The 2020-21 college football season will go down in history as one of a kind. Despite all of the turmoil and chaos that players, coaches, and staff had to endure, it was a great season on the football field with many memories being made. It all culminates on Monday night with the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Big Ten and SEC conferences will match up one more time this bowl season as 3-seed Ohio State takes on the nation’s top team, Alabama. Betting odds and expert picks ahead of the title game favor the team that hails from the Heart of Dixie.
- Opening Lines: Alabama -6.5; O/U 75.5
- Current ATS Line: Alabama -8.5
- Current Over/Under: 75.5
- Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
- Date: Monday, Jan. 11, 2021
- Start Time: 8 p.m. EST
- Television: ESPN
- Last Meeting: January 1, 2015 – Ohio State defeated Alabama 42-35 in a College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
Despite being roughly a full touchdown underdog in their Sugar Bowl semifinal game against Clemson, Ryan Day’s Ohio State team took care of business in emphatic fashion. Many have argued that Clemson’s defense was not as polished this season as in years prior. While this does hold some merit, let’s not take away from the huge game that Justin Fields and the entire Buckeyes offense had. One would have to go back quite a long way to find the last time a team hung 49 points or more on the Tigers. Is Ohio State actually capable of putting up that kind of offensive performance against another top tier opponent?
While the answer to that question remains a mystery, one can almost guarantee that the Buckeyes will need to score a good amount if they hope to win. For as good as Ohio State has been offensively this season, Alabama has been even better. With an average of 48.2 points and 535.2 yards per contest, Alabama has been virtually unstoppable. Keep in mind that they managed those numbers playing primarily against SEC competition. There was no drop-off with Mac Jones taking over at quarterback for Tua Tagovailoa. If anything, the Crimson Tide offense only got better. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith is now a household name far beyond Tuscaloosa after winning the Heisman Trophy this past week. Alabama was without No. 2 wideout Jaylyn Waddle against Notre Dame in the semifinal and the casual fan likely wouldn’t have even known.
Both teams feature skilled running backs who combine power with explosiveness. Ohio State’s Trey Sermon followed up his massive 331-yard effort in the Big Ten Championship Game with another 193 yards in the Sugar Bowl. In an uncharacteristic twist on typical Nick Saban-coached Alabama defenses, the Tide allowed over 100 yards on the ground per game this season. Sermon will undoubtedly figure into the Buckeyes game plan in a big way. Of course, Ohio State will have their own hands full trying to stop Najee Harris. His 125 yards in the Rose Bowl semifinal against Notre Dame marked the sixth time he eclipsed the century mark on the ground this season. No wonder the over/under for this CFP National Championship Game is in the mid-to-upper 70’s!
- Ohio State 2020 Betting Trends: 4-3 ATS; 4-2-1 to the Over
- Alabama 2020 Betting Trends: 8-4 ATS; 7-5 to the Over
- Since the year 2000, Ohio State is 24-11-1 ATS as an underdog.
- Alabama is 1-9 ATS in their last ten games against opponents with an active winning streak of four games or more.
- Alabama is 7-1 both straight up and ATS in its last eight games against Big Ten opponents. The only loss was in the 2015 Sugar Bowl to Ohio State, a game the Buckeyes won outright as 7.5-point underdogs.
- Ohio State is averaging 43.4 points per game this season (No. 3 in FBs and No. 1 in the Big Ten)
- Ohio State is surrendering 22.0 points per game this season (No. 29 in FBS and No. 4 in the Big Ten)
- Alabama is averaging 48.2 points per game this season (No. 2 in FBS and No. 1 in the SEC)
- Alabama is surrendering 19.0 points per game this season (No. 13 in FBS and No. 1 in the SEC)
*Line movement analysis based on the DonBest Las Vegas betting market ticker*
All told, the point spread for Monday’s championship game has not made an overly drastic shift to date. The consensus opening line of Alabama -6.5 was driven up in the immediate wake of the College Football Playoff semifinals but has since trickled back down a bit. The Las Vegas consensus odds at the time of writing portray the Crimson Tide as an eight-point favorite. State sportsbooks remain slightly higher at Alabama -8.5 and -9.
The total for the game opened high and reasonably so given how electric both Ohio State and Alabama have been offensively this season. Sharp action hit the Under to cause a downward shift by a full point. The market has since reverted back to the original opening line of 75.5.
If Ohio State proved anything against Clemson, it’s that they certainly belonged in the College Football Playoff from a talent point of view. The criticisms of their inclusion despite playing half the number of games as the other three teams remain fair. Nonetheless, the Buckeyes are one game away from being an 8-0 national champ. While my own handicap and analysis leave me with no choice but to lay the points with Alabama, I can’t say it’s my favorite play for this game. Beware of an underdog that feels disrespected!
Now, getting around to that favorite game pick. Believe it or not, I like playing the total Under. We saw the line take sharp action shortly after opening, initially dropping the number down a full point. While it has since ticked back upward, 75.5 is a high total for any football game. I believe Alabama will push the 40-point threshold in this game, but I don’t see Ohio State staying close enough to reach the over/under line. This game can still be a shootout while staying under the lofty total. I like the value in this contrarian play.
Final Score Prediction: Alabama 41, Ohio State 31
Betting Picks: Alabama -8.5 and Under 75.5 (-106 and -110 respectively at FanDuel Sportsbook)
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our Sports Betting Strategy and Advice page is for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.