The two best teams are playing for a National Championship on Monday night. That was what we wanted during the BCS era and what we want during the College Football Playoff era. The process to get to that point is imperfect and has been quite messy some years, but when we look at the history of the title game, it is hard to say that we’ve been cheated out of seeing the top two teams go head-to-head for the trophy.
Having a recent data point between Alabama and Georgia from the SEC Championship Game is a great way to think about handicapping this game from a player props standpoint. I bet Alabama +3 thinking it would go away and would be a good starting position to be able to live bet the game as it happens, but this is the tightest line of the season. There are no great edges betting the side or total.
For me, the equity in a game like this comes in the form of player props. I like to put myself in the minds of all four coordinators and think about what the game plan will be. I like to consider the game state and how that will affect the playcalling. Because this game is a rematch, it also gives me the opportunity to see exactly what happened just over a month ago and try to figure out if those advantages are still there or if the coaching staffs will adjust.
The National Championship Game is not treated the same as the Super Bowl in terms of prop offerings, but you’ll find some out there and more will be added throughout the day. Try to visualize how this game plays out and the players that will be most involved.
Here are a couple I think will be very much involved and the reasons why.
Pick: Brian Robinson Jr. Over 20.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
In the first meeting, Robinson Jr. had 16 carries, but seven of them came on Alabama’s final two possessions when the outcome was basically decided. When Alabama had a 31-17 lead, Bryce Young dropped back on 10 straight plays. The Tide knew that building a lead had to come through the air against this formidable Georgia defensive front.
That section of plays tells me that Alabama should have no delusions about running the rock in this game either. The Crimson Tide will attempt to move it through the air. Without John Metchie III, that task is a bit more difficult. I’m stalking the markets for a Slade Bolden Over receptions prop, but one that is available at DraftKings and fits the plan of attack in my mind is Robinson Jr. Over 20.5 receiving yards.
The Tide have allowed 37 sacks up to this point and have some questions on the right side of the offensive line with injuries to Emil Ekiyor and Chris Owens. Because Georgia got minimal pressure in the first game, you would think that they would dial up some more blitz packages and aggressive looks, right? If that’s the case, the counter would be screens, swing passes and dump-offs to Robinson.
He had 31 catches for 268 yards during the season, but has not had much output as a receiver lately. I feel like that has kept his prop line lower than it should be for this one.
Pick: James Cook Over 20.5 Receiving Yards (-140)
This is the juiciest receiving yards prop on the board at DraftKings, but also one that I like and still think has value. Cook had a season-high 15 touches in the SEC Championship Game. Part of that had to do with the game state, because Zamir White only has nine catches this season and the Bulldogs were trailing throughout the majority of the game.
Cook had 25 catches during the season and just had a big game against Michigan in the semifinal with 112 yards through the air. He had four catches for 28 yards against Alabama. Georgia is realizing against better defensive fronts that running the ball for six yards per carry is not going to happen. As a result, they’ve gotten creative, using Cook as an extension of the running game.
This is a similar theory to what I applied to Alabama and Robinson. These are two top-five defenses by yards per carry. You can throw screens and swings as “running” plays and force the opposing defenses to go sideline-to-sideline. There is a lot more open space on the edges than there is at the line of scrimmage with 10 or more guys jockeying for position.
Georgia has to know that 48 pass attempts from Stetson Bennett is a suboptimal strategy, but using these short passes as runs are higher-percentage plays than having Bennett throw downfield. As a result, I like Cook to be busy through the air and to also be the guy with the highest snap share at running back.
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