Georgia opens as small favorite vs. Bama in finale

  • Joined ESPN in 2014
  • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

Georgia was installed as a small favorite over Alabama in a national championship game that bookmakers believe will be the most-heavily bet ever.

The Bulldogs opened as 2-point favorites over the Crimson Tide at Caesars Sportsbook. The SEC rivals will collide Jan. 10, in Indianapolis in the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.

It’s a rematch of the SEC Championship Game, in which Alabama beat Georgia 42-24 in early December. The Crimson Tide were 6.5-point underdogs in that game. It was only the second game in which they had been an underdog since 2009; both times came against Georgia.

For now, Alabama is an underdog again.

“This line is close, so I’d expect a huge [betting] handle on the game, Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN on Friday night. “It will be interesting to see if the bettors put a lot of stock behind the Alabama win in the SEC Championship Game in how they handicap this game.”

The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide each won impressively in Friday’s semifinals. Georgia crushed Michigan 34-11 in the Capital One Orange Bowl, and Alabama dominated Cincinnati 27-6 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl to advance to its sixth championship game in the last seven seasons.

“I think the public will be on Georgia,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said. “Georgia got to make the last impression, and it was a very, very good one, as they obliterated a good Michigan team. Public may write off Alabama’s win over Cincinnati, thinking they (the Bearcats) never should have been there in the first place.

“Anything less than the biggest handle for a title game ever would be a disappointment in my book.”

The over/under total on the championship game opened at 51.5.

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