Mostly True
ESPN
Alabama’s Crimson Tide will be the underdog in Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs, the first time in 72 consecutive games that Alabama has not been favored by oddsmakers to win.

ESPN on Sunday, September 27th, 2015 in in an article

Oddsmakers barking about Georgia Bulldogs over the Crimson Tide

Fans expect a thriller as the University of Georgia Bulldogs meet rival Alabama Crimson Tide Between the Hedges in Athens on Saturday.

ESPN and other news outlets are reporting that the Alabama Crimson Tide likely will have rare underdog status Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs in one of the most highly anticipated SEC contests of the year.

Alabama hasn’t walked on the field as the underdog in 72 consecutive games --  not since the SEC Championship against Florida in 2009, ESPN reported.

Even then, as five-point underdogs, the Crimson Tide rolled over the Gators, 32-13. The team went on to win the national championship and has been favored by the oddsmakers to win every game since then --- until now.

It is the longest such streak in modern college history, according to ESPN college football insider Phil Steele.

That’s quite a claim -- one that caused PolitiFact Georgia to decide to temporarily step out of its comfort zone, truth-squading politicians and newsmakers, and check.

So when Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide roll into Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, will they really be the underdog pick for the first time in 72 games? Or is that just more hype about the Bama-Bulldog rivalry?

These two teams first met back in 1895 and have battled it out 66 times over the years, with Alabama coming out on top 37 times. Saturday’s game marks the first time the Crimson Tide has visited Athens since 2008, when Georgia trailed 31-0 at halftime before losing 41-30.

Underdog status isn’t a subject to be broached with university officials in Alabama, Georgia, or any state for that matter. That’s because it’s based on whether a team is or isn’t a betting favorite with Vegas oddsmakers, and betting in any form is against NCAA regulations. On Thursday, UGA was a 2.5-point  at William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook.

David Purdum, who covers the gambling industry as a staff writer for ESPN Chalk, told PolitiFact how he did his calculations.

Using one of several online college football preview magazines, Purdum looked at Alabama’s record against the spread since 2010 (36-34-1).

The Tide’s streak as predicted game winner started with the national championship game against Texas in 2009, so adding that to the 71 games since 2010 is how Purdum, who also freelances as a high school sports reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, came up with the count of a record 72 games in a row. He also cross-checked the info with ESPN’s Stats & Information Department, he said.

For this Saturday’s sellout game Between the Hedges in Athens, OddsShark.com had No. 8 ranked Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) favored by a 2.5-point spread. And underdog status could still turn by kickoff on Saturday, depending on how the final betting goes.

A win Saturday against No. 13 rated Alabama (3-1, 0-1 SEC) would be a huge boost for the Bulldogs. A loss could mean another second-tier bowl season for University of Coach Mark Richt’s program.

But atAt a press conference Tuesday, Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt wasn’t talking like Alabama is the game’s underdog.

"They're as good or better than they've ever been, in my opinion," he said of Alabama.

The Crimson Tide rarely finds itself in a must-win situation this early in the season. But a second straight conference loss would be devastating for the team's playoff chances, while a win would put Alabama right back on track with home dates in three of the team's next four games.

Our ruling

ESPN and others are reporting that the Alabama Crimson Tide will likely have rare underdog status Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs in one of the most highly anticipated SEC contests of the year. That’s based on the fact that for 72 games in a row Alabama was favored in betting to win. And that wasn’t the case this week as bets started being placed for the game Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

But since betting goes on down to the wire, there’s at least a possibility that the underdog status could change up to game time. That’s why they call it gambling.

And given the unknown, we have to hedge a bit ourselves at this stage of the game.

We rate the statement Mostly True.