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Giving Away Money: College Football Playoff Championship Game

Can Kirby Smart finally breakthrough? Does this feel sort of now-or-never for a Bulldogs team that woke up in a more competitive East?

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">2021 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As the master, you teach the pupil everything he knows. You don’t teach him everything you know. And everyone from Kirby Smart to Darth Vader has had to learn this lesson. You never know as much as the one who taught you until long after the master is gone.

And, despite having ample opportunities to unseat Nick, the Canine Padawan has had been on the prongs of this instruction time and time again, as Saban has outplanned, outschemed, outadjusted, and outmotivated Smart’s best teams.

But will it be different this time around? Has Georgia adjusted? Isn’t it harder to beat the same team twice? Probably not, probably so, and absolutely not.

As of this writing, the spread seems to have settled back down to UGA by a FG, after a frantic week where it was all over the place: from UGA -3.5 to UGA -2. Lots of big money has come in on the Tide, though most of the action has been on the Bulldogs side. Sharps vs. Mooks.

Before we get to why, let’s take look at the what:

Georgia -3 (-$105) Alabama +3 (+$115)
O/U 52 (U -$115, O -$105)
ML UGA -$145 Alabama +$125

So, the consensus is: Georgia in a close, higher scoring game.

Does that seem right? Analytically, no. While Georgia should be favored — it should not be so by a field goal, nor when taken in context.

When adding in the last 6 quarters of kill-the-clock play by ‘Bama, and the Bulldogs frantic “we belong here” play over the same span, the Tide’s efficiency numbers vs. UGA drop by just over 3.5 points.

Remove those 6 quarters, and it becomes as we predicted back in December: Alabama by a field goal. Add in first half snaps of the SECCG, and the number vaults all the way to Alabama -5.98. Hell, just remove Alabama’s conservative slog vs. Cincinnati, and it become a 4.22-point Alabama win. In short, when factoring in meaningful downs, Georgia still isn’t the analytical favorite here. It is only the favorite with adding a game-and-a-half of practically junk time football to the Tide’s performance metrics.

Why is that?

There are lots of reasons, to be honest. And we covered many of them in depth in the Georgia vs. Georgia and Alabama vs. Alabama series. But to recap, the things that Alabama does better than Georgia also happen to be the ones that impact scoreboards most meaningfully:

  • It has the better passing offense
  • It has the nation’s best third-down offense
  • It has the better third-down defense
  • It has the better first down efficiency, leading to more manageable conversions
  • It turns the ball over far less the Georgia
  • It creates far more turnovers than the Dawgs

And, of all those, ball security is the number one predictive metric here; it is one that vaults Alabama ahead — or at least allow the Tide to cover the spread.

There are intangibles too, things that don’t show up on the scoreboard:

  • Georgia’s headspace, coupled with Kirby’s propensity to blow leads and choke in the 4th against Saban
  • Saban’s record against assistants, Saban’s record in big games,
  • That yummy underdog rat poison they’ve been fed since Georgia devoured Michigan
  • A distracted 3rd year DC trying to hold down two jobs while also preparing for the most talented offense he’s faced all season: one that already eviscerated him.
  • And rematches: we like to think that it’s harder the second time around. That’s simply not the case. I went back through the BCS era and looked at title games etc. to see what happens in Round 2. Does the team that lost get the upperhand that second time around?

Usually? No.

Usually what happens is that the better team in the first matchup is far better the second time around. We saw it with Bama — LSU II; we saw it with Oklahoma — TCU II; we saw it when Alabama beat Georgia with a practically identical team twice in 10 months; we saw it with Notre Dame — Clemson in 2020.

The first game tends to be the closer contest.

That said, I’m not going down that path. I don’t think Alabama beats Georgia by more than 17. But I do think they cover +3, and I have sneaking suspicion they win outright. There was no question who the better team was on the field a month ago. And, as rematches have tended to prove, the gap between the team that is better-coached and better-prepared vs. their opposite number, tends to widen not narrow.

Alabama +3, Over 52
Crimson Tide 32 Georgia Bulldogs 27

That’s it. We’ve reached the end of our CFB coverage for the season, at least in terms of prognostication. Go forth to profit and a fat bank, and I wish you all well tomorrow. Truly.

You can also check out plenty more at our SuperGroup, and a big thank you to DraftKings for sponsoring our wagering pieces down the stretch.

Roll Tide


Who ya’ got?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Georgia -2.5, over 52
    (16 votes)
  • 4%
    Georgia -2.5, under 52
    (21 votes)
  • 49%
    Alabama +2.5, over 52
    (227 votes)
  • 34%
    Alabama +2.5, under 52
    (158 votes)
  • 1%
    Georgia, push on the totals
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    Alabama, push on the totals
    (33 votes)
462 votes total Vote Now