The Alabama Crimson Tide are the class of the FBS in playing defense, making halftime adjustments, and finding ways to score in all 3 facets of the game. They don’t always win 100-99, but they find the way to win. Juggernauts that prevail 17-3 or 24-7 are almost anachronistic in the NCAA or NFL.
The Tide are a (-25 ½) point spread favorite over Louisville in the season opener this weekend. With no Lamar Jackson on the field, some bettors consider ‘Bama a lock ATS or on the moneyline.
But there is another betting market that has my attention. The O/U total for the upcoming Alabama-Louisville tilt is currently at a stratospheric (62 ½) and climbing. The opening O/U total of (53 ½) seemed justifiable. Obviously, the line has been driven upward by action on the over. What do bettors envision will lead to a dazzling final score in this contest?
It can’t be Nick Saban, or his mismanagement of the Alabama QB situation. Saban made the blunder of the 2018 offseason when he allowed former starting quarterback Jalen Hurts to become dissatisfied with ‘Bama coaches while battling Tua Tagovailoa for the starting job. The rumor buzzing that Saban may start Hurts is likely the culprit for pushing the O/U line upward – based on the idea that the drama in the Tide locker room has ceased.
But the wounds can’t be healed that easily. Alabama has athletes quick, powerful, and ferocious enough to blister this new-look Cardinal squad by a million points. However, the storyline with Hurts is still fresh enough in everyone’s mind to cause some distractions.
Meanwhile, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino could be about to pay the price for thin recruiting. Jackson was amazing, an NFL blue-chipper, but who will run the show now? Jawon Pass is more of a pocket passer than Jackson. His targets will be electric with Jaylen Smith, Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick destined to have impact years, but one wonders where rushing yards will come from without a Heisman-level athlete behind center. Jackson’s 1601 yards on the ground was roughly 50% of the Cardinals’ rushing total last year, and 2nd-leading rusher Malik Williams has also left the program.
I’m starting to smell a great pick on the under. But first, let’s think about the pitfalls.
Alabama has to replace several key pieces from last year’s defense. The replacements are all 4 and 5-star recruits, so the defense will not miss a beat. But even with sack monster Raekwon Davis starting as a junior, I doubt ‘Bama coaches will utilize a strategy of ferocious blitzing. Too many players have new roles to be asked to cover one-on-one or beat a blocker in an all-or-nothing scenario.
Yet if the youngsters in the ‘Bama defensive make key mental errors, it will just lead to a few more minutes of possession for Louisville and less time for ‘Bama to add to their own point total.
Most offensive drives by visitors in Tuscaloosa are 3-and-outs or otherwise end after 4-10 plays. If Louisville is stopped dead in its tracks the whole game, they won’t sniff the endzone, and Alabama will need to put up 60 points to push past the bloated O/U.
If the favorites make key mistakes early in the ball game, it will likely add 5 extra minutes of possession for the underdog. But even if the visitors get a couple field goals off the mistakes, the Tide will have less clock to work with to put the ball in the end zone.
An ugly 31-12 game in which Louisville never comes close wins on the under. A shutout Alabama win with a final of 44-0 wins on the under too. A smooth 44-17 win for the Tide wins on the under.
Only a high-octane battle with endless defensive errors on defense is bound to win on the over…and that style of football is unlikely considering Alabama’s defense, and the QB issues on both teams.
Take under (62 ½) points for one of the highest-value picks on the CFP Week 1 board.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.