On Monday night in California, college football fans will bear witness to one of two things. They will be front and center when Georgia truly cements itself as the new team to beat in college football winning a second consecutive title. Or TCU will pull out one of the most improbable national championship runs the sport has ever seen. Either way, the 2023 national championship will provide a story all college football fans will remember for quite some time.
How To Watch
If you are here, you should know how to find the national championship game. ESPN has made it very clear they are rolling out the Megacast for this game. But, in case you are sending this to one of your friends who isn’t super plugged into the fact ESPN has owned the college football playoff since its inception:
Date: Monday, January 9, 2023
Game Time: 7:30 EST
Venue: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
How To Watch: ESPN
Run Duggan Run
Even if TCU doesn’t win the 2023 national championship, what Sonny Dykes has done in year one has to be in consideration for the greatest single-season coaching job in the history of the sport. TCU had not won more than six games in the regular season since 2017. The Horned Frogs have been a floundering program for the last four seasons. And yet, they are 60 minutes away from completing a run no one could have ever seen coming.
TCU’s offense has to play one of its best games if they are going to spring the upset. That is going to start with quarterback Max Duggan performing to his ceiling. Duggan did not play one of his better games in the semi-finals against Michigan. He had two interceptions and a completion percentage under 50. Duggan certainly is going to be asked to do more, especially if running back Kendre Miller is unable to go. Emari Demercado would be the first option if Miller is unable to play. More than likely, TCU will run Duggan more than usual to force Georgia to account for him on every snap. This turns the game into an 11-on-11 game vs. an 11-on-10 matchup when offenses have a stature at the quarterback position.
Can Georgia Shut Down TCU’s Passing Attack?
However, even with more Duggan rushing attempts, it would be foolish to think TCU is going to come out and try to establish a power-rushing attack against this elite Georgia defense. They aren’t historically good like last year’s team. But the Dawgs still have plenty of future NFL players on that side of the ball. That starts with Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter. The junior defensive lineman from Apopka, Florida was a unanimous first-team All-American and projects to be a top-five draft pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL draft.
For TCU to put points up on this Georgia defense, they are simply going to have to win one-on-one matchups. Georgia plays a ton of man-to-man defense. Any team who is going to take them down requires elite talent at the wide receiver position. The good news for TCU? They have Quentin Johnston and the Horned Frogs love to take shots down the field. There is a good chance Johnston will draw Kelee Ringo in coverage for much of the game. The second-team All-SEC defensive back has had a good year but has been exposed in the last two games. Against LSU and Ohio State, Ringo was targeted 24 times and gave up 11 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. If TCU can combine explosive passing plays with an up-tempo attack all game, they should be able to move the ball against the Bulldogs.
Can Georgia Score With TCU?
As many elite playmakers can be found on the defensive side for Georgia, their offense is (comparatively speaking) lacking. But this is still the defending champs we are talking about, and a team that is currently 13-0. Quarterback Stetson Bennett has proven all of us wrong and is, at worst, one of the 10 best quarterbacks in college football this season. Tight end Brock Bowers won the John Mackey award and is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare because 6’4” 230lbs human beings that run like deer are easy to cover in the passing game. However, Georgia could be without its other massive threat at the tight end position as Darnell Washington suffered an ankle injury against Ohio State.
Washington’s impact, while his 6’7” frame presents challenges in the passing game, would be felt most in the running game. Georgia basically has an extra tackle blocking when Washington is in the game, so it provides a decided advantage in the trenches. However, this season, TCU has not blinked when staring down powerful rushing attacks. This team limited the best running back in the nation (Bijan Robinson) to just 29 yards rushing. And last week, after the opening play of the game went for 54 yards, the Horned Frogs limited Michigan to 132 yards on 39 carries (3.3 yards per carry avg). This was a Michigan team who has won the Joe Moore Award for best offensive line unit for two consecutive seasons.
Can TCU Duplicate Its Physical Defensive Performance?
TCU runs a 3-3-5 defense that Georgia really has not faced all season. The defense makes it hard for a quarterback to get a good read on the coverage in a 3-3-5 scheme. Because there are three safeties on the field all the time, they don’t often tip coverage prior to the ball being snapped. It was clear that Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was fooled more than a few times against this defense as he threw two critical pick-sixes against this Horned Frog defense. So if TCU can stop the run, which remains a big “if”, it’ll be the toughest schematic defense that Bennett and this passing attack will have faced all season.
2023 National Championship Prediction
What a remarkable ride the HypnoToads have been on this season. Even in their only loss of the season, it felt more like they just ran out of gas than Kansas State outright beating them. TCU has the Davey O’Brien award winner and Heisman finalist at quarterback. They have a future first-round draft pick and possibly the best wide receiver in football. The Horned Frogs have the Jim Thorpe award winner leading it secondary. This is flat-out a great team and there isn’t any other way to slice it.
However, the Horned Frogs are facing a challenge, unlike anything it has seen all season. Sure, they have responded to all new challenges. But the defending champs are built differently. The Bulldogs possess 68 blue-chip recruits on its roster, 15 of whom are five-star prospects. TCU only has 17 total blue-chippers and just one five-star. Georgia just took Ohio State’s best possible shot, and still lives to fight on to defend its crown. The Bulldogs will be unphased by the moment. Expect TCU to fight to the bitter end, but the depth of Georgia will show itself in the fourth quarter. When UGA slaps a big sloppy kiss on these frogs, they won’t be turning into a prince on Monday night. The 2023 national championship will end with the boys from Athens as the kings of college football once again.
Georgia 42, TCU 38