Betting Stuff: My full card for the National Championship Game
Betting Stuff is a regular sports gambling column here at Saturday Down South with a focus on college football wagering (though don’t be surprised to see some non-college football insights from time to time). Did you know that sports betting is now legal in Tennessee? You can view the best Tennessee sportsbook apps here.
When it comes to the last game of the season, no one wants to hear that Vegas has a number pegged, but in this case, a point-spread between 7 and 10 points in favor of Alabama feels dead-on.
Luckily, major games like this one draw the attention of sportsbooks around the country and they’ll be offering a full menu of prop bets to go with the usual football fare.
With that in mind, here’s my full card for the National Championship Game.
Best Bet: Over 76
This might be the greatest offensive showdown in modern college football history. With a strong showing in the college football national championship game, Alabama has a chance to edge past ’95 Nebraska and ’19 LSU and go down as the highest-rated (SP+, FEI) offense in the history of the game.
Ohio State is the No. 2-ranked offense nationally and just played its best game since they obliterated No. 13 Michigan in November of 2019. Justin Fields, in particular, showed why he was one of the highest-rated high school quarterbacks in the history of recruiting services. Before injuring his ribs, he used his mobility to catch Clemson out of position on multiple occasions. But once he was forced to stay in the pocket, that’s where he really shined. His deep ball accuracy against Brent Venables’ defense was nothing short of spectacular. Toss in a rejuvenated Trey Sermon and it’s easy to picture Ohio State scoring in the 40s against Alabama.
Where things get interesting, from a total perspective, is the defenses in this matchup. Alabama was on the cusp of fielding a special unit, finishing the regular season 9th in SP+ and 23rd in defensive havoc. But their SEC title game performance against Florida exposed the Tide’s vulnerability to a spread attack. And this isn’t a new development by any means. Alabama’s defense, under Nick Saban, has put traditional offenses in a chokehold, while spread teams have had considerably more success. Spreads with dual-threats as their QB1’s have done even better, which is why I believe Ohio State will have consistent success moving the football in this one.
While Alabama’s defensive shortcomings are up for debate, Ohio State’s are clear to see. They’re not very disruptive (36th in Havoc) and they’re awful against the pass (116th). Shaun Wade will be the embodiment of this gif when facing DeVonta Smith.
The former slot corner was supposed to be the next great Ohio State defensive back, but since shifting out to the perimeter, he’s been exposed badly. Alabama’s multitude of weapons also eliminates the possibility of hiding Wade. Smith and company are going to feast on this secondary, which should lead to a 50+ point outburst from the Tide.
Listen, I get it, 75 points seems like a lot. But it’s very rare to see two elite offenses meet in the national title game. But there is recent precedent for a game like this surpassing a high total. USC and Texas were No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of S&P+ offense in 2005, and combined to score 79 points in their historic Rose Bowl matchup, blowing past the closing total of 69.5. Ten years later, Clemson and Alabama matched up for the first time with a total of 50.5 and ended up posting the most points in title game history (85). If Ohio State does its part, pumping in at least 35 points, I feel very comfortable with the over in this spot.
Favorite Prop Bets
Chris Olave (Ohio State, WR): Over 85.5 receiving yards
I’m bullish on the Buckeyes’ passing game in this one and I believe they’ll be playing from behind in the second half, which means more targets and opportunities to rack up yardage for Olave. When the Ohio State junior has taken the field this season, he’s averaged 110 receiving yards per game. The only game he didn’t blow past 85.5 receiving yards was against Rutgers, which featured just 28 total pass attempts.
Then there’s the Alabama secondary and its track record against bonafide No. 1 wideouts. Kadarius Toney cooked Alabama for 153 yards in the SEC Championship Game. Elijah Moore made his case for a slot on the All-American team by racking up 143 yards in the third game of the season. Texas A&M’s Ainias Smith (123 yards), and LSU’s Kayshon Boutte (111 yards) also found great success.
And lastly, we saw Ohio State’s full playbook against Clemson, a strategy that employed a lot of deep throws to open up the short passing game and running lanes for Trey Sermon. Olave will be on the receiving end of at least 2 deep shots in this one, and if he catches one you’re already halfway home on this over.
Will either team score 3 unanswered times? No (+250)
Alabama has the ability to overwhelm opponents with scoring runs. And while I think the Tide will find plenty of success when they have the ball, I’m not sure I picture them stringing together 2 and 3 stops in a row against this Ohio State offense. And that’s why this bet and the current odds are so alluring. You absolutely could get burned if Alabama started a half with a score, necessitating just 2 stops to set themselves up for 3 scores in a row, but at +250 that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
National Championship Game MVP: John Metchie III (+1600)
There was a run between 2000-2008 where only 2 Heisman winners won their bowl games (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart). That Heisman jinx has since been laid to rest, but it did get me thinking about DeVonta Smith in this game. His Heisman status has raised the bar for his play to an insane level, and at +300 he’s hardly worth a bet, given the likelihood of a big game from Mac Jones and Najee Harris’ nose for the end zone. But at 16:1, Metchie III’s price tag caught my attention. With all the focus likely to be on Smith and Jaylen Waddle (should he play), the sophomore has a chance for a breakout night. This wouldn’t be a complete shocker given the fact that he’s racked up multiple games of 150+ receiving and multiple 2-touchdown outings this season.