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Georgia versus TCU: College Football Playoff National Championship Game Preview

By Tim Gardner

Date: Monday, January 9, 2023

Game Time: 7:30 Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Venue: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA

Televised: ESPN

Records: Georgia (14-0), TCU (13-1)

Number 1 University of Georgia and Number 3 Texas Christian University (TCU) will play at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood (Los Angeles), CA on Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Georgia’s Bulldogs are coming off of a 42-41 win over Number 4 Ohio State in the Peach Bowl semifinal, and the Horned Frogs stunned Number 2 Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal.

This won’t likely top either of the College Football Playoff semifinal games and Georgia is listed as a 12.5 favorite for dramatics. TCU’s victory over Michigan was wild, but Georgia’s was even more so in one of the greatest games in the collegiate history with its rally past Ohio State. Still, this is the National Championship game. Win, and Georgia will be the first back-to-back champion in the College Football Playoff era (since 2015) and the first since the 2011-2012 seasons.  If TCU prevails, it will be the Horned Frogs’ first national championship in 84 years (1938) and one of the most dynamic stories in college football history as they would have won it after not being ranked in the Top 25 at the season’s beginning.

A game breakdown by positions and which team has the advantage at each, along with an over-all game analysis and final predicted score by yours truly follows:


Each team has one of college football’s top stars at quarterback–Georgia’s former walk-on Stetson Bennett and TCU’s Max Duggan, who ironically didn’t even start the season as the Horned Frogs’ top quarterback.  But both have emerged into two of the most exciting players in the country and were 2022 Heisman Trophy finalists.

While neither Bennett nor Duggan had their best showings in the semifinal wins, they were key factors for their schools. 

Bennett led Georgia to two fourth-quarter touchdowns to erase an 11-point deficit. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns against an interception. And Duggan threw for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was intercepted twice by Michigan. But he also ran for 57 yards and two more touchdowns.

Bennett has completed 269-of-395 passes this season and 20 touchdowns.  He’s had only six interceptions. He’s also ran for seven touchdowns.

He was this season’s Southeastern Conference Championship game‘s Most Valuable Player (MVP) after leading the Bulldogs to a 50-30 win over Louisiana State (LSU) and he also was MVP of last year’s National Championship game, won by Georgia (33-18) over Alabama.

So far this season, Duggan has completed 239-of-368 passes for 3,321 yards.  He has thrown 30 touchdowns and has only been intercepted four times.  He’s also ran for 404 yards and six touchdowns.

He won the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards. The former is for college football’s top quarterback and the latter is for its top upperclassman signal-caller.

Duggan has passed for 9,241 yards and 71 touchdowns during his TCU career, while suffering only 24 interceptions.

These quarterbacks are so similar that neither team has a clear advantage among the tandem.  

Running Backs

TCU’s star running back Kendre Miller has run for 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. However, he left the Fiesta Bowl with a knee injury and his playing status for the title game is questionable. Still, expect him to play as this game for all the marbles. But if he doesn’t, senior Emari Demercado will likely get the first-team repetitions. Demercado rushed for 125 yards on 14 carries and ripped off a 69-yard run in the third quarter versus Michigan. Louisiana transfer Emani Bailey had 29 carries, 241 yards rushing and two touchdowns this season, and he will likely serve as the primary backup. 

Still, even if Miller plays and is healthy, Georgia has the advantage at running back. While there isn’t a single featured back with big-time statistics, the Bulldogs still have several good players at this position.

Georgia got past the 185-yard rushing mark in eight games and averaged more than five yards per carry in all of them. Other than the 16-6 win at Kentucky and the 39-22 victory over Kent State, all of those wins were blowouts.

Kenny McIntosh leads the Bulldogs with 779 rushing yards on a 5.5 average per carry and has 10 touchdowns. He’s also the team’s third-leading receiver with 42 catches for 506 yards and two touchdowns. Daijun Edwards has 741 rushing yards and Kendall Milton has 557. Each has scored seven touchdowns. Milton averages 7.3 yards per carry.  And freshman Branson Robinson is especially effective at plowing through and running by defenders too.

Offensive Line

The Horned Frogs aren’t overly deep with a rotation of six to seven players, but right tackle Andrew Coker is a top National Football league (NFL) prospect, and TCU’s line has created openings for runners all season. 

But depth is the name of the game for Georgia’s offensive front. It features Broderick Jones, Sedrick Van Pran and Warren McClendon as the anchors, and includes players such as Amarius Mims and Xavier Truss.

Give the Bulldogs the advantage across the offensive front.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

It’s almost even when rating which team has an over-all advantage among their wide receivers and tight ends. 

Georgia over-all receiving corps is highlight by Brock Bowers, a 6-foot-4 sophomore tight end leads the Bulldogs in receptions (56), receiving yards (790) and receiving touchdowns (six). For his career, he has 112 receptions, 1,672 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. Last month he won the Mackey Award as the country’s best tight end.

Georgia’s cast of pass-catchers has several big playmakers such as Ladd McConkey, key red-zone weapon Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Kearis Jackson and speedster Arian Smith, who can blow by a defense at any time.  Also, receiver Adonai Mitchell’s made huge plays against Ohio State, including the game-winning touchdown.

McConkey isn’t 100 percent after suffering a knee injury last month and the status of tight end Darnell Washington (lower body injury) remains uncertain.

The Horned Frogs counter with much explosiveness at wide receiver and tight end. Junior Quentin Johnston has been Duggan’s go-to receiver all season and was the Fiesta Bowl Most Valuable Player (six catches, 163 yards, one touchdown). He can change a game at any time. He may be the receiver with the most professional potential in this year’s draft class.

Taye Barber has 605 receiving yards for TCU this season, and Derius Davis is a major threat to score every time he catches a ball. Savion Williams and tight end Jared Wiley are big playmakers too.

Defensive Line

Jalen Carter (6-3, 300-pounds) is the leader of Georgia’s defensive front. Nazir Stackhous, Mykel Williams, Zion Logue, Tramel Walthour, Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins and Warren Brinson are other Bulldogs on its defensive line who have terrorized offenses.

While TCU counters with players such as the senior defensive end duo of Dylan Horton (10.5 sacks) and Terrell Cooper, who is excellent at pressuring quarterbacks, and freshman nose guard Damonic Williams, the Horned Frogs can’t match the depth along the defensive front that Georgia has.

Georgia gets the nod for having the best defensive line.


Navy transfer Johnny Hodges leads the Horned Frogs defense with 81 tackles, but its biggest star on defense in the Fiesta Bowl was first-team Big 12 all-conference player Dee Winters.

But it’s just hard to compare TCU’s unit with the physicality and aggressiveness of Georgia’s linebacker corps.  The Bulldogs lost star Nakobe Dean from last year’s team (along with three others), but has hardly missed a beat.

Jamon Dumas-Johnson has been a standout all season. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound sophomore who was a finalist for the Butkus Award, Dumas-Johnson leads the Bulldogs in both sacks (four) and tackles for loss (nine). He also ranks third on the team in total tackles (66). After being inserted into the lineup on last year’s championship team, Smael Mondon, Jr. leads Georgia with 71 tackles. Veteran Robert Beal, Jr. is another stellar player for this cast too.

And when you also key contributors like Trezmen Marshall, Rian Davis and Chaz Chambliss, it’s easy to understand why this unit is considered so talented and deep.  

With such a cast, it’s not surprising that Georgia leads the nation in rush defense and has a definite advantage over TCU in comparing the two’s linebacking corps.

Defensive Backs

Both Georgia and TCU have deep defensive backfields, but the Bulldogs’ are on another level from most team in the college football. Kelee Ringo is the most talented defensive player for the Bulldogs, even if he’s struggled at times.  Another veteran leader, Christopher Smith, has been very productive for Georgia all season, and true freshman Malaki Starks finished the regular season second on the team in tackles.

Javon Bullard, Kamari Lassiter and Tykee Smith are other standouts in Georgia’s secondary.

The Bulldogs have only given up 15 touchdown passes all season.  However, seven of them have been in the last two games. Most of their opponents have thrown on the Bulldogs to try to keep the score close or to rally from deficits.  But Georgia’s secondary has allowed 200 yards or more in six of the last seven games and Tennessee had 195 yards passing in the other.  LSU even passed for 502 yards against Georgia in the SEC Championship game. And Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud completed 68 percent of his passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns against Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. So Georgia can be venerable to surrendering a lot of yards to a passing attack.

But even with TCU boasting the Thorpe Award winner in Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and a stable of safeties such as big-play Bud Clark, Mark Perry, Millard Bradford, Abraham Camara and Namdi Obiazor, the Horned Frogs don’t have as much talent as Georgia in the secondary.

Give the Bulldogs the advantage when it comes to picking which team has the best secondary.  But the Bulldogs must defend the pass much better against TCU than they have the last half of the season or they could go down to defeat.

Special Teams

The teams are also closely matched in special teams.  Both have terrific kicking, with Georgia owning a slim advantage in punting because Brett Thorson (though he’s punted about half as much) averages 4.4 more yards per punt than Jordy Sandy. The Bulldogs also have a slight advantage among kickers. Jack Podlesny has made 25-of-30 field goals for the Bulldogs with his longest being 50 yards, and TCU’s Griffin Kell, has made 17-of-19 field goals with a long of 54.

TCU punt returner Derius Davis ranks fourth in the nation in yards per return (14.9) and has returned two for touchdowns. The Bulldogs rank a poor 129th in major college football in yards allowed per punt return (18.3), and Davis’s big-play ability is a game-changing force that Georgia must minimize.

In fact, Davis is so good that he tilts the advantage to TCU in special teams.  

Over-all Analysis and Final Score Prediction- 

While Georgia’s 2022 team isn’t as good as last year’s and some others in school history, the Bulldogs are still undefeated and champions of the SEC–college football’s toughest by far. The 2021 National Champions had a record 15 players drafted by NFL teams. But ace recruiting by seventh-year head coach Kirby Smart and his staff in which Georgia simply replaces great players with other great players is clearly evident. Again, this season’s team roster features more potential future professional players than any school.  And like last season—when the Bulldogs are playing well, they definitely have college football’s best team.

But first-year TCU head coach Sonny Dykes also has a great juggernaut, which has the capability of beating any team, including Georgia. The play between TCU’s receivers and tight ends and Georgia’s secondary could determine the outcome of this championship tilt. If the Horned Frogs pass for 400 or more yards, they have a high chance of pulling off the upset. 

But the biggest factor in who wins will be which team runs the ball most effectively, helping to consistently keep the other’s offense off the field and win the time of possession. I think that will be Georgia. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a rabid Georgia enthusiast. And those who meet me for the first time soon realize it too. I tried writing this column without any Bulldog bias and I believe I did so. I’m predicting the Bulldogs will win, not just because I want them to, but because they are better than TCU and will outplay the Horned Frogs.

Expect TCU to keep the score close for a while and maybe even lead a time or two. But Georgia will pull away in the second half as it controls the battles in the trenches.  Georgia’s better team speed and depth, along with its superior over-all talent will end TCU’s magical season run as the Bulldogs prevail to finish unbeaten at 15-0.  How ‘Bout Them Dawgs–Back-To-Back National Champions!

PREDICTION-Georgia 44, TCU 27