Tennessee Visits Georgia in SEC Battle for College Football Playoff Spot
The last month of college football’s regular season is here, and Saturday’s slate of games features several high-profile matchups. The biggest takes place in Georgia as the defending national champion Bulldogs host the Tennessee Volunteers.
The winner gets a leg up in the SEC East Division title race and almost certainly – barring disaster – becomes a lock for this year’s College Football Playoff, even if they should lose the SEC Championship game next month in Atlanta.
Even the loser won’t be eliminated entirely Saturday, unless the game is very lopsided. Should Saturday’s winner win the SEC title next month, Saturday’s loser still could find themselves among the four teams picked if they win out the rest of the way.
Both teams sport identical 8-0 records, but Georgia is 5-0 in the conference, while Tennessee is 4-0. The Vols, though, have had by far the most difficult schedule. They’ve already beaten five teams that were ranked at the time they played. That includes an epic 52-49 win at home over Alabama three weeks ago.
Sportsbooks gave Tennessee little chance of winning the title in the preseason, with oddsmakers posting odds as high as +15000 or 150-1. Now, DraftKings and BetMGM have them at 8-1. FanDuel and Ceasars offer them at 10-1, the fourth choice behind clear favorites Georgia (2-1 at all four), Ohio State (2-1 at DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM), and Alabama (+375 at Caesars).
A win at Georgia Saturday will put the Volunteers in that pack.
The playoff selection committee made Tennessee its No. 1 team in the country, based on its past performance. However, while coach Josh Heupel is proud of his team’s accomplishments, he knows the Vols’ job isn’t done.
The reality is, that is the first show, first rankings” he told reporters Thursday. “Everybody remembers what you do in November. The only one that matters is the last one. The reason we have gotten to the point where this is a big football game is because we have handled things the right way, coaches and players alike.”
The game kicks off at 3:40 pm ET on CBS.
Strength vs. Strength
Oddsmakers have Georgia, currently the No. 3 team in the playoff rankings, as the favorite, spotting the Volunteers between 8.5 and 9.5 points depending on the sportsbook.
The matchup features two senior quarterbacks. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett has completed 67.8% of his passes and thrown for 2,349 yards and nine touchdowns. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, meanwhile, has connected on 71.2% of his throws for 2,338 yards. He also has an impressive 21-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio.
Hooker will face his toughest test as the Bulldogs have the fourth-toughest defense, allowing just 262.6 yards per game. Georgia’s defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to register a passing efficiency rating of 103.01, the third-best in the nation.
Likewise, the Bulldogs’ defense will get a test. The Volunteers have the second-best passing offense in the nation, averaging 353.4 yards in the air per game.
Bettors Backing Tennessee
A game featuring two of the top teams in the country is usually a good bet to generate a lot of action, and Caesars lead college football trader Joey Feazel said the Tennessee-Georgia game is responsible for about 25% of its college football spread wagers this week.
The handle for this game is shaping up to be one of our biggest-bet games of the year,” Feazel said. “It’s going to be hard to top the Sunday night LSU-Florida State matchup at the beginning of the year, but it will rival some NFL games this Sunday.”
Most of the early action was on the Volunteers at Caesars. Bettors put 84% of the spread bets and 77% of the spread handle on Tennessee. However, on Friday, Caesars took a $110,000 wager on the Bulldogs at -7.5 and a $326,000 bet on the Bulldogs giving eight.
Caesars has the over/under currently set at 65.5 points, with 69% of the tickets and 66% of the money wagered on the over.
Over at WynnBET, Tennessee-Georgia is also its most wagered college football game this weekend. The Vols have received 79.5% of the spread bets, which started at eight points and moved to nine, and 68.5% of the spread handle.
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