LAS VEGAS – Alabama rallied to beat Georgia 26-23 in the College Football Playoff Championship Game on a touchdown in overtime, but the Crimson Tide didn’t cover for its point-spread backers after closing as a 4-point favorite.
In a “Bad Beat” for under bettors, the game went over the closing total of 45.5 on the winning TD.
Alabama did cash for its backers on the money line, which closed an average of -185 at the sports books here, and also came through for in-game bettors of as high as plus-575 at the William Hill books in the second half (from a follower on Twitter @da_notoriousbob).
In a much-talked-about trend, Alabama coach Nick Saban improved to 12-0 in games against his former assistants, however, his betting record in those matchups dipped to 9-3 ATS.
In that light, let’s look at how the game unfolded from a betting perspective, including some key prop results.
Alabama had a chance to draw first blood after intercepting Georgia QB Jake Fromm on the opening drive of the game, but Andy Pappanastos missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt to keep it scoreless.
The defenses dominated the first quarter and it ended scoreless at 0-0, giving first-quarter bettors taking Georgia plus-0.5 the win as well as those on under 7.5 points.
On the third play of the second quarter, Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made a 41-yard FG to put the Bulldogs ahead 3-0 and cash for those betting Georgia plus-120 to score first as well as those who took “any other score” (aka field goal or safety, as opposed to the favored touchdown) at the Westgate SuperBook (FG/safety opened plus-200 and got bet down to plus-145 at kickoff).
Blankenship added another field goal and then WR Mecole Hardman scored on a 1-yard TD run with just :07 left before halftime to put the Bulldogs ahead 13-0. The “player to score first touchdown” is always one of the most popular props in big football games and Hardman came through for his backers as he closed 30-1 at the Westgate. However, he probably wasn’t getting too much support as he actually opened 25-1.
VSiN’s host hotel of the South Point had a prop on whether a team would have three unanswered scores (not including PATs), so the -160 cashed on Georgia’s two FGs and that TD.
Georgia led 13-0 at intermission and covered as a 2-point, first-half underdog and plus-130 on the first-half money line. The first half also stayed more than a touchdown under the total of 21.5 points. For the second half, Alabama was installed as a 6-point favorite (adjusted game line of Georgia -7) at most Vegas books, though it was bet down to -5.5 at some books including the South Point, Westgate, Golden Nugget, Caesars and Treasure Island. The second-half over/under was 22.5 (adjusted game total of 35.5) at most books with South Point and William Hill closing 23.
Saban replaced starting QB Jalen Hurts (to the delight of bettors holding under tickets on Hurts’ stats and to the dismay of his over bettors) with Tua Tagovailoa. After a slow start, Tagovailoa hit Henry Ruggs III with a 6-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 13-7 with 8:52 left in the third quarter (no props on either of those players as far as I know).
Georgia answered with a 80-yard TD pass from Fromm to Hardman to push the lead back to 20-7 with 6:52 left in the third. That cashed the Over 42.5 yards for “Longest Touchdown of the Game by Either Team” at the Westgate; it also put Fromm’s longest completion Over 32.5 yards.
However, Tagovailoa continued the Alabama comeback with two field-goal drives and then hitting Calvin Riddley on a fourth-down, 7-yard TD pass with 3:49 to play.
After forcing a punt, Bama drove into the red zone and ran down the clock for Pappanastos to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired, but he missed to send the game to overtime, which closed plus-800 at the South Point on the “yes” for its overtime prop.
A sack stopped Georgia’s opening overtime drive, but Blankenship made a clutch 51-yarder to put the Bulldogs up 23-20. Alabama was also pushed back on a sack, but while Georgia fans and bettors were going crazy with joy at the South Point sports book where I was watching the game (especially with the prospect of Alabama being out of its inconsistent kicker's range), Tagovailoa hit DeVonta Smith for a 36-yard TD pass for the game-winner and sent the Bama backers into an uproar.
However, unless they had the Crimson Tide on the money line (or were just fans cheering for the victory), it probably didn't take Bama point-spread bettors more than a few seconds to realize it wasn't enough to cover for them as Alabama opened -4.5 and closed -4 at most books with some books going down to -3.5. The game also went over the total of 45.5 points on the winning TD.
Alabama also won the second half (plus OT), 26-10, and it went well over the second-half total of 22.5 points.
Alabama was also -130 to be the last team to score at the South Point.
Both teams went over their point totals thanks to overtime as Alabama’s over/under was 24.5 and Georgia's closed 21 after opening 20.5.