The Alabama Crimson Tide start as favorite against the Georgia Bulldogs in the National Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on January 8.
The Tide squeaked into the playoffs ahead of Ohio State, despite a loss to Auburn that looks even worse since UCF beat the Tigers in the Peach Bowl. But Nick Saban’s team proved it merited a place in the final four with a dominant win over number-one-ranked Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on January 1. Alabama’s dominant defense held Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant to 18-of-36 passing, 124 yards, two interceptions and zero touchdowns.
The Bulldogs, who beat Oklahoma in a double-overtime classic on New Year’s Day, present a very different challenge for Saban’s defense. Georgia will attack the Tide with college football’s most fearsome running game, led by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb rushed for 145 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns against the Sooners, while Michel was even more productive with 181 yards on 11 carries and three touchdowns.
Alabama’s weakness has looked, all season, like the offense led by quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts was sound against Clemson though, avoiding turnovers and completing 16 of 24 passes—he even found time in the fourth quarter to plough into Saban on the sideline. The Tide really only need Hurts to take care of the football—the defense usually does the rest. Alabama may find itself in trouble, though, if Georgia can establish its run game early and build a big lead. As well-coached as the Tide offense is, it isn’t built to come back from large deficits late in games.
The all-S.E.C. 2018 National Championship game—Georgia’s first chance at a National Title since 1983—will start with Alabama as a four-point favorite, according to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. Their over-under is 48 points, according to David Purdum, ESPN’s gambling expert. Across the board, Alabama is a narrow favorite. The 5dimes Vegas sportsbook favors the Tide by 5.5 points.
Alabama opens as 4-point favorite over Georgia in national championship game @LVSuperBook. Total: 48.— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) January 2, 2018
Alabama knows how to finish the job in these high-pressure situations, but Georgia has the offensive talent and, maybe, the momentum after the Rose Bowl classic. We could be set for another memorably tight game next Monday.
Prediction: Alabama 14 Georgia 17.
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