We've missed the best of a key total that has inched up a point from openers of 44.5, but I'm still comfortable with the notion that we'll see a higher-scoring game than this modest total suggests. Alabama has enough playmakers to have success against a Bulldogs defense that allowed 531 yards of total offense to Oklahoma in the semifinals. Moreover, Georgia has enough options on offense to put up 24-27 points, similar to the numbers Mississippi State and Auburn posted against the Tide. Look fo rthis gaem to clear the Over with relative ease.
In evaluating which side of the total to stake out, it boils down to which narrative from the semifinals is more likely to carry over into the championship. Georgia?s explosive rushing offense exploited Oklahoma to the merry tune of 317 yards for a 9.3-yard average. Alabama limited Clemson to 91 yards and a 2.2-yard average. This total goes against the grain of recent championship games. Since the four-game format was instituted, 62, 85 and 66 points have been registered. The two previous matchups resulted in 56 and 65. Significantly, the Crimson Tide participated in three of them. Bama, in fact, has landed in Over territory in 10 of its last 14 bowls and five of the past six January dates. Together, the Tide and the Bulldogs have produced five Overs in the past six encounters. Just because both squads will adhere mostly to the ground does not rule out scoring. This total is an easy target to hit, particularly with the possibility of a turnover by Georgia freshman QB Jake Fromm that results in a short-distance drive for a touchdown.
Take the Bulldogs to cover and also to win outright. While the Crimson Tide dominated Clemson, Georgia is a more complete football team, will be able to run with more success than the Tigers did and force quarterback Jalen Hurts to have to make several plays with his arm to win. That Bulldog defense will be too tough for the sophomore signal-caller, and lead Georgia to its first title since 1980.
SUGAR BOWL (New Orleans) -- The spread has lost all value as it has now moved past three key number of 3 with an additional hook. I'm not sure it will matter, but the money-line price is still fairly decent for the Crimson Tide in this spot. I like their firepower a little better, with QB Jalen Hurts having so much big-game experience. Kelly Bryant has exceeded projections for Clemson, but is still somewhat one-dimensional with the run. Alabama coach Nick Saban's history of success in revenge games also plays in favor of the Tide.
OUTBACK BOWL (Tampa) -- This is one of those rule-of-thumb games. Grab an underdog receiving more than a touchdown when the ultra-low total ? 42, in this case ? cries out for a defensive battle. South Carolina is a so-so New Year?s Day bowler whose offense was so immobile in the regular season that its coordinator was fired. The Gamecocks cannot drop much lower than their average in points (98th) and yards (108th). But Michigan is not appreciably better with a No. 84 scoring rank, just 1.7 ppg above the ?Cocks. The Wolverines move in slow-motion, having not completed one pass for 50-plus yards all season. No WR enjoyed a 100-yard day. Carolina was under in eight of 11 games this season with an assigned total, and this figure suggests a winning score of about 24. Any decent ?dog can stay within a TD.
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