Why does the SPM like Georgia in the SEC Championship Game?

The LSU Tigers opened as a 7-point favorite over the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game this week, although several online sites had them as only a 3.5-point favorite. As of Friday morning, there seems to be a consensus of LSU -7. We posted earlier that the GRT Statsy Preview Machine likes Georgia to not only cover but win, but here’s the detail on how it arrived at that conclusion and whether I think it’s right.

If you’re new here and wondering what the SPM is and whether it’s reliable, check out this post.

Georgia Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers

From the perspective of Georgia

Georgia’s points:

  • Georgia scoring offense for the season: 32.9
  • LSU scoring defense for the season: 22.1

The LSU scoring defense is most similar to the following prior Georgia opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • Tennessee 21.7
  • Texas A&M 22.7

Georgia scored only 19 points against Texas A&M but 43 against Tennessee. Based on that, the SPM estimates 30.9 points for Georgia against LSU.

LSU’s points:

  • Georgia scoring defense for the season: 10.4
  • LSU scoring offense for the season: 48.7

The LSU scoring offense is most similar to the following prior Georgia opponent(s):

  • Notre Dame 37.1
  • Auburn 34

Auburn scored only 14 points against Georgia, and Notre Dame got only 17. That’s under half of what those teams usually get, and based on that, the SPM estimates only 21.4 points for LSU against Georgia.

Estimated score: Georgia 30.9, LSU 21.4

From the perspective of LSU

LSU’s points:

  • LSU scoring offense for the season: 48.7
  • Georgia scoring defense for the season: 10.4

The Georgia scoring defense is most similar to the following prior LSU opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • Florida 14.4
  • Auburn 18.6

LSU scored 23 points against Auburn and 42 against Florida, nearly triple against the Gators, but only slightly more than what the Tigers usually allow. Based on that, the SPM estimates 20.5 points for LSU against Georgia.

Georgia’s points:

  • LSU scoring defense for the season: 22.1
  • Georgia scoring offense for the season: 32.9

The Georgia scoring offense is most similar to the following prior LSU opponent(s):

  • Florida 33
  • Auburn 34

Auburn scored 20 against LSU, and Florida got 28. Based on that, the SPM estimates 23.7 points for Georgia against LSU.

Estimated score: LSU 20.5, Georgia 23.7

SPM Final Estimates

Throw it in, cook it up, take a peek:

SPM Final estimated score: Georgia 27.3, LSU 21

SPM Final estimated spread: Georgia -6.3

Difference between the SPM and the current spread: 13.3

That difference between the SPM and the current spread makes this game one of the SPM’s favorites this week.

Eyeball adjustments

I’m uncomfortable with some of the volatility in the comps. For example, from Georgia’s perspective, LSU’s scoring defense is nearly identical to both Tennessee’s and Texas A&M’s, but Georgia got 43 against Tennessee and only 19 against A&M. I feel like A&M has pretty much been the same team all year, but the Vols have improved since they played Georgia, and Georgia’s offense seems to have regressed a bit. Basically, I think the estimate for Georgia’s points from Georgia’s perspective of 30.9 is a bit high. I’m thinking more like 24.

The same can be said of LSU’s points from LSU’s perspective. Georgia’s defense is not only much better than the two closest comps of Florida and Auburn, LSU’s results against those comps vary greatly, getting only slightly more against Auburn than what the Tigers usually give up but nearly triple against the Gators of what they usually give up. If Florida is a different team now than it was when those results were posted, then I think LSU’s estimated points of 20.5 might be a bit high as well. On the other hand, LSU’s offense has the feel of a juggernaut, so despite all of that, I’m inclined think that maybe it has that one pegged.

So, my eyeball-adjusted prediction is Georgia 24, LSU 21. I don’t like Georgia as much as the SPM does, but I still like them to not only cover but win outright.

Other predictions from other systems

As I said before, LSU opened as 7-point favorites from most sources, and those that had it there stayed there while the other sites adjusted to get there. With an over/under of 55 or so, that translates to something like LSU 31, Georgia 24.

Bill Connelly’s SP+ likes LSU 29-26, and gives the Tigers a 56% chance of winning.

ESPN’s FPI gives LSU a 55.7% chance of winning.

Bottom line

The SPM likes Georgia to not only cover the -7 spread, it likes the Bulldogs to win outright, and the game is actually in its “favorites” category. After eyeball adjustments, I don’t like them quite as much, but I do also like them to not only cover but win.

  • Vegas: LSU -7 (~LSU 31, Georgia 24)
  • SP+: LSU 29, Georgia 26 (doesn’t cover)
  • SPM: Georgia 27, LSU 21 (doesn’t cover)
  • Me: Georgia 24, LSU 21 (doesn’t cover)

What do y’all think?

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