The University of Alabama football team will roll into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Jan. 8 favored to beat the Georgia Bulldogs to win the 2018 college football national championship. The Crimson Tide opened as 4.5-point favorites, after both SEC rivals dusted off their opponents in the four-team playoff semifinals on New Year’s Day.
On Monday, Alabama (#4) defeated Clemson (#1) in the Sugar Bowl, 24-6, serving them sweet revenge after last season’s loss to the Tigers in the championship game.
Earlier in the day, Georgia (#3) won a Rose Bowl thriller against Oklahoma (#2), 54-48 in double-overtime.
Both lower-ranked but still favored teams took a different route to covering the point spread and winning their games. Georgia, a 1.5-point underdog, trailed 31-14 late in the first half and were showing no ability to contain Oklahoma’s potent offense led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield.
But things changed in the second half as the Bulldogs, behind 326 combined rushing yards from Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, rallied to tie the game late and eventually win in double-overtime.
Alabama (-3.5) had a much easier time covering the spread. Clemson simply couldn’t find a way to sustain drives against that tough Crimson Tide defense. The cover, and game, was never in doubt in the 4th quarter.
SEC Championship Redux
Georgia secured its playoff berth in December by defeating Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. Despite not winning its conference, Alabama was selected as the fourth and final participant in the College Football Playoff, striking up debate among football fans who believed Big Ten champion Ohio State was more deserving.
(The No. 5 Buckeyes beat the No. 8 USC Trojans in the Cotton Bowl, 24-7.)
Nonetheless, Alabama coach Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide headed to New Orleans and took care of business against Clemson, setting the stage for the SEC Championship Game, Part II, this time between Georgia and Alabama, with a slightly bigger trophy on the line.
Non-College Football Playoff Bowl Game Results
Cotton Ohio State (-10) 24 USC 7
Fiesta Penn State (-3) 35 Washington 28
Orange Wisconsin (-6) 34 Miami 24
Peach Central Florida (+10) 34 Auburn 27
Why Vegas Favors ’Bama
Despite being No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff rankings (Georgia was No. 3), Alabama opened as a 4.5-point favorite with Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Why? Alabama is perceived as the best team in the country by the general public despite its regular season-ending loss to bitter rival Auburn, and that’s what matters most when setting the point spread. Both teams have suffered just one defeat on the season, to the same team (Auburn).
If the Bulldogs have any hope of pulling off an upset, its defense must perform better than it did in the first half against Oklahoma. Granted, the Sooners have a more explosive offense than Alabama, but it will be difficult to come from behind this time around against a Crimson Tide defense that leads the nation in fewest yards allowed (252.4) and points allowed (11.1).
The point spread is likely to fluctuate throughout the week, but it’s clear Alabama will head to Atlanta on Monday as the team expected to win its fifth national title in the past nine seasons.
Alabama entered last season’s national title against Clemson as a defending champion and one-touchdown favorite. But thanks to a last-minute touchdown drive, the Tigers won one of the most thrilling college football games in history, capping off a surprising upset.