College Football Betting: SEC Championship Game Predictions
by Todd Lepow - 12/04/2008
This week's version of the year's biggest college football game pits No. 1 Alabama against No. 2 Florida in the SEC Championship Game with a trip to the BCS National Championship Game on the line. Here's my game preview with predictions:
All eyes will be on this game, which kicks off at 4 p.m. EST in Atlanta. The winner of this heavyweight tilt will be playing for the national championship while the loser will likely have to settle for a lesser BCS bowl game. Oddsmakers at Bookmaker have installed Florida as a 9.5-point favorites with the total set at 51.5.
Alabama comes in having won all 12 of their games with an average margin of victory of 20.5 points per game. Senior quarterback John Parker Wilson has taken a back seat to a running game led by an offensive line featuring a NFL level left side in Andre Smith and Mike Johnson. Running backs Glenn Coffee and Mark Ingram have followed them for a combined 1,916 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns total.
The passing game has still been able to convert key third downs throughout the season as freshman Julio Jones leads the Tide with 46 receptions for 723 yards. Jones has been very consistent and has at least three receptions in the last eight games.
Coming into the season ranked No. 24, the Crimson Tide has moved up to No. 1 mainly because of their ability to hold teams to a paltry 12.5 PPG and have only given up 883 rushing yards on the year (second in the nation). Defensive tackle Terrence Cody has been the key clog inside and Rashad Johnson and Javier Arenas have held opposing teams passing games to 174.5 yards per game.
Still, arguably no team comes into Week 13 with as much hype as the Florida Gators. Since a home loss to Mississippi on Sept. 27 the Gators have chomped away at opponents, winning their last eight games by an average margin of 39.6 PPG. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow leads an Urban Meyer spread offense that has scored at least 30 points in every game this season except one.
Their main offensive threat, however, has been RB/WR Percy Harvin, who is questionable for this game with a high ankle sprain. He has managed to score a touchdown in every game he has played in this year and has totaled 16 on the season. With Harvin at least hobbled by the injury it will be up to speedsters Chris Rainey and Jeffery Demps to step up and fill in for the big plays that Harvin created. Florida's defense is no slouch either with JR linebacker Brandon Spikes leading a unit that has created 23 interceptions (second in the nation) and returned five for scores (No. 1 in college football).
This will be a tremendous football game featuring two great coaches in Nick Saban and Urban Meyer facing off with everything on the line. Saban has already mentioned to his team that they are almost double-digit dogs in this one and getting no respect. This should motivate Alabama even more as most are saying that Florida will be in the National Championship Game already. The key to this game is going to be John Paker Wilson's accuracy and ability to convert third downs. Florida's cornerbacks are very fast and Alabama is going to need to come up with a way to keep the chains moving and keep that vaunted Florida offense off the field.
When Florida has the ball I expect it to be their biggest struggle of the season offensively as they face the toughest defense they have played all year. With Harvin either less than full speed or ruled out for the game, Terrance Cody will be able to hone in on Tebow and Rolando McClain will be less likely to be fooled by Florida's constant misdirection.
Expect a close game throughout with the winner having no more than 28 points. This should be a one possession football game as Florida hasn't faced a team nearly as complete as Alabama. Getting 9.5 points in a game with an undefeated and talented Alabama team is the way to go in this one. We also think the total is a little too high for two dominating defensive clubs.
SEC Championship Prediction: Alabama 26, Florida 20