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No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 TCU: National championship game preview, best bets

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No. 1 Georgia (14-0) vs. No. 3 TCU (13-1)

Location: Los Angeles | When: January 9th (8pm ET) | TV: ESPN | Line: Georgia -12.5 | Total: 63.5

How did these teams get here?

Georgia: The Bulldogs are on the verge of becoming the first team in college football playoff history to win back-to-back titles and join Alabama (2011 and 2012) as the only other consecutive winner in the 2000s.

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The Bulldogs lost a ton of defensive talent from that 2021 national championship team and just rebooted. Last year’s team scored a staggering 10 points per game, and Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, Quay Walker, Devonte Wyatt and Lewis Sin were selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

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In their absence in 2022, Smael Mondon Jr became the team’s leading player. Malachi Starks proved himself as a star defender and Jason Dumas-Johnson made a huge leap into linebacker. Oh, Georgia could also have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in their defensive line. Inside lineman Jalen Carter has seven tackles for losses and three sacks in 12 games and may be college football’s most devastating inner force.

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The offense lost the likes of running backs Zameer White and James Cook, as well as wide receivers Jermaine Burton and George Pickens. But the division brought back a lot of production and immediately exploded in a 49-3 win over Oregon to start the season.

By now, you know how Stetson Bennett went from rookie to Heisman finalist as he became one of the best quarterbacks in college football. The running game relies on versatile backhander Kenny McIntosh (779 rushing yards, 506 receiving yards), Daijuan Edwards’ stability (5.5 carry yards) and Kendall Milton’s explosive energy (7.3 carry yards). And receivers can create mismatch issues across the field with TE Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington and WR Ladd McConkey.

Only Ohio State (7.2) averaged more yards per game than Georgia (7.1) as the Bulldogs averaged nearly 40 points per game. Georgia’s average win margin in games is almost 24 points, and that’s with a one-point lead over the Buckeyes in the Peach Bowl.

Could Jalen Carter, a potential top 3 pick, be a powerhouse Monday Night Nationals destroyer against TCU?  (Photo by Rich von Bieberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Could Jalen Carter, a potential top 3 pick, be a powerhouse Monday Night Nationals destroyer against TCU? (Photo by Rich von Bieberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TCU: The Horned Frogs are experiencing one of the greatest turning points in college football history. After winning 5–7 in 2021 and being widely selected to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12, TCU has just one defeat and is winning from the school’s first national title since 1938.

It’s hard to overstate how things went wrong for TCU in 2021. The team trailed on six points per game and parted ways with longtime coach Gary Patterson in eight games of the season. TCU went 181-79 in Patterson’s 22 seasons at school and won 10 or more games in half of those years.

The school hired SMU coach Sonny Dykes to replace Patterson and the improvement was immediate with an offense that has returned virtually unchanged since 2021 and a defense bolstered by a transfer portal.

Like fellow finalist Heisman Bennett, Max Duggan has his own unique path to the top of college football. Duggan wasn’t even a starter for TCU at the start of the season. Chandler Morris started Game 1 against Colorado. But Duggan took over after Morris was injured and didn’t look back.

While Georgia can be identified by its dominance and four- and five-star recruits, the theme of the TCU season is its perseverance and incredible ability to come back from a double-digit deficit. The Horned Frogs lost to Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Texas Tech in the middle of the season and won all of those competitions. A last-second field goal was needed to take down the pesky Baylor team before TCU signaled it was heading to the playoffs with an Iowa State breakout.

Even the only loss of the season included a comeback. Kansas State beat TCU 31-28 in overtime to win the conference title, but the Horned Frogs forced an extra period with 11 points in the final eight minutes of regulation.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DEC 31: Wide receiver Quentin Johnston #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs lines up against the Michigan Wolverines during the fourth quarter of the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Horned Frogs defeated Wolverine 51-45.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TCU WR Quentin Johnston is likely to be selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Will he have a big game on Monday night in the Nationals? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Breakdown of rates

TCU enjoys the support of a large majority of the players and this favoritism is the reason why tthe line stands at 12.5 after opening at 13.5. The Horned Frogs are 10-3-1 against the spread this season, while Georgia is 7-7. Players are also very fond of over-hitting. The total opened at 61.5 and is up two pips as more than 80% of bets and cash at BetMGM have run out.

Sonny Dykes may join an exclusive club

If TCU wins on Monday, Dykes will become the fourth coach in American football history to win a national title in his first season at school. Michigan’s Benny Oosterbahn was in his first year with the Wolverines when they won the AP title in 1948, and Dennis Erickson led Miami to a national title in 1989, his first year with the Washington State team.

The last coach to win a national title in his first season was also a Miami coach. The Hurricanes won the 2001 BCS title in Larry Cocker’s first year after Butch Davis left for the NFL.

“I think if you had asked us before the season if we were going to play in the national championship, most of us probably wouldn’t have thought we would,” Dykes said this week. “I thought we were capable of course, but we just didn’t make it together.

“And a lot needs to be done to do it together. You know you can. And you learn a lot along the way. So this year we kind of had to build a plane while we were flying it. And I think our guys have done a fantastic job of adapting.”

In case you’re wondering, TCU’s chances of winning a national title before the start of the season were 150-1.

TCU head coach Sonny Dykes holds the trophy after the NCAA College Football Fiesta Bowl Playoff semifinal game on Saturday, December 31, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona.  TCU defeated Michigan 51–45.  (AP Photo/Rick Scooteri)
Sonny Dykes may be just the fourth coach to win a national title in his first season at school. (AP Photo/Rick Scooteri)

Are the last two games a surge for Georgia’s defense?

Georgia lost less than 15 points per game in 2022 and 209 points over 14 games. But 71 of those points came in the last two contests, with LSU scoring 30 points in Georgia’s SEC title game win and then Ohio State scoring 41 before missing a field goal in the last seconds of last week’s Peach Bowl.

The Bulldogs have not lost more than 22 points in a single game prior to the SEC title game, and no team has broken 20 points since Florida on October 29. Georgia’s lockdown defense since late November has been far from it. Is there any reason for concern?

If something fundamentally wrong with the defense of Georgia this season, then the TCU offense will become an exceptional problem. The Horned Frogs lead the nation in games of 50 yards or more, and two of them were against Michigan.

“So I think, again, Georgia is not used to dropping that many points, but you should see what Georgia is like in the fourth quarter of this game,” Dykes said. they have a team because they responded and did exactly what you expect them to do, found a way to win… But I’m sure they fix some of those mistakes in the passing game.

“And these are the plays that we will have to put on. We’re going to have to play 50/50 with the ball and we need our best players to step up and play big games like they did last week. And when you get to this point in the season on a stage like this, these great players should be playing at a high level.”

Can TCU contain a Georgia run game?

While TCU’s two sixes of Michigan QB JJ McCarthy were a big reason the Horned Frogs won the game, it’s impossible to ignore what TCU did against Michigan’s vaunted rushing attack.

The Horned Frogs lost 186 yards on 40 carries, but many of those yards came in a few big plays. Donovan Edwards ran for 54 yards on the first drive and McCarthy ran for 21 yards TD and rushed for 39 yards. Beyond those games, Michigan had 37 carries for 72 yards thanks to a TCU defense that made an incredible 12 stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Will the Horned Frogs be behind schedule in Georgia like they did in Michigan? And if so, would it be just as important? Bennett is a better passer than McCarthy and Georgia has a better receiver.

Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) runs to the endzone for a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of the NCAA College Football Peach Bowl Playoff semifinal game on Saturday, December 31, 2022, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh is a double threat runner. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

How healthy will Kendra Miller be?

The TCU star runner injured his right foot in the first half of the Fiesta Bowl and tried to play in the second half but was unable to. He was replaced by Emari Demercado, who made the most of his opportunity, rushing for 69 yards and 17 carries overall for 150 yards.

Miller had eight carries for 57 yards before he quit, and the injury left the Fiesta Bowl the first game of the entire season in which he failed to score a rushing touchdown.

While Demercado has shown against Wolverine that he can be No. 1 back in a pinch, TCU’s offense is just as good as it is due to Miller. The two-star former rookie averages over six yards per carry and has rushed for almost 1,400 yards.

“We will continue to try to find out where he is,” Dykes said on Saturday. “I think in the next 24 hours we will obviously have to make a decision, have a pretty good idea of ​​what he can do before the game on Monday. to be able to play so let’s see how it feels [Saturday].”

If Miller can get 15 carries and is effective, TCU’s chances of handling the upset are much better.

Can the best Heisman finalist win?

Is it as easy as saying that the national champion will be the team that gets the best out of their finalist quarterback Heisman?

Both Bennett and Duggan shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the moment…



Source: sports.yahoo.com

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