We've made it to the end – the National Championship game! Ahead is my betting guide for No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
What a ride it's been. Just a few days ago, there was speculation the title game would be moved to January 18. However, Ohio State, who is dealing with COVID-related issues, has thankfully been cleared to play Monday night in one of the most intriguing national title games in recent memory.
The Buckeyes are coming off a massive 49-28 demolition of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, while the Crimson Tide are coming off a 31-14 beatdown of Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. Both squads are undefeated this season and feature two of the best quarterbacks in college football, Justin Fields for Ohio State and Mac Jones for Alabama.
Indeed, we'll likely get an incredible showdown between the nation's two best teams, and no apologies from those who say Ohio State didn't deserve a playoff spot, having played only six games. They proved ten days ago they belonged, and the oddsmakers agreed, making this a razor-thin 8.5-point spread.
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Not only do I have a pick against that spread, but also the first half. If you've never read my college betting articles before, it's a bet I've cashed in every week this season. I'm now betting on a perfect season!
Here are the current betting odds, via the FanDuel Sportsbook:
(Odds subject to change.)
National Championship: No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Spread: OSU: +8.5 (-114), BAMA: -8.5 (-106)
Moneyline: OSU: (+235), BAMA: (-300)
Total: 75.5 – Over: (-110), Under: (-110)
I laid out some of the game's intrigue in the opening, but from a sports bettor's perspective, ours surrounds whether Ohio State can keep the game within 8.5 points. If you had asked me before New Year's Day, I'd have advised throwing money on Alabama with little hesitation. Then I saw what the Buckeyes did to Clemson.
As mentioned above, the Buckeyes annihilated the second-ranked team in the nation, 49-28. Justin Fields looked unstoppable. The Ohio State defense looked impenetrable throughout most of the game. In the aftermath, if you were dead set on backing the Buckeyes, I wouldn't blame you. They're top-10 in almost every major offensive category.
The Buckeyes have also played a lot fewer games, and while we won't know which players will miss Monday's game until right before kickoff, it's fair to speculate Ohio State will be well rested.
That might steer you to the Buckeyes' side. However, they're going up against what I consider the most incredible Alabama team Nick Saban has ever coached. Alabama ranks second in scoring, sixth in yards per game, seventh in red zone scoring, and first in yards per play, scoring per play and third down conversion percentage.
But most importantly, they jump out to large leads, making it an uphill battle for even the best teams to climb out. The first half bet is therefore my favorite of the game.
My take: Alabama 1H (-4.5)
If you've been reading my college football betting columns this season, you know I've been consistently cashing this bet. I'll ride it until it fails--if it ever does.
Alabama doesn't just get out to early leads. They dominate the first half, averaging 28.9 first half points while giving up only 9.9 points. The potent Crimson Tide offers about as much confidence as possible. They haven't lost this bet since I started recommending it, and if you look back, it was cashing before then, too. There's no reason to change course now.
That said, Ohio State will be Alabama's most challenging task this season by a significant margin, so I can't quite call it a guarantee as I have in the past. The Buckeyes average 25.3 first half points while only giving up 7.7 points. Still, there's a lot of value in this play. Alabama is the best team in the country, and when they're rolling, they don't stop. When was the last time you saw them trailing?
Establishing dominance is what has made Alabama a generational juggernaut, one looking to win its sixth national championship since Saban took over the program. They never take their foot off the gas, and while I think Fields is a bona fide star, we can't ignore the questions surrounding his rib injury or the possibility that key Buckeye players could be out.
All things equal, Fields is coming off a career performance where he threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns. While you'd typically want to ride the hot hand, the hands of Mac Jones and Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith have never cooled off.
In addition to these two exceptional players, Alabama might have another critical offensive weapon back from injury, putting me on its game spread: Jaylen Waddle.
My take: Alabama -8.5
Look, even if Waddle doesn't suit up, this is still the play, but he makes this bet much safer. The Buckeyes boast the second-best rush defense in the nation, allowing only 89.1 yards per game, meaning Alabama's best mode of attack will be through the air. We already know how good Heisman winner Smith is, but when you add Waddle to the mix, the Crimson Tide offense becomes a mismatch against the 116th-ranked Buckeyes pass defense.
Additionally, the Fields injury mentioned above is a concern because part of what makes him great is his mobility. If he's dealing with a rib injury, he'll be much less likely to scramble and take hits. While the OSU offense still can be effective without Fields' legs, their chances of beating an outstanding Crimson Tide defense are greatly reduced.
The game will undoubtedly be competitive, and while many are getting on Ohio State after the Sugar Bowl, I'm all aboard the Alabama train. There's a legitimate chance the line decreases by kickoff, but you should be fine at this current price. Take Alabama both ways.
New FanDuel Sportsbook users, don't forget to take advantage of the excellent 25-to-1 odds boost for this game. Bet $5 on either team to win outright, and if they succeed, win $125! Lock in the promotion now by clicking this link.
Best of luck. Let's make it another profitable night!