting public placing their money in tonight’s title clash?  “Last week, they wouldn’t stop betting Clemson,” said Ed Salmons, assistant manager at the Westgate SuperBook.  “This week, it’s all Alabama.”  “It looks like we’re going to be Bulldogs fans,” a sportsbook manager for Caesars Palace books told ESPN.

Finally, some bettors will be hesitant to back Georgia because of the perceived coaching mismatch.  Well, consider this nugget: Georgia has outscored opponents 147-27 in the third quarter this year, allowing three touchdowns in the third quarter all season.  Translation: Kirby Smart is an outstanding coach who is more than capable of making adjustments mid-game to put his team in positions to win.

With Smart standing at 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS versus .900 or greater opposition, grab the points with the Bulldogs as one of Oskeim’s Daily Sports Picks for Monday, January 8.

Daily Sports Picks for Monday, January 8:

  • Georgia (+4) (-115) over Alabama

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