Footballs

The National Championship Game, according to the GRT Statsy Preview Machine

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Alabama opened as a 7-point favorite over Ohio State, and on the morning of the game, the line is now 8.5. What does the GRT Statsy Preview Machine have to say about that?

Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense for both teams

Alabama’s Scoring Offense this year: 48.2
Ohio State’s Scoring Offense this year: 43.4
Alabama’s Scoring Defense this year: 19
Ohio State’s Scoring Defense this year: 22

From the perspective of Alabama

The Ohio State scoring defense of 22 is most similar to the following prior Alabama opponents:

  • Texas A&M 21.7
  • Georgia 20

And Alabama’s offense cares not one bit: The Tide scored 52 points against Texas A&M and 41 points against Georgia, an astounding 223% of what those teams did against it entire slate of competition this season. That makes the estimated points for Alabama against Ohio State 49.1. Sheesh.

But . . . the Ohio State scoring offense of 43.4 is most similar to the following prior Alabama opponents:

  • Florida 39.8
  • Mississippi 39.2

Florida got 46 against Alabama, and Mississippi got 48, so the defense can be vulnerable. Combined, that’s 119% of normal, and it puts the estimated points for Ohio State against Alabama at 51.7. Well.

Estimated score: Alabama 49.1, Ohio State 51.7

From the perspective of Ohio State

The Alabama scoring defense of 19 is most similar to the following prior Ohio State opponents:

  • Clemson 20.2
  • Indiana 20.3

Ohio State scored 49 points against Clemson and 42 against Indiana, which is an equally-astounding 225% of normal for those teams. It puts the estimated points for Ohio State against Alabama at 42.8.

The Alabama scoring offense of 48.2 is most similar to the following prior Ohio State opponents:

  • Clemson 43.5
  • Penn State 29.8

Ohio State allowed only 28 points to Clemson and 25 to Penn State, 72% of what those teams usually did this season. That Penn State comp is actually the second-best comp, but it’s really not even close. But because it’s the (second-)best we have, we’ll use it. Estimated points for Alabama against Ohio State: 34.7.

Estimated score: Ohio State 42.8, Alabama 34.7

SPM Final Estimates

Combining the results from both perspectives, here’s what we get:

SPM Final estimated score: Alabama 41.9, Ohio State 47.3

SPM Final estimated spread: Ohio State -5.4

Difference between the SPM and the Vegas opening spread: 12.4

It’s odd for this to happen, but according to the Machine, this is a Category 3 game, meaning it feels good about that prediction. But read on.

Eyeball adjustments

Yikes, that just feels wrong, doesn’t it? I don’t think I’ll use the word “shocked,” but I was really, really surprised by that. So I ran the thing again, this time with all games as comps, rather than just the two “best” comps. In fact, I didn’t stop there; I ran the thing for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 comps. The Machine picked Alabama in every single one of those scenarios, most by right around the Vegas opening line of 7 points. I will note, for whatever it’s worth, that it also never got above the current line of 8.5.

So the question is, is there something wrong with those two “best” comps, or is it actually on to something?

The primary difference between those two comps and all of the others is that the Alabama defense got torched, giving up 48 points to Ole Miss early in the season but also giving up 46 points to Florida late. Nobody else got over 24 points the entire season. They held Notre Dame to only 14 in the most recent game. The Irish offense averages 33 points per game.

The question then is this: Is Ohio State’s offense like Florida’s (and Ole Miss’) or Notre Dame’s? Are they going to put up points at will, or are they going to find it much more difficult to put up points tonight? I don’t feel good about a prediction either way on that question. Maybe they just get their usual output?

Based on all of that, I’m going with Alabama 45, Ohio State 42.

Other predictions from other systems

As I said earlier, Vegas had Alabama as a 7-point favorite to open. With an over/under of 76, that’s a prediction of something like Alabama 42, Ohio State 35.

According to the SP+ rankings, Bill Connelly appears to like Alabama by 4.3.

Bottom line

The Statsy Preview Machine is waving the danger flag for Alabama by pointing to potent Ole Miss and Florida offenses actually being almost able to keep up with Alabama’s own potent offense. It likes Ohio State by 5 points. I have more confidence in Alabama’s defense than that, so I think the Tide win, but I will buy in to them not covering either the opening 7-point spread or the current 8.5-point spread.

What do y’all think?

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