The college football national championship game will take place Monday in Indianapolis. While many rooted against it, nobody is surprised by the fact that we're getting a rematch of the SEC championship game. Alabama and Georgia will go head to head for the second time in a little over a month.
In the first meeting between these teams, Alabama was a 6.5-point underdog. Despite being installed as an underdog, the Crimson Tide were absolutely dominant in a 41-24 win. There was no doubt who the better team was on that day.
Despite Georgia's struggles in that game and Alabama's dominant display, it's the Bulldogs who are favorites to win the national championship game. This is an idea that doesn't sit well with many. People are confused as to how a team can be an underdog against a team it just demolished a month ago. Why exactly is Alabama an underdog again?
Georgia was the better team all season
Alabama 41, Georgia 24.
It's fresh in our heads. These two teams played each other head-to-head very recently, and we saw how it went. However, we can't forget that this was just one game. It's a data point in a collection of data points. If we want to be rational sports fans and sports bettors, we can't weigh a singular data point too heavily.
Prior to the SEC championship game, these teams had played 12 games each. In those games, Georgia was absolutely dominant. It went undefeated. It gave up no more than 17 points in a single game during the regular season. It won every game except its season opener by at least three scores.
On the flip side, Alabama went 11-1 and hardly looked dominant in the process. It lost to a Texas A&M team that finished the season with four losses. It played four one-possession games against teams ranging from bad to average in Florida, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas.
Nobody really batted an eye when Georgia was nearly a touchdown favorite in the SEC championship game. Georgia had earned that favorite role, and consensus opinion was that the spread was fair. In fact, 63% of bettors at BetMGM backed Georgia as a 6.5-point favorite over Alabama in early December.
In hindsight, it's easy to overreact to what we saw. As fans, it's our natural instinct. One thing about the oddsmakers is that they don't overreact and they don't post betting lines based on emotional reactions. They've reacted to the SEC championship game, but they haven't overreacted.
Things have changed since then
While the SEC championship game was just a little over a month ago, a lot can change.
In that game, Alabama lost standout wide receiver John Metchie to a torn ACL. Metchie was one of two receivers on the team with over 1,000 receiving yards. Now, Georgia can divert more of its attention to slowing down Jameson Williams. No other receiver on Alabama posted more than 364 yards this season.
Metchie isn't the only injury Alabama is dealing with. The Crimson Tide are currently dealing with injuries to starting offensive linemen Emil Ekiyor Jr. and Chris Owens. A key reason for Alabama's success in December was the performance of the offensive line. They did not allow Bryce Young to be sacked. The status for both players is unclear as we approach gameday, but Georgia's defense can certainly take advantage of any weak links on the line.
On the Georgia side, it has to be feeling good about its performance against Michigan in the semifinal. Georgia was absolutely dominant, but the most important takeaway from that game has to be the performance of quarterback Stetson Bennett.
Bennett threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, doing most of that damage in the first half before Georgia took its foot off the gas. Prior to that game, a lot of people questioned whether Bennett had the ability to hang points if the game took an offensive turn. His performance against Michigan should ease those concerns.
The market did adjust
Let's not act like the betting market hasn't reacted to Alabama's performance in the SEC championship game. It made a significant adjustment to the betting line. Oddsmakers did not bury their heads in the sand.
Georgia is currently a 3-point favorite over Alabama in the championship game. This is a 3.5-point downgrade of Georgia from what the line was in December.
It's a very significant adjustment. It takes a lot to get a line to move this significantly. The oddsmakers certainly took notice of what Alabama did to Georgia the first time around. They reacted, but they didn't overreact.
It's worth noting that this line actually opened with Georgia as just a 2.5-point favorite. Oddsmakers felt the need to move the line up to three points, which means they were getting some respected action backing Georgia laying less than a field goal. The line has also stayed steady for most of the week despite many thinking that Alabama is an easy bet. That's also pretty telling.