The college football world will turn its attention toward Indianapolis on Monday, as the SEC’s two best teams will face off in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. The matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia is a rematch of the SEC championship, which Alabama won 41-24 to secure its spot in the College Football Playoff.
Thinking about #Georgia, all the team has accomplished under Kirby Smart, the struggles against Alabama and the 41-year title drought. Could make the case this is the biggest game in team history. Georgia fans, agree or disagree?
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) January 4, 2022
Monday’s venue, Lucas Oil Stadium, is no stranger to big games. In addition to hosting every Colts home game, the stadium also hosted the 2012 Super Bowl and is the annual host to the Big Ten Football Championship. Monday’s showdown adds to the long list of meaningful football games there.
The city plans to embrace the major college sporting event, with multiple days of events leading up to Monday 8 p.m. ET kickoff. The Indiana Convention Center will host Playoff Fan Central — an interactive fan experience — beginning Saturday. Downtown Indianapolis will host free concerts Saturday and Sunday, featuring popular artists Doja Cat, AJR, Twenty One Pilots, and Ava Max. On Monday, there will be an Allstate Championship Tailgate at Monument Circle prior to the game.
Georgia favored in rematch
Both retail and mobile sports betting are legal in Indiana, giving fans from Alabama and Georgia attending the matchup a chance to wager on their favorite teams, something they can’t do legally in their home states.
Despite a commanding Alabama victory the first time the two teams met, Georgia sits as the betting favorite a few days before kickoff. The Bulldogs are 3-point favorites at BetMGM, BetRivers, Betway, Caesars, FanDuel, PointsBet, and WynnBET. DraftKings, TwinSpires, and Unibet list Georgia as a 2.5-point favorite.
As for the moneyline, FanDuel and PointsBet list Georgia at -145, while BetMGM and WynnBET have -150. Caesars has Georgia at -135, and TwinSpires is similar at -137, which is the same number as Unibet. DraftKings lists as high as -185, although all of these lines will likely fluctuate slightly over the weekend and prior to kickoff.
PointsBet analyst Michael Korn told Hoosier Bets via email that he expects casual bettors to side with the Crimson Tide, given what happened in the SEC title game.
“Bettors tend to have a recency bias on situations like this — that being said, 81% of the moneyline bets and 93% of the moneyline handle is currently coming in on the Bama side, which could definitely be a result of the SEC title game,” Korn said.
Sharp bettors, however, think Georgia may have an edge in the rematch.
“We opened the line at UGA -2.5 and sharp bettors quickly jumped on that number, and it has since been pushed out to UGA -3,” Korn said, noting 71% of the spread bets are on Alabama but 56% of the spread handle is on Georgia.
It’s the second time all season Georgia has been a one-possession favorite, with the other instance (-6.5) being before the 41-24 loss to Alabama. For the Crimson Tide, the previous meeting with Georgia was the only time all season they were underdogs. Alabama is rarely an underdog, and it tends to find success when doubted.
“Since 2009 Bama has been favored in 178 games out of 181,” Korn said. “The three games they were underdogs were the 2009 SEC championship against Florida, a 2015 regular season game against Georgia, and last month’s SEC title game against UGA. The Tide won those games by 19, 28, and 17 points, respectively.”
Saban’s teams tend to fare well in national championships, as Alabama’s head coach is 7-2 straight up in national title appearances. Georgia’s last national championship victory came in 1980, although the Bulldogs came close to winning it all in 2017, when Alabama narrowly edged Georgia 26-23 in overtime, thanks to a second-half comeback led by backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Georgia hate week continues! Possibly the greatest play ever in CFB🔥pic.twitter.com/oVXgQge6Dw
— Barstool Bama🏆🥋 (@BarstoolAlabama) January 6, 2022
Value in the under?
The first matchup between the two teams featured 65 points, as the game went over the total by 16 points. Monday’s matchup has a total hovering around 52 points at most sportsbooks.
BetMGM, Betway, DraftKings, PointsBet, and WynnBET have the total at 52, while Caesars, FanDuel, TwinSpires, and Unibet go up to 52.5.
There could be some value in the under, as eight of Georgia’s 13 games against FBS opponents went under the total. As for Alabama, nine of the team’s 14 games have gone under the total. While the first matchup featured offensive fireworks, there’s reason to think Monday’s game might have fewer points and better showings by each team’s defense.
Bryce Young, Alabama’s quarterback and the Heisman Trophy winner, torched the Bulldogs’ defense the first time these teams met. Young threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns while adding an impressive 40 rushing yards and a touchdown on just three carries. Jameson Williams caught seven passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, leading Alabama’s receivers. Are either of those performances repeatable against Georgia’s vaunted defense?
Georgia’s defense has been elite most of the season, but Alabama made the group look pedestrian about a month ago. Those who side with historical trends may be skeptical of taking the under, as the teams have combined for at least 60 points in each of the last three meetings. Betting against Bryce Young and company to put up points can be a risk.
Bryce Young played the best game of his career in the SEC championship — QBR backs that up — and some regression to the mean feels inevitable. Give me Georgia in the rematch.
— Chase Kiddy (@chaseakiddy) January 7, 2022
Regardless of what each bettor decides, it’s worth line shopping for added value. There’s not much variance across books as of Friday when it comes to the spread or total currently, but there are plenty of mobile sportsbooks available for Indiana bettors looking for the best value on their favorite national title game bets.
Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/USA TODAY