MAKING A PLAY

Gambling guide: Forecast of a low Tide in Championship game; recapping the NFL Wild-Card weekend

Nick Saban leads Alabama against Georgia tonight. Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Alabama -4 vs. Georgia  O/U 46

50-1, the odds you could have got on Georgia to win the National title over the summer. Tonight, you will see a team that can match up with anyone in the nation.

Nick Saban the dominator

How good has Saban been exactly? Well, within his conference when listed as a favorite he is 49-39 ATS. Even more impressive, is his dominance over his former assistants. In games when facing his disciples, he is 11-0 straight up and 9-2 ATS. In these games, the master always makes statements covering the spread by double digits.

xThe clock is our friend

We all know about the potent rushing attack the Bulldogs embark onto the field. The duo is now the all-time FBS leaders in career rushing yards by a pair of running back teammates, surpassing SMU's Eric Dickerson and Craig James. The same two phenoms that set the Rose Bowl on fire with a combined 326 rushing yards on 25 carries. Alabama will need to figure out how to limit the big play. Another key stat we lean to when analyzing how to stop teams with such dominant run games is defensive adjusted line yards, where both of these teams rank inside the top 15. Converting on third downs is crucial in keeping the clock running, and the Bulldogs hold a significant advantage in Power success rate.  Look for UGA to have success in short yardage situations through the ground game, keeping the clock ticking.

Being extra " Special" on special teams

Keeping these teams outside of the red zones will be pivotal for both sides. Georgia ranks 5th in the country in red zone efficiency where they score on 95.7% of their drives inside the 20. Nick Saban's bunch not far behind at 88.1%. Limiting the opponent to playing outside the 20's is a ritual both teams will be looking to exercise throughout the night. Another factor in the special teams tonight will be the inconsistency of both kickers from the 40-49 yard range. Alabama's kicker from such distance is 4-8; Georgia's kicker 4-7.

Turnovers

When handicapping a game with such a low total, you have to try to unveil any possible ways of getting extra opportunities to tack points on the board. Turnovers are a good way to juice a low scoring game, but the truth is turnovers are one of the more random stats in football. In Monday night's matchup, we have two teams ranked inside the top 35 in TO margin. Alabama leads the Nation with only nine turnovers the entire season and much has to do with the ability of Jalen Hurts to make smart decisions. Hurts has only thrown one interception all season! The Bulldogs haven't been exactly sloppy on the offensive side either; they only gave the ball away 14 times this year, five more than the tide.

A game that will be won in the trenches, I think the value is on the under. Georgia is aware of Bama's injuries to the linebacker group. They know if they can get past the defensive line, beating a linebacker group that shares three career starts, could be the way to the title. Look for Georgia to keep pounding away looking to break one open on an inexperienced linebacker group. The last thing Alabama wants is these Georgia's running backs in the open field vs. those linebackers. On the other side, Saban's bread and butter with Hurts under center is the read pass option. This is what hides his quarterback's inability to throw downfield and limits his turnovers. The only problem is the Georgia front seven is more than prepared for this having faced the RPO multiple times shutting it down vs. Brandon Wimbush(Notre Dame), Nick Fitzgerald (Miss St), and Jarrett Stidham(Auburn). Most recently they saw it with the Heisman Baker Mayfield, and although they didn't entirely "shut" him down, in the closing half, they limited Oklahoma to 171 yards and one touchdown including OT. The path to the 2018 College Football National Championship will be through the ground game, ideal for the under 46 -(-120)

Under 22.5 First Half

Under 46 full game

Lines as of 1/8/18 3:15 pm Bovada

Stats provided by Sports Insights

Wildcard Weekend: Book It

Wildcard weekend was huge for the books in the opening weekend of the NFL postseason. Bettors that chased last year's results were torched, let's see how the numbers differed.

Last Years Wild Card Weekend
Raiders vs. Texans (-4)  27-14 HOU
Lions vs. Seahawks (-8.5)  26-6 SEA
Miami vs. Pittsburgh (-11)   30-12 PITT
N.Y. Giants vs. Greenbay (-5)  38-13 G.B
4-0 Favorites

2017-2018
Titans (+9) vs Chiefs 22-21 TENN +350
Falcons (+6) vs Rams 26-13 ATL +210
Bills (+9) vs Jauguars 10-3 JAX
Panthers (+7) vs Saints 31-26 NO
 

Favorites 0-4
With all four contest being covered by the underdog, this year's trend lived on as two won outright. 72 of 110 underdogs won their games outright during the regular season 65%.

Totals
The over/under went 1-3 this week compared to a 2-2 record in last years Wildcard Weekend. An impressive number to keep your eye on, last year starting in the divisional round, the over dominated going 6-1. Did the books adjust their opening numbers anticipating action to the over?

Divisional Round lines
Falcons -2.5 at Eagles  O/U 41
Titans at Patriots -14   O/U  47
Jaguars at Steelers -7.5 O/U  41
Saints at Vikings -3.5  O/U  45

Play action or pass went 3-5 bringing our record to 51-43-2 (54.2%)   52-44 Updated after CFB Title Game
Titans/Chiefs under 44.5 WIN
Jaguars-9 LOSS
Panthers +7  WIN
Falcons+6   WIN
Falcons/Rams over 48.5   LOSS
Titans Teams Total under 17.5  LOSS
Teasers 10 point
Chiefs +1/ Jags+1/ Falcons-Rams over 38.5 (2X) Ties on 10 point teasers are a LOSS (X2) Keep your records honest!
Update

Alabama /Georgia Under first half 22.5 WIN

Alabama/Georgia under 46 LOSS
Updated Super Bowl Odds

New England Patriots    +200
Minnesota Vikings    +375
Pittsburgh Steelers    +500
New Orleans Saints    +550
Atlanta Falcons    +700
Philadelphia Eagles    +1400
Jacksonville Jaguars    +1800
Tennessee Titans    +5000

Any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on Twitter.

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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