No. 1 Georgia (14-0) and No. 3 TCU (13-1) will square off in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Both teams won close, high-scoring games in the semifinal round against Big Ten opponents. TCU had to keep Michigan at arms-length after allowing them to stay in the game despite having a 19-point lead near the end of the third quarter.
On the other hand, Georgia won after playing the role of the ‘comeback kings’ as they faced a 14-point deficit to Ohio State multiple times.
Both teams feature high-scoring offenses led by Heisman trophy finalists at quarterback.
Georgia and Texas are two of the biggest football states in America, and having these two teams face off in Hollywood will make it all the more exciting.
Obviously, TCU is headlined by senior quarterback Max Duggan. Duggan has thrown for 3,546 yards, 32 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 63.7% completion percentage this season. He’s also rushed for 461 yards with eight rushing touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Quentin Johnston (6’4 215 lbs) is their leading receiver this season with 59 receptions, 1,066 yards and six touchdowns. Johnston was named the offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl after hauling in six catches for 163 yards and a touchdown.
The Horned Frogs present a challenge offensively, but they might be without their leading rusher Kendre Miller (1,399 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, 17 TD). The junior running back injured his knee in the first half of the Fiesta Bowl. He tried returning in the second half but couldn’t go. TCU head coach Sonny Dykes is optimistic that Miller will return for the championship game, but he is currently listed as questionable.
Senior Emari Demercado will be the main running back if Miller is unable to play. In the Fiesta Bowl, Demercado tallied 150 yards on 17 carries, including one pivotal 69-yard touchdown run that stretched their lead over the Wolverines.
Georgia’s defense has not looked like the Georgia defense we’re used to seeing in these past two games against LSU and Ohio State.
However, they have had the luxury of playing against higher quality competition than TCU has. Despite the recent woes defensively (giving up an average of 35.5 points and 508 total yards in the past two games), Georgia still remains as one of the best defenses in the country.
Stetson Bennett had a slow first half against Ohio State, but turned it around towards the end when it mattered most. Georgia has used a term all season when facing adverse situations; they pull out their “composure cards.” Bennett and the rest of the Bulldogs know how to stay cool, calm, and collective when the game is on the line. They will need to pull out their composure cards one more time if they want to be back-to-back national champions
Georgia has a few injury questions heading into the national championship. Junior tight end Darnell Washington missed the rest of the Peach Bowl after sustaining an ankle injury. Luckily, there was no ligament damage and he’s listed as questionable. Senior offensive tackle Warren McClendon is listed as questionable with a knee injury. Regardless of McClendon’s injury status, sophomore Amarius Mims will probably get the start after having his first career start against Ohio State.
Wide receivers AD Mitchell and Ladd McConkey are still dealing with lingering leg injuries, but both are listed as probable and should be full goes Monday night.
Yes, the Bulldogs are an elite football program and the reigning national champions, because of the talent they bring in every year. But, it’s also because Kirby Smart does a great job of equipping his defensive players with appropriate and well-executed game plans. They also don’t allow many explosive plays, because Smart emphasizes eye discipline and open-field tackling every week.
TCU has a great offense, but they do not have the explosive potential of Ohio State or Tennessee. Their skill players are not as fast or shifty as those teams previously mentioned.
Especially if Kendre Miller is not able to go, that could bode trouble for the Horned Frogs. However, if Miller (6’0 220 lbs) is able to play, that’s a different story. He is a do-it-all type of running back that has an elite ability to slip through tackles and break off long runs. He could be a game-wrecker for the TCU offense if he is cleared to play.
Key to the game
The availability or unavailability of Kendre Miller will play a huge factor in the trajectory of this championship game. Either way, TCU will have to turn around their misfortunes on later downs and in the red zone.
The Horned Frogs are in the middle of the pack in Division I on third down conversion percentage, ranking 47th offensively and 35th defensively. They have not been great in the red zone either, ranking 69th on offense and 60th on defense.
Meanwhile, Georgia is one of the best teams in the country in these circumstances. The Bulldogs are first in the country in red zone offense and red zone defense. They rank eighth in third down offense and second in third down defense.
Situational football is critical, especially in the biggest game of the year where one play could decide the outcome. Georgia has the advantage with championship experience, including the head coach and the quarterback. They haven’t played the defense we’re used to seeing, but this could be the game where we see the Georgia of old and dominate from start to finish. Defending national champions are 0-3 in ensuing championship games in the CFP era. The Georgia Bulldogs will be the first team to win back to back.
Final Score Prediction: Georgia 45 TCU 27
Date: Monday Jan. 9th, 2023
Broadcast & Time: 7:30 ET on ESPN