College National Championship Free Pick - Alabama vs. Georgia (1/3/18)
Dating back to 1991, the winner of the last nine Alabama-Georgia matchups breaks down like this: BAMA-BAMA-BAMA-UGA-UGA-UGA-BAMA-BAMA-BAMA.
Now, as tempting as it is to keep with paint-by-number trends and pencil in UGA as College Football Playoff National Champions, Prediction Machine's approach is bit more nuanced and focused on what the Crimson Tide & Bulldogs accomplished this season as well as how they've fared recently.
Despite earning the No. 4 seed in this year's College Football Playoff, Alabama remains a statistical powerhouse. In our strength-of-schedule adjusted efficiency rankings, they rank eighth in pass offense, eighth in run offense, second against the pass and first against the run.
In the national semifinal, Alabama's offense may have been held to 3.8 yards per play by Clemson's defense, but the Tide's defense held the Tigers, a team that averaged 5.3 yards per play this season, to just 2.5 YPP – the lowest output of any bowl team.
Digging a bit deeper, Alabama averaged only 3.4 yards per rush, but stayed the course and finished with 42 rush attempts for 141 yards against the eighth-best rush defense per attempt. What's the “Remember the Titans” quote? “It's like novocaine. Just give it time, always works.”
So, where Georgia could run (no pun) into trouble is the fact that Alabama rushes the ball 60% of the time. Through 14 games this season, which includes the bowl win over Oklahoma, the Bulldogs have allowed 3.65 yards per rush attempt – 30th in FBS. In our strength of schedule adjusted efficiency rankings, Georgia ranks 22nd against the run and are about to face the eighth-best run offense.
Also, keep in mind that the Bulldogs rush defense has struggled down the stretch. Over their past seven games, which carry a heavier weight within our simulations, Georgia has allowed 5.4 yards per rush to the Sooners, 5.1 YPR to Auburn (first game), 4.5 YPR to Florida and 4.1 YPR to Georgia Tech. These metrics are more relevant than, say, holding Samford to 1.0 YPR Week 3 and are thus weighted accordingly.
The SOS adjusted efficiency against the rush is the difference in the National Championship pick.
According to 50,000 games played by our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Alabama wins straight up 60.2% of the time by an average score of 27-24. As 4.5-point underdogs, Georgia covered the spread 53.4% of the time. This justifies an $11 bet for a normal $50 bettor. Behind some big plays by Georgia's Jake Fromm and a few mistakes by Jaylen Hurts, the O/U point total of 45 hits OVER 59.6%, which justifies a $76 wager from a normal $50 bettor.