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TCU vs Georgia preview: CFP National Championship predictions, odds, 4 matchups to watch

The CFP National Championship Game is set with TCU vs Georgia battling for the national title. It’s an opportunity for both the TCU Horned Frogs and Georgia Bulldogs to make history, as both teams have a shot at doing something special on Monday.

No one expected TCU to be here. Entering the season, first-year coach Sonny Dykes took over a team that didn’t even plan to start Max Duggan. Even more incredibly, the Horned Frogs were kept out of the preseason top 25 rankings. Fast forward to January and TCU is one win away from completing the most unexpected championship season in decades.

It’s a very different story for Georgia. Even after losing multiple starters to the 2022 NFL Draft, many projected the reigning national champions to be in the mix this season. Led by Heisman finalist Stetson Bennett and one of the best defenses in college football, the Bulldogs are on the brink of becoming the first back-to-back national champion in the CFP era.

Related: CFP National Championship live blog

Let’s dive into our preview, predictions and matchups to watch for the CFP National Championship game on Monday night.

TCU vs Georgia odds

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Here are the latest CFP National Championship odds via BetMGM.

  • Spread: -12.5 Georgia Bulldogs
  • Moneyline: Georgia Bulldogs (-450), TCU Horned Frogs (+350)
  • Point Total: 63.5 total points

Related: Longest field goal in college football history

TCU vs Georgia game info

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Here’s how to watch the CFP National Championship Game, TV info, and broadcast time. It can also be watched on YouTube TV.

  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • TV: ESPN
  • Location: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA

3 matchups to watch in CFP National Championship Game

Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus and Team Rankings.

TCU Horned Frogs’ rushing attack vs Georgia Bulldogs run defense

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Looking back at the CFP Semifinal, you’ll see a big part of why TCU reached this point. Facing a top-10 run defense, the Horned Frogs ran all over the Michigan Wolverines with 263 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, an outstanding 6.4 yards per carry on 41 attempts.

It’s been a core ingredient of Sonny Dykes’ offense this season. Entering Monday night, TCU ranked 46th in rushing rate (54.34%). Naturally, the approach is fueled by great success with the Horned Frogs’ offense ranked 16th nationally in rushing yards per game (206.4) and 10th in yards per rush (5.4).

A successful rushing attack is imperative for Duggan’s success. The Heisman Trophy finalist ranked top-50 among starting quarterbacks in the rate of play-action attempts (27.7%). Across 125 dropbacks on play action, Duggan finished 10th in PFF grade (88.3) with a 13-1 TD-INT ratio, 11.8 yards per attempt and a 64.6% completion rate.

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Dykes will attempt to stick with what helped his team reach this point. TCU proved it could rack up yards and play physical football against Michigan, a top run defense entering the CFP Semifinal, but Georgia is a different beast.

  • Georgia Bulldogs run defense stats: 84.7 rush ypg allowed (1st), 3.1 yards per carry (4th)

The Bulldogs just held the Ohio State Buckeyes running backs to 79 rushing yards on 18 attempts – in the Peach Bowl. Across the entire season, Georgia is responsible for allowing just five 20-plus yard runs over the entire season.

Heading into the CFP National Championship Game, Georgia rates as the ninth-best run defense in the country by Pro Football Focus. While Michigan is higher, it also faced a lower level of competition this year.

If Georgia shuts down TCU’s ground game early and its dominant defensive front led by Jalen Carter can weaken the threat of play-action passes for Duggan, it would go a long way to a win.

Georgia Bulldogs secondary vs Quentin Johnston

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Plenty of eyes will be on the trenches, with everyone monitoring Georgia’s pass rush against TCU’s offensive line. While that’s definitely one area that will help swing this game, TCU Horned Frogs star Quentin Johnston is the caliber of receiver who can beat a defense on his own.

It’s not as if Georgia’s secondary is a strength this season. It allowed 106 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the first half to Marvin Harrison Jr. He later drew pass interference on No. 1 cornerback Kelee Ringo. When Harrison Jr. exited, Emeka Egbuka (112 yards, 1 TD) eviscerated Georgia all over the field.

Consider that Georgia ranks 38th in PFF’s pass coverage grade and its cornerbacks are a big part of the problem. While Ringo is a projected first-round pick, he ranked 152nd among qualified cornerbacks in coverage grade (68.5). He allowed 13.3 yards per reception and missed 12,5% of tackles in coverage, two alarming statistics in advance of this matchup.

Johnston – standing at 6-foot-4 with a 4.4 40-yard dash – can exploit Ringo and the Bulldogs’ defensive backs in coverage. Duggan will target him 10-plus times, especially on throws underneath and in the middle of the field. This is one of the best YAC threats of his era and he will cause all kinds of problems for Georgia. If Kirby Smart doesn’t have any semblance of an answer to contain him, Johnston could win this game for TCU.

Stetson Bennett vs Max Duggan

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While quarterbacks never go head-to-head in a game, there is a reason to focus on both Bennett and Duggan. Each leader of the offense will take the field with a gaudy resume that a national championship could wrap together perfectly. However, neither signal-caller is the caliber of player who many would project for a bright future in the NFL.

Related: Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett generating NFL buzz

There are moments of good and bad with Bennett. Oftentimes, especially in the Peach Bowl, it happens in the same game. Before leading Georgia on a game-winning drive, featuring surgeon-like precision with his passing, Bennett completed just 4-of-12 attempts for 98 passing yards and one interception in the second and third quarters.

  • Georgia Bulldogs offense stats: 39.8 PPG (6th), 496.2 ypg (6th), 7.1 yards per play (2nd)

It should come as no surprise that Bennett rarely faced pressure this season. Behind a dominant offensive line, he had the second-lowest rate of pressure on dropbacks (18.8%). On the rare occasion when he faced disruption, Bennett posted a 1-3 TD-INT ratio and only completed 42.9% of his passes, all while ranking 100th in QB rating (50).

From a clean pocket, though, Georgia’s senior quarterback held a stellar 22-4 TD-INT ratio, completed 72.7% of his pass attempts (22nd in FBS) and it all resulted in a stellar 117.9 NFL QB rating. Considering how well he protects the football when not under duress, TCU must find creative ways to create pressure to have any shot at winning.

We’ve already addressed how Duggan performs on play-action attempts and how crucial the ground game will be for his performance. Blitzing Duggan isn’t wise – 14-3 TD-INT, 11.0 ypa, 124.4 NFL QB rating vs blitz this season but four-man pressures cause problems.

  • TCU Horned Frogs offense stats: 39.7 PPG (7th), 462.1 ypg (17th), 6.5 yards per play (13th)

Duggan wasn’t particularly effective when pressured in 2022. He completed just 41.9% of his attempts (17th-worst in FBS) with a 93.1 NFL QB rating. So, Georgia’s long and powerful athletes on the defensive line will look to pin their ears back and attack an offensive line that ranked 96th in Pass Blocking Efficiency (88.7).

There are clear ways to exploit both Duggan and Bennett, putting the game more on their shoulders and forcing them to make throws into tighter windows and make sound decisions against pressure. Whichever team fares better at it will likely come out on top.

Brock Bowers vs TCU Horned Frogs linebackers

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Georgia tight end Brock Bowers is one of the best players in college football. While he didn’t post stats worthy of earning Heisman consideration, the box score doesn’t show his full impact. This is a 6-foot-4 superathlete capable of making a game-changing play at any moment.

TCU is definitely going to have its hands full in the middle of the field. As charted by Pro Football Focus, Bowers caught 15 passes thrown in the middle of the field on throws between 10-19 yards this season, with Bennett posting a 129.6 NFL QB rating on those attempts. When Bennett went to Bowers on underneath throws (0-9 yards), he caught 90% of the targets and averaged 7.55 yards per route run.

Horned Frogs linebacker Johnny Hodges (71.9 PFF coverage grade) and safety Mark Perry will likely be tasked with helping to cover Bowers. Just a few weeks ago, this defense allowed 36 yards on four receptions to Michigan freshman tight end Colston Loveland. Bowers is a force like TCU has never faced before and he could be the one Bennett relies upon to pick up early first downs.

TCU vs Georgia prediction

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After picking Georgia to blow out Ohio State in the Peach Bowl and Michigan to sneak by TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, the lesson is anything can happen. Most expect the Bulldogs to dominate on Monday night, but there are vulnerabilities TCU can exploit. We think this will be an entertaining national championship game, but Georgia’s talent advantages on both sides of the ball paired with its experience and coaching make the difference. We project a close game until the fourth quarter when Georgia pulls away and is crowned national champions for the second consecutive year.

  • Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 38, TCU Horned Frogs 24