No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 TCU will kick off in the College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Monday night to decide the national championship. The Bulldogs are coming off a 42-41 win over No. 4 Ohio State in the Peach Bowl semifinal, and the Horned Frogs are still surging after stunning No. 2 Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal.
Georgia is looking to become the first repeat national champions of the CFP era and the first since Alabama accomplished the feat in 2011-12. Led by Heisman Trophy finalist Stetson Bennett IV at quarterback, the Dawgs have evolved into one of the most balanced and efficient offenses in the country. The Frogs sent a player to New York as a Heisman finalist as well. Max Duggan, who didn’t even start the season as TCU’s No. 1 signal-caller, has emerged into one of the most dynamic players in the country.
What should you expect in Los Angeles on Monday night? Let’s break down the game and make picks straight up and against the spread.
Georgia vs. TCU: Need to know
Bulldogs have evolved outside: Heading into the playoffs, Georgia’s list of top pass catchers was incredibly bizarre. Its leading receiver was a tight end (Brock Bowers) with a wide receiver (Ladd McConkey) and running back (Kenny McIntosh) filling out the top three. Things became apparent in the Peach Bowl that Bennett has more weapons outside than initially thought.
Adonai Mitchell, who had been hurt for the majority of the season, had the game-winning touchdown and 43 yards receiving, Arian Smith had 129 yards and a critical fourth-quarter score, and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint had two critical catches. It’s enormous that all of these receivers stepped up especially considering McConkey isn’t 100% after suffering a knee injury last month and the status of monster tight end Darnell Washington is up in the air.
“We’ve had musical chairs, and most people do because people have injuries at wide receiver positions, but between AD, Marcus, there’s been a lot,” coach Kirby Smart said this week. And I think [WR coach] Bryan McClendon and [offensive coordinator Todd] Monken have done a tremendous job of slicing and dicing those roles.”
TCU’s running backs to watch: Star rusher Kendre Miller, who has rumbled for 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, left the Fiesta Bowl with a knee injury. His status for the title game. If he can’t go, senior Emari Demercado will likely get first-team reps. Demercado rushed for 125 yards on 14 carries and ripped off a critical 69-yarder in the third quarter. Louisiana transfer Emani Bailey had 29 carries, 241 yards rushing and two touchdowns this season, and he will likely serve as the primary backup. Bailey posted 642 yards and eight touchdowns last season with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“I think he’s feeling pretty good,” coach Sonny Dykes said of Miller. “We got a pretty good (evaluation) on him the night before last when we got back from Phoenix. He was pretty sore. Woke up yesterday, felt a little bit better. I just saw him a little bit ago. He’s feeling better today So I would say he’s probably questionable, would be the way I would present it. We’ll see how he progresses through the week, see how he feels, and we’ll try to make a determination as we get closer to game time. whether we think he’s going to be ready to play or not.”
Battle for big plays: Wide receiver Quinten Johnston has been the go-to pass catcher for Duggan all season, and he will have a very interesting matchup Monday night against an ultra-talented Dawgs secondary.
“We’re just starting to get into them today, but their size on the outside stands out a lot,” Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard said this week. “We know they’ve got some very large receivers, big catch radiuses and they can run. Anytime you have that size on the perimeter, whether it’s quick game or deep balls, it’s always a great matchup.”
However, that secondary got torched by Ohio State’s passing game and, in particular, star wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. That came one game after LSU put up 502 passing yards in the SEC Championship Game.
“Ohio State made some big plays against them,” Dykes said. “And I’m sure particularly in the passing game. And I’m sure they’re going to work to get some of those issues addressed. And, quite frankly, they just made some contested plays, and Ohio State’s got a really good group of wide receivers. And those guys really played well.”
The chess match between the Frogs’ receivers and Dawgs’ secondary could determine the outcome of the title game.
How to watch Georgia vs. TCU live
Game: College Football Playoff National Championship
Date: Monday, Jan. 9 | Time: 8 pm ET
Location: SoFi Stadium — Los Angeles
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Georgia vs. TCU prediction, picks
Featured Game | Georgia Bulldogs vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Barrett Sallee: TCU is 9-3-1 against the spread this season, but it hasn’t faced anything like what it is going to face in the title game. Georgia’s speed, depth and experience will end TCU’s magical run in a game that will resemble the Dawgs’ win over Tennessee earlier in the season. They will win the line of scrimmage early, translate that into a couple of first-half touchdowns and deflate the football en route to a resounding win that they will control from the outset. The public will want a shootout similar to what both of these teams produced last weekend. Unfortunately for the public, it will be the polar opposite. Pick: Georgia (-13) | Georgia 31, TCU 14
Tom Fornelli: I’ve stopped trying to figure out who TCU can and cannot beat this year, and for this game. I’m focusing on the total. There have been eight CFP National Championships, and they’ve tended to be high scoring despite featuring some of the best defenses in the country. The eight games have averaged 64.5 points. While it’s true that having an elite defense is often what separates the top-tier teams from the rest of the pack, once you get to this point, we’ve seen time and again it’s the offense that wins out. I expect that will be the case Monday. The teams may not be led by future first-round NFL Draft picks, but Duggan and Bennett weren’t Heisman finalists this season by accident. Pick: Over 62.5 | Georgia 38, TCU 30
Chip Patterson: On the verge of establishing a new modern dynasty, Georgia walks into this showdown with TCU boasting a talent edge and championship experience that contribute to their status as heavy favorites. But after seeing how TCU made Michigan pay for its offensive and defensive mistakes in the Fiesta Bowl, I think Smart is happy to approach this the same way an old-school Alabama team would in a matchup against a high-octane offense. Limit mistakes, play field position and let Jimmy’s and Joe’s in the trenches wear TCU down. I believe the back door will never be totally locked against Duggan and a Frogs offense capable of putting together quick scores, but I see the Dawgs hanging on for their second straight title. Picks: TCU (+13), Under 62.5 | Georgia 34, TCU 27
Dennis Dodd: The biggest reason TCU can win this game … they’re playing in it! In that, the Frogs have already done something previous pretenders to the throne have not. Boise didn’t get here. Neither did Cincinnati nor UCF. So, taken in a vacuum, TCU absolutely can win. Michigan underestimated it. Georgia will not, but will it matter? The Frogs are better than advertised. Scoring and coming from behind are built into their DNA. They won’t be intimidated. They won’t freak out down 10 in the fourth quarter. In fact, that’s the way they like it, it seems. If you want an early indicator on this game, watch TCU center Steve Avila against Georgia tackle Jalen Carter. All Avila needs is a standoff. Can Georgia account for TCU’s athleticism on defense? Bennett has not been stopped yet, at least in the last 16 games during the longest winning streak in the country. Picks: TCU +13, Over 62.5 | Georgia 34, TCU 30
Shehan Jeyarajah: TCU pulled off the biggest betting upset in college football history to beat Michigan. Why give up on the Frogs now? TCU boasts NFL talents all over the field and a receiver who will be the first off the board in April. Georgia proved fallible at times against Ohio State, especially when tight end Darnell Washington went out with an injury. The Bulldogs rely on tight end mismatches to create efficient offense, so even a limited Washington is a concern against a fundamentally sound Joe Gillespie defense. A nearly two-touchdown line is too big, especially with a gamer like Duggan moving the chains. Ride with the Frogs to cover; they have a chance to shock the world. Pick: TCU (+13) | TCU 28, Georgia 24
Adam Silverstein: Georgia being a named power and TCU still being seen as the plucky underdog has created an advantageous line. Despite the Frogs’ seeming lack of pedigree, they are more than a team that surprises opponents and can put up points. They actually enter with the 19th most efficient defense in the nation, and a special teams unit that ranks better than that of the Dawgs in efficiency (49-84). TCU is a live
dawg dog in this game, and getting nearly two touchdowns with a team that enters 9-3 ATS and (at least in my opinion) has a 25% chance to win the game outright is quite a value. At worst, a backdoor cover will be in play. Double-digit bowl game favorites are 2-5 ATS this season, and national title game favorites of 5+ points are 4-11 ATS since 1999. Pick: TCU (+13) | Georgia 37, TCU 30
Jack Crosby: I’ve enjoyed TCU’s run to the CFP National Championship as much as anyone. Sure, the Frogs are a Power Five team, but they’re a Cinderella story in the sense that they’re coming off a 5-7 season, fired their longtime coach and were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason media poll. Dykes has led this team on a truly remarkable run, and while TCU may keep it close for a while, Georgia will pull away in the second half as it dominates the battles in the trenches. This punishing Georgia squad will wear down the Frogs, slowly but surely, and continue building its dynasty as Smart secures his second consecutive national title all while the Dawgs cover the massive spread. Pick: Georgia (-13) | Georgia 45, TCU 28
Ben Kercheval: There are a dozen ways to dissect this game, but I’ll KISS Georgia has been college football’s best team over the course of the season. In the biggest games against the most difficult opponents, the Bulldogs have shown time and again why they’re just on another rung above everyone else. TCU has the offensive weapons to attack Georgia’s pass defense, but I have a hard time imagining the Dawgs defensive line being a non-factor for the second straight game. Points will be scored, but not quite at the clip we saw in the semifinals. I’ll sell high on the Frogs after picking them in the Fiesta Bowl and even grant Georgia a front door cover. Pick: Georgia (-13), Over 62.5 | Georgia 41, TCU 27
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