CFP National Title Preview: TCU Bids To Upend Georgia In Ultimate David-Goliath Matchup

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Since its inception in 2015, the College Football Playoff national championship system has been dominated by the blue bloods of the sport.

Over that span, only five programs have won national titles, led by three from Alabama. The schools — Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, and Ohio State — have combined for a whopping 36 national championships since 1925.

On Monday night, TCU will attempt to disrupt the natural order.

Often viewed as a class below behind Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas, TCU entered the season with low expectations. Following the departure of longtime coach Gary Patterson in 2021, TCU had sports betting odds around 200/1 at numerous books to win the national title. But with a win over defending national champion Georgia on Monday night in Los Angeles, the Horned Frogs will pull off the improbable feat.

Tonight, Sonny Dykes will become the first Air Raid guy to play for the national title. To best understand how TCU, a 200-1 longshot has got here you need to read this to grasp the emotional roller coaster he’s been on, and why so many are rooting for him.

— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 9, 2023

TCU will compete in the CFP National Championship for the first time in program history. Before an upset 51-45 victory over No. 2 Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl, only four players on TCU’s current roster had taken part in a bowl game, coach Sonny Dykes said in a press conference on Sunday.

“This is obviously our first time to be on a stage like this, our players have really responded well to the challenge of taking all this in,” Dykes said. “They have exceeded expectations in terms of their ability to focus on what’s important and not get distracted.”

TCU’s last national title dates back 85 years. The program won the national championship in 1938, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was serving his second term in the White House. Led by quarterback Davey O’Brien, TCU defeated Carnegie Tech 15-9 to complete an 11-0 season. After finishing the 1959 season ranked No. 7, TCU went more than 40 years before ending a season ranked in the AP Top 25.

Experienced coaches from football backgrounds

As expected, both coaches expressed respect for each other in the days leading up to the game. Both Dykes and Georgia coach Kirby Smart are sons of former head coaches, with Dykes the younger of two sons of former Texas Tech coach Skip Dykes. A proponent of the “Air Raid system,” the elder Dykes retired in 1999 with 82 victories at the school, the most in program history until successor Mike Leach passed him in 2009.

“The thing I’ve found most impressive about them is how well coached they are,” Dykes said of Georgia. “They play hard, regardless of the score, I think that’s a big credit to their culture.”

Sonny Smart, the father of the Georgia coach, will be unable to attend Monday’s national championship due to an unspecified health issue. The elder Smart, who coached his son in high school at Bainbridge High in south Georgia, frequently attends Bulldogs games in person.

“It hurts me that he won’t be here,” Smart said Saturday during CFP Media Day. “I grew up under his tutelage, he meant a lot to me as a coach. You can’t stop learning, you’re green, you grow. And when you’re ripe, you’re ripe. You never want to be ripe.”

“It hurts me that he and my mom [Sharon] won’t be here.”

Kirby Smart’s father, Sonny, has made it to most of Georgia’s home and big games since his son was hired in 2016. He’ll miss Monday’s CFP title game with health issues, @ByPatForde writes

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 8, 2023

Georgia returns to the national championship game one season after boasting one of the most imposing defenses in college football history. At last year’s NFL Draft, Georgia broke a seven-round record for players selected in a single year with 15. The Bulldogs had five defenders selected in the first round, another draft record, including defensive end Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall selection.

Last season, Georgia held opponents to single-digit point totals in eight games, including three shutouts. Georgia’s defense remained stout in 2022, ranking fifth in FBS in points allowed per game (14.8). But Georgia’s pass defense appears vulnerable after Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud torched the Bulldogs secondary for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-41 loss in the Peach Bowl.

The Dawgs have given up 850 passing yards in the last eight quarters of football. What do they need to do [email protected] @palmerthombs @Wes_nship @ReuseRecruiting

— DawgsHQ (@DawgsHQ) January 9, 2023

After both teams lit up the scoreboard in the national semifinals, traders anticipate another shootout on Monday at SoFi Stadium. Leading up to the national title game, the over of 63 at PointsBet received backing from bettors on approximately 83% of all tickets.

Georgia remains a double-digit favorite

Georgia survived a determined upset bid by Ohio State in the Peach Bowl, erasing a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to prevail. Following the two semifinal classics, the Bulldogs opened as 14.5-point favorites at a number of books throughout the nation. Since then, the line has come down noticeably with Georgia a 13-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook on Monday afternoon. The line narrowed to 12 at several sportsbooks over the weekend, but rebounded across the board on Monday. As of 2 p.m. ET, the Bulldogs remained a 13.5-point favorite at FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBET, and PointsBet.

TCU will need a valiant effort from quarterback Max Duggan to pull off the upset. Duggan, the runner-up in the 2022 Heisman Trophy balloting, has thrown for 32 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Duggan has tossed at least three touchdowns in seven games this season. He is also one of the nation’s top dual threats with eight rushing touchdowns. BetMGM has odds of +125 on a Duggan anytime rushing touchdown.

“We don’t really see it as a Cinderella story. We believe in ourselves and feel like we’ve earned this position,” Duggan said.

Most bet props Georgia-TCU at @BetMGM

TCU to win by 1-6 points (+750)

Max Duggan to score anytime TD (+125)

Kenny McIntosh to score 1st TD (+650)

— John Ewing 🦁 (@johnewing) January 9, 2023

On the other side, TCU will attempt to contain Georgia’s Brock Bowers, one of the nation’s top tight ends. Despite being limited by an illness in the Peach Bowl, Bowers had four catches for 64 yards. There are odds of -115 at DraftKings on Bowers to finish with more than 61.5 receiving yards. Bowers leads the Bulldogs in catches and receiving yards.

Georgia is seeking consecutive national titles for the first time in school history.

Photo: Junfu Han/USA TODAY

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Author: Ryan Gonzales