Sportsbook.ag College Football Saturday
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (11-1) vs. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (11-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Alabama -7.5 & 50
Opening Line & Total: Crimson Tide -7.5 & 49.5
No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia meet for the first time since 2008 on Saturday night with an SEC title and BCS Championship berth on the line.
Alabama is playing in its eighth SEC Championship Game, while Georgia was thumped 42-10 by LSU in last year's conference title game. This matchup features the two most efficient quarterbacks in the nation with UGa's Aaron Murray (177.15 rating, 30 TD, 7 INT) and Alabama's AJ McCarron (176.26 rating, 25 TD, 2 INT). The Bulldogs have allowed 8.6 PPG in the past five games, but the Tide have given up an FBS-low 9.3 PPG for the season. With Georgia averaging 38.0 PPG and Alabama scoring 39.0 PPG, a debate can be had on which offense is better. But the Crimson Tide defense is in a class of its own. Both schools have played five common opponents this season with the Bulldogs allowing a strong 18.8 PPG and 328 total YPG. But 'Bama has given up just 8.8 PPG and 180 total YPG to these five teams (four SEC foes). Not only is Georgia 1-8 ATS as an underdog in the past three seasons, but favorites of 3.5 to 10 points, after a win by 35+ points against an opponent after scoring 24+ points in the first half last game, are 28-6 ATS (82%) in the past 10 seasons.
McCarron has been outstanding this year, especially away from home where he's completed 69-of-107 passes (65%) for 1,030 yards (206 YPG), 8 TD and 0 INT in five non-home games. But he won't have his best deep threat as WR Kenny Bell (team-best 25.4 yards per catch) suffered a broken leg in last week's 49-0 drubbing of Auburn. He still has his top receiver though, Amari Cooper, who has 767 receiving yards and 8 TD this season, including 295 yards and 3 TD in the past three contests. After failing to gain 180 rushing yards in three straight games, Alabama has rushed for 567 yards on 6.5 YPC in the past two contests. Both Eddie Lacy (1,001 rush yds, 6.1 YPC, 14 TD) and T.J. Yeldon (847 rush yds, 10 TD) have proven themselves more than capable of running through opposing defenses. Lacy rushed for 131 yards and 2 TD last week, while Yeldon has scored a touchdown in seven straight games, totaling 9 TD (8 rushing, 1 receiving). Although much is made of the Tide's No. 2 ranked rushing defense (77 YPG), they also rank third in the nation in defending the pass (157 YPG). Alabama has forced 27 turnovers this season (16 INT and 11 fumbles), giving it a +14 turnover margin.
Since tossing three interceptions against Florida, Murray has been remarkably accurate with his throws, completing 71-of-97 passes (73%) for 1,137 yards (284 YPG), 13 TD and 0 INT over the past four games. He's also looking to redeem himself from a subpar performance in last year's SEC Championship when he completed just 16-of-40 passes for 163 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. Murray is helped by a quality ground game led by the two-headed freshman monster of Todd Gurley (95 rushing YPG) and Keith Marshall (60 YPG). Gurley has 516 rushing yards and 5 TD in his past five games while Marshall has 6.7 YPC this season with 8 TD despite just 107 carries. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs have held their past seven opponents under 200 passing yards, and forced 2+ turnovers in each of the past five contests (15 total). Although Georgia has allowed 608 rushing yards in the past two games to run-heavy offenses of Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, it has held the past three SEC opponents to a mere 61 rushing YPG on a paltry 1.9 YPC.
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (10-2) vs. WISCONSIN BADGERS (7-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Nebraska -3 (-115) & 49
Opening Line & Total: Cornhuskers -3 &49
No. 14 Nebraska looks for its first-ever Big Ten Championship when it faces a Wisconsin team that has claimed the past two conference titles.
Wisconsin can still win its conference despite five losses on the season and three defeats (all in OT) in its past four games. Nebraska is riding a six-game win streak (3-2-1 ATS) and also beat the Badgers 30-27 on Sept. 29, scoring the final 20 points and outrushing them 259 to 56. QB Taylor Martinez had 288 total yards and 3 TD in that game while Rex Burkhead, who is now back on the field after missing time with a sprained knee, had 86 rushing yards. Wisconsin's Montee Ball scored 3 TD in the loss, but was held to 31 yards (2.1 YPC) after halftime. However, Ball had 151 rushing yards and 4 TD in last year's 48-17 win over the Huskers. Wisconsin is certainly not in good shape with stud LB Chris Borland bothered by a hamstring injury and starting QB Joel Stave out for the season with a shoulder injury. That puts unimpressive senior Curt Phillips under center, a player completing 52.6% of his passes and taking seven sacks over the past two weeks, both SU losses. Meanwhile Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has been strong throwing the football during the win streak with 202 passing YPG on 61% completions, 9 TD and 4 INT. And versus four common opponents this season, the Huskers are 3-1 SU (2-1-1 ATS), while the Badgers are just 1-3 (SU and ATS).
Martinez has been throwing well this season with a 63% completion rate, 21 TD and 8 INT, but he is coming off a terrible performance at Iowa where he totaled just 104 yards on 30 plays (16 carries, 14 passes). He is a speedy runner though (5.3 YPC), who will look even faster on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf on Saturday. The good thing about Burkhead missing the majority of five of the past six games is that the Nebraska coaches got to see just how well Ameer Abdullah runs the football. In the past six games, he has rushed for 557 yards (93 rushing YPG). But Burkhead has been strong in two career games against the Badgers, rumbling for 182 yards on 36 carries (5.1 YPC) and a touchdown. No team in the nation has been stingier against the pass than the Blackshirts defense that has given up just 152 passing YPG. The rushing defense has also flexed its muscles in the past two games, holding Minnesota and Iowa to a combined 195 rushing yards on 68 carries (2.9 YPC). The Huskers have also been very opportunistic with 2+ turnovers forced in each of the past five games (12 total).
Curt Phillips will start under center for the third straight game, eager to improve on his 52.6% completion rate in his senior year. He connected on just 12-of-25 passes for 191 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT in last week's loss at Penn State. But it's no secret that the Badgers are going to try to pound the football with Montee Ball. He has 110+ rushing yards and at least 1 TD in six of his past seven games. Ball has scored 18 times on the ground this season, giving him 73 rushing touchdowns for his brilliant career. But teammate James White will also be used on the fast surface. He has three 120-yard rushing performances and 6 TD over his past six games and averages 6.7 yards per carry for the season. Wisconsin's defense surrendered a season-high 30 points at Nebraska, but has been consistently strong all year, allowing less than 17 points in seven games this season. The Badgers also rank 11th in the nation in total defense (308 YPG allowed), able to stop both the run (111 YPG, 12th in FBS) and the pass (197 YPG, 24th in FBS) with nearly equal effectiveness. Wisconsin doesn't have a whole lot of playmakers though, forcing just 12 turnovers (6 fumbles, 6 INT) for the entire 12-game season.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (10-2) vs. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (6-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Florida State -14 & 61
Opening Line & Total: Seminoles -13.5 & 63.5
The ACC Championship Game in Charlotte features two teams coming off lopsided defeats to in-state rivals with No. 13 Florida State heavily favored over 6-6 Georgia Tech.
FSU lost 37-26 at home to Florida, while Tech fell 42-10 at Georgia last weekend. The Yellow Jackets have won the only two meetings between these schools since 2004, most recently prevailing 49-44 in 2009. FSU has beaten ACC foes by an average score of 40 to 16 this season, but is just 3-5 ATS in these games. Georgia Tech has a four-game ACC win streak (SU and ATS) with 45.0 PPG and 368 rush YPG in this span. Both quarterbacks are dealing with injuries, with EJ Manuel (head) hurting for the 'Noles and Tech QB Tevin Washington injuring his wrist last week. Both players are expected to start on Saturday though. The Yellow Jackets have the ability to control the pace of this game with its triple-option attack that has four straight 300-yard rushing outbursts. The Seminoles were completely run over last week, allowing 244 yards on 5.2 YPC against Florida.
Manuel ranks eighth in the nation in passing efficiency with 2,972 yards (9.1 YPA), 22 TD and 9 INT. However, the senior has been terrible in his past two games, throwing for a combined 331 yards (5.9 YPA), 3 TD and 4 INT. The Gators picked him off three times last week. The team has also been hurt by the loss of top rusher Chris Thompson (knee) who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 20. In four games since, FSU has just 149 rushing YPG, a far cry from the 233 rushing YPG before Thompson's injury. Sophomore RB Devonta Freeman has tried to pick up the slack, but he has been up-and-down in the past four weeks, rushing for 104 yards, minus-5 yards, 148 yards and 37 yards in the last game. FSU continues to be its own worst enemy in terms of ball protection, committing 2+ turnovers in each of the past six weeks, totaling 17 giveaways over this stretch. Defensively, the 'Noles remain one of the better units in the country, ranking second in FBS in total defense (249 YPG), fourth in rushing defense (85 YPG), sixth in passing defense (164 YPG) and seventh in scoring defense (15.1 PPG allowed). Florida State also leads the ACC with 2.7 sacks per game.
The senior Washington is looking to prolong his career that has seen him score 32 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons. He also threw for 3 TD in his last ACC game two weeks ago against Duke. Washington may get a few more carries than usual with top RB Orwin Smith (673 rush yds) questionable with an ankle injury. Smith did not play in last week's loss to Georgia, a game where seven different Yellow Jackets had 5+ carries. David Sims led the team with 71 yards on 14 attempts (5.1 YPC), marking his third straight game with 60+ rushing yards and a touchdown. Georgia Tech's defense has struggled all year, allowing 40+ points in six of the past nine games. The Jackets also allow 392 total YPG, and have just 5.1 Tackles For Loss per game (88th in FBS). And for a team that runs the ball as much as Tech does, its +3 turnover margin (19 takeaways, 16 giveaways) isn't very special.