College Football Championship Saturday is Set: Georgia-Bama Towers Above All Other Games

After a wild Rivalry Weekend, the conference championships games are all set for next weekend:

Notably, we see no Ohio State, no Clemson and no Oklahoma. It has been quite a crazy year.

As far as the playoff goes, there is only one conference championship game that can be safely classified as “Win-and-In,” and that’s the SEC Championship game between Georgia and Bama. Whoever wins that game will be in, no questions asked. The only lingering question about that game is whether Georgia will still be in even if they lose. I think they will, but it obviously depends on how the game plays out.

The immediate question is how the CFP rankings will look on Tuesday. I think we can assume Georgia will be #1 and Michigan will be #2. But beyond that, who knows?

Does Cincy move up to #3?

Does Oklahoma state jump them and become #3?

Does Bama fall out of the playoff after barely scraping by Auburn? It would have simplified a whole lot if Bama had just lost to Auburn, like they were on track to do for basically 58 minutes of that game.

But instead, Bama lives on to die another day.

I think we can assume Oklahoma State will be in the top-4 on Tuesday night given that they’re 11-1 and just beat the #10 team in the country. They had a more impressive win than Bama did this week. Plus the committee knows that Bama automatically makes the playoff if they beat Georgia.

I guess the only question now is whether Cincinnati remains at 4, or if Bama stays in the top 4.

I think the rankings will look like this on Tuesday night:

  1. Georgia
  2. Michigan
  3. Alabama
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Oklahoma State
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Baylor

Cincinnati really just needs Georgia to beat Bama and have the game not be super close. I really think if Bama loses to Georgia, Cincy is in, assuming Cincy beats Houston in the AAC title game.

Cincy will also be rooting for Iowa and Baylor to upset Michigan and Oklahoma State respectively, as either outcome will make a playoff berth more likely for Cincy. Iowa is out of the picture here, so even if Iowa wins the Big Ten, they won’t really threaten Cincy’s playoff bid. Iowa will not get serious consideration, at least I don’t think they will.

Cincy would also much rather be competing for a playoff spot with a 2-loss Big 12 champ Baylor than a 1-loss Big 12 champ Oklahoma State.

Personally, I hope they rank Alabama at #2 just so we can have the Game of the Century billing, but I do think the committee will put Michigan at #2 because of how impressive they were against a team the committee had ranked #2.

Georgia has opened as a 6.5 point favorite against Bama. I’ll have my updated power ratings out tomorrow to see how I judge the game, but as of yesterday I would have actually had Bama as a slight favorite, probably a pick ’em game.

And while I haven’t been impressed by Bama pretty much all season long, I do think they might be a good value on the spread bet. Vegas knows the public is going to bet heavily on Georgia, even if they are forced to lay 6.5.

But think about it: when is the last time you’ve ever had the opportunity to bet on Alabama at +6.5? I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bama as this big of an underdog.

There are a few more reasons I would strongly consider taking Bama and the points:

  1. Georgia hasn’t beaten Bama since 2007. I know I say this all the time and I probably sound like a broken record, but it’s the truth. Bama has owned Georgia in the Saban era. Even when Georgia is really good, like in 2012, 2017 and 2018, Bama still gets the best of them. I do feel like this year’s Georgia team is #Different, and that this really is their year, but the bottom line is that Bama owns Georgia until proven otherwise.
  2. Bama has everything to play for, Georgia really doesn’t have much at stake in terms of the playoff. Most people believe that even if Georgia loses to Bama, as long as it’s competitive, Georgia will be in the playoff regardless. Bama may be the more motivated team–or at least the more desperate team, and that matters. Now, that said, Georgia will be playing to secure the #1 overall seed (which will probably entail playing Cincinnati or some other team they’ll be heavily favored against), and they know that if they beat Bama this Saturday, they’ll probably eliminate Bama from the playoff for good this year. So that’s a huge deal. But the bottom line is that Bama will be the more desperate team in this game.
  3. Nick Fucking Saban: This kind of goes hand-in-hand with point #1, but Bama has Nick Saban. They have the GOAT. I will never count that man out.

I still believe Georgia will win the game. I think Georgia is the clear-cut best team in the nation right now, and they have been all season.

More importantly, they are so close to a National Championship they can almost taste it.

Beating Bama and getting Bama out of their way for good will be a massive step towards finally securing that crown for the first time since 1980.

If Georgia can get Bama out of the way, all that will stand between them and the top of the mountain are teams like Michigan, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Baylor. Georgia would be big favorites over all of those teams.

But Georgia is not unbeatable. And if anyone can figure out a way to beat them, it’s Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

I have a nagging gut feeling that Alabama could win this game, and I’m not going to ignore it.

I had a nagging gut feeling that Michigan was going to beat Ohio State, but I ignored it and suppressed it all week and took Ohio State to win the game.

I am not going to ignore my gut feeling this time. At the very least, I’m not going to ignore my power ratings again. My power ratings said Michigan should have been a 4.5 point home favorite over Ohio State.

Am I saying Bama is going to win? No, but I think they’ll cover the spread, which means that if they’re within a TD, then that means they’ll have a shot to win the game outright.

It all depends on where the public money flows, but I’m expecting the public to bet heavily on Georgia. I think the public mindset right now is that Georgia is a juggernaut and Bama is overrated. If we see that line grow to -7.5 Georgia, or even -8 Georgia, I will hammer Bama just because of the points.

Apparently some sportsbooks offered a line on the SEC Championship as early as last week, and Georgia opened -3.5. Now that has been bet up to -6.5. So the public is heavily on the Dawgs right now.

This site is literally called “fade the public,” and generally that’s a winning strategy in sports betting. Go the opposite way the “dumb money” is going. Certainly the public wins one every now and then, but I’m sure a lot of people out there will haphazardly bet Georgia all the way up to 7-8 points, which is absolutely absurd when we’re talking about Alabama on the other side.

I think barring something serious like a freak accident to Bryce Young during practice, I’m taking Bama and the points. Right now I’m visiting family in a state where sports betting isn’t yet legalized, but once I get back home, you bet your ass I’ll slap a bet on the Tide +6.5.

Again, I still think Georgia is more likely to win the game, but I am happy to take Bama and the points with the expectation that Saban will keep it close.

Okay, what about all the other games next weekend? I’ll do a deep-dive on Georgia-Bama later in the week after the new power ratings are finished, but let’s take a look at the rest of the games. Circa Sportsbook has the lines:

So we’ve got Oklahoma State -5 against Baylor, Cincy -12 against Houston, Georgia -6 against Bama, and Michigan -11 against Iowa.

Joel Klatt, aka the Voice of College Football, says this is the scenario:

This seems reasonable. Georgia is in no matter what. Michigan, Cincy and Bama need to win and they’re in no matter what.

Oklahoma State needs to win and have Georgia win, thereby knocking Bama out.

Notre Dame needs a lot of help: they need Cincy to lose, they need Bama to lose, and they need Oklahoma State to lose.

So Notre Dame would be the biggest longshot of the group, then.

Here’s a question: what if Georgia, Michigan and Cincy all win, and Oklahoma State loses? In that scenario, I think it would be 2-loss Alabama against 1-loss Notre Dame. It would all depend on the final score of the Georgia-Bama game, I’d think. If Georgia wins big, I think Notre Dame gets in. But if it’s a close game, I’m not so sure Notre Dame gets in over Bama.

There is a potential chaos scenario that could unfold on Saturday, though:

Let’s knock some of the low-hanging fruit out of the way: first, Georgia is in, obviously. And then I think Notre Dame would get in, as they’d have 1 loss.

Cincy in my view would be out. As a G5 team, you can possibly get in if you’re undefeated, but not if you have one loss. No chance there.

It all really hinges on the final score of the Georgia-Bama game. If it’s close, Bama will probably get in just because of how much the Committee respects them. Bama will become the first two-loss team to make the playoff.

But if Georgia just pulverizes Bama, though? I don’t think they get in. The uproar would be unbelievable if that were to happen. Say Georgia beats Bama like 31-13 or something like that, and Bama still gets into the playoff with 2 losses: people would be outraged.

Let’s just assume it’s a 24-20 final score or something close like that between Georgia and Bama, though. In that event, I think Bama still gets in.

So we’d have Georgia, Notre Dame and Bama in.

The 4th spot, I think, would come down to Baylor and Michigan. The Committee would have to just make a judgement call as to which team they think is better: Big 12 Champion Baylor, or Big Ten runner-up Michigan?

I don’t think Iowa would get in if they beat Michigan and the chaos scenario unfolds. Iowa is ranked 16 right now in the CFP rankings. It’s too much of a jump for them to go from 16 to 4 in a week. I just don’t think it can happen.

Is there even a chance for Ohio State to get in? This would be another situation where there would be mass outrage, but Ohio State only fell to 7 in the AP Poll, which was just released. If they are sitting at 7 in the CFP rankings on Tuesday, I think there is a slim chance Ohio State could get in as a result of the playoff scenario.

Now, nobody who watched that Michigan-Ohio State game could say Ohio State might still be the better team. That question was settled pretty clearly on the field. But perhaps the committee would say, well, Ohio State is a high-flying team, and they may have been affected too much by the bad weather in the game in Ann Arbor. All the advanced rankings were really high on Ohio State all season long, and the Committee clearly had a lot of respect for them all season long.

Could the committee maybe convince itself that Ohio State, in a dome environment and not having to battle the elements, is one of the 4 best teams in the country in a chaos scenario?

I wouldn’t rule it out completely.

Now, I certainly don’t think it’ll happen, as the outrage would be overwhelming. But it’s not impossible.

I think the 4th spot would come down to Michigan and Baylor. Both would have 2 losses, but Baylor would have the Conference Title under their belt. I think Michigan would get the nod just because of their dominant win over Ohio State, and their name-brand recognition.

Baylor would be pissed, like they were in 2014, but would anyone really think putting Michigan in over Baylor is the wrong move? I wouldn’t.

With the chaos scenario, it’s impossible to say how that will unfold until A. we see the CFP rankings on Tuesday, and B. until we see the final scores of the Conference Championship games. Whether these games are close or blowouts really matters here.

But my guess is the CFP, in the chaos scenario, would be Georgia, Bama, Notre Dame and Michigan.

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