TCU Vs. Georgia Betting Preview (1/9/23) College Football National Championship Betting Picks & Predictions
On Monday, January 9, 2023, the TCU Horned Frogs and Georgia Bulldogs will face off in the college football national championship. In this article, I’ll cover the betting odds, key matchups on either side, and detailed analysis of the game. For further coverage of this matchup, check out the Lineups YouTube channel. Let’s get to work.
TCU Horned Frogs vs. Georgia Bulldogs Odds
The betting odds in this game are reflective of the David vs. Goliath nature of the matchup. We’re looking at the FEI preseason #1 ranked team in Georgia against the #60 ranked team in TCU. Every champion since 2007 has had a net points per drive advantage over +1, and the Horned Frogs fall short of that benchmark.
However, TCU is college football’s first true Cinderella story in the playoff era, and they’re one win away from pulling off the type of win that might never be repeated. The odds reflect that type of proposition as the Frogs are currently 12.5-point underdogs against Georgia. That has fallen from the opener of 13.5 points.
With an over/under of 62.5 points, the books are expecting a fairly high-scoring game, and that makes sense after both of the Semi Final games soared over their totals. Almost all of the early money has been on the over, and I would expect for that number to continue climbing.
TCU Horned Frogs vs. Georgia Bulldogs Betting Picks
I mean, come on. We’ve come this far, right? If you’ve been following me this season, you’ll know I’ve faded TCU on a few occasions. However, that was mostly due to the nature of their schedule as they had an early bye week and seemingly faced another above-average Big 12 team every single week without a rest.
They played their way through eight top 50 teams by FEI (two top 10, two more top 30), and they didn’t falter until an overtime loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship. With the benefit of extra rest last week, their players continued to defy the odds with an upset win over Michigan.
I took TCU +13.5 when the line first opened, and we’ve seen nothing but Horned Frogs money come in. Georgia is the contrarian play, and frankly, if you want to say it’s the right one based on their pedigree and talent, I can’t blame you. But this is college football. We root for underdogs, and I’ll be backing the Horned Frogs ATS one last time in this Cinderella season.
I would also recommend a bet on the over in this game as both teams could have key advantages in terms of explosive plays as I’ll break down below. Both of the Semi Final games went over 70 points, and I can see this game being a similarly high-scoring, back-and-forth affair.
How We Got Here
14 months ago, TCU parted ways with Gary Patterson, the winningest head coach in program history, who was honored with a statue on campus during his tenure. The Horned Frogs had finished 3-6 in conference play for the second time in three seasons and won just four FBS games. It it was time for a change.
Sonny Dykes entered the fold and inherited a program with minimal expectations. TCU had 200-1 playoff odds before the season and was picked in the preseason conference media poll to finish seventh in the Big 12. Dykes quickly instilled a culture of belief, perseverance, and chaos.
Once TCU got to the playoff, they weren’t expected to be successful. Three of the four most recent first-time playoff teams lost by 20+ points, and the Big 12 was previously 0-4 in the playoff. None of it mattered as TCU upset Michigan in surprisingly potent fashion.
Georgia’s story is less extraordinary, albeit no less of an accomplishment. The Bulldogs are a well-oiled machine under Kirby Smart and are looking for their second straight national championship, a feat that has been accomplished just four times since 1980.
For much of the past three years, the Bulldogs have looked immortal. They haven’t lost a game since November 2020. Just three of their last 29 games have been decided by single digits. It’s no surprise to see this team back in the national championship.
However, Ohio State pushed them to the brink and forced the Bulldogs to come back from down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Prior to that game, teams entering the fourth quarter trailing a top-four opponent by 2+ touchdowns had a 522-6 record since 2004.
All told, we’re left with a true Cinderella story with TCU one win away from a storybook ending to the most incredible season in modern history. Georgia is heavily favored by the sportsbooks, but TCU is okay with that – it’s been an uphill battle all season. Do they have one last win in them?
Fiesta Bowl Takeaways – TCU vs. Michigan
TCU’s Line of Scrimmage Control Leads to Third-Down Dominance
All week leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, we heard about how TCU was in for a rude awakening in the trenches against Michigan. How the Wolverines would be the more physical team and dominate the lines of scrimmage on their way to a decisive win. J.J. McCarthy said it would be a “smash fest” for his team.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Donovan Edwards ripped off a 54-yard run to start the game, and it felt like those narratives would come true. However, he averaged under 3 yards per carry after that point. Michigan was held to 65 yards after contact, nearly 30 fewer than it had in any other game this season.
TCU’s defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie and his 3-3-5 defense completely dominated what was seen by many as the best offensive line in the country. The Horned Frogs had a whopping 12 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage, more than any team had against Michigan this year.
With its swarming run defense, TCU forced Michigan into several third-and-long situations, and the Wolverines converted just 3 of their 13 third-down opportunities. That 23.1% rate was in the 16th percentile.
TCU’s third-down dominance was fueled by its ability to get pressure with just four guys – the Horned Frogs blitzed at just a 19% clip but got pressure at a 31% rate. Dylan Horton led the way with six pressures, three sacks, and a forced intentional grounding.
Dylan Horton : 6 tackles, 1 tipped pass & a career-high 4 sacks pic.twitter.com/QwlAeZDemI
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) January 1, 2023
Meanwhile, TCU averaged 6.4 YPC for the game despite Kendre Miller only taking 8 carries before suffering an ankle injury. Emari Demercado took 17 carries for 150 yards and a touchdown and Max Duggan had an absurd 79% success rate as he took 15 carries for 57 yards and two scores.
With that highly efficient rushing offense, TCU had plenty of third-and-short chances and converted 50% of its third-downs (8-16). That ranked in the 73rd percentile for the season. That level of third-down dominance probably won’t happen against Georgia. But it wasn’t supposed to happen against Michigan, and it did.
Peach Bowl Takeaways: Georgia vs. Ohio State
Georgia’s Unlikely Comeback Fueled by Stetson Bennett’s Arm
Former walk-on Stetson Bennett is used to being doubted. He’s had to beat out multiple other quarterbacks during his time at Georgia in order to just see the field. Bennett’s moxie and poise helped him pushed through the noise, and he’s way outperformed anyone’s expectations of him.
Bennett was seen as a passenger during Georgia’s title season last year, and he responded by throwing for almost 1,000 more yards this season. When Bennett was named a Heisman finalist, scoffs were heard across the country, but he didn’t care. He did what he’s always done – push through the noise to get back to the championship.
Surprisingly, Georgia couldn’t really run the ball against Ohio State. The Buckeyes had a dominant 29% stuff rate on Georgia rushing attempts, which is in the 89th percentile. Outside of a 52-yard scamper by Kenny McIntosh, Georgia barely eclipsed 3 YPC in that game.
The game rested on Stetson Bennett’s arm, and with Darnell Washington and Ladd McConkey hampered by injuries and Brock Bowers dealing with an illness, the onus was even more on the Georgia quarterback to deliver. And, boy did he ever.
Bennett completed 67.6% of his passes for a career-high 398 yards and three touchdowns. In the fourth-quarter alone, he completed 10 of 12 passes for 190 yards and two scores as he did what he always does, come up clutch.
Stetson Bennett during the post season:
In five games:
– 112/167 (67%), 1,549 yards, 15 TDs
– Record: 4-1
Currently averaging 309.8 yards and 3 TDs per game.
And now he’s Natty Bound for the second year in a row. 🐐
— Jonathan Williams (@Dr_JWill) January 1, 2023
There were other factors that contributed to Georgia’s comeback win. Kirby Smart outcoached Ryan Day in a few key instances, the defense came up with some key stops late, and Noah Ruggles saw a potential game-winning field goal sail wide left.
However, when it mattered most, Bennett was clutch beyond measure, and his ability to do so again on Monday could push Georgia to a second straight championship.
TCU Vs. Georgia X-Factors For National Championship
Max Duggan’s Mobility vs. Georgia’s Pass Rush
As I began to come around to the idea of Ohio State covering and perhaps winning outright against Georgia, I knew C.J. Stroud had to be a factor with his legs, and he was. After running for just 74 yards all season, Stroud picked up 71 yards on scrambles (not including sacks), including a crucial 27-yard run late.
Max Duggan has no problem using his legs – in fact, it’s one of his biggest strengths. Over the two TCU postseason games, Duggan has a combined 21 carries for 181 yards and three touchdowns. Georgia will likely be sending extra pass-rushers at him in this game, and Duggan will need to respond with his mobility.
Duggan had 11 designed runs against Michigan, the most of his season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something similar be it through the read option, quarterback draw, or other plays here. Georgia has plenty of speed in the linebacking corps, and they will need to be ready for Duggan’s ability to scramble.
TCU Offensive Line vs. Georgia Pass Rush
Can Georgia get home with just four pass rushers? It was one of my biggest questions heading into the Ohio State game, and the answer was no. The Bulldogs blitzed C.J. Stroud on 50% of his dropbacks per PFF, and he carved up their secondary on those blitz attempts – he averaged over 9 yards per attempt and had a 91.2 PFF grade.
Max Duggan had similar success when Michigan decided to blitz in their game, throwing for two touchdowns and nearly 13 yards per attempt against the blitz. That was nothing new for Duggan as he averaged 11 yards per attempt and threw for 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions against the blitz this season.
MAX DUGGAN pic.twitter.com/2xyBfon8Zc
— Pardon My Take (@PardonMyTake) December 31, 2022
One of Georgia’s issues on defense this year is their lack of variance in the pass rush, especially without Nolan Smith after his season-ending injury. Jalen Carter is elite, and he’ll be a top five pick in the NFL, but there’s a dearth of pass-rushing consistency outside of him. It’s why you saw Georgia send those blitzes last week.
Michigan blitzed Duggan on 42% of his dropbacks and he was equally pressured on 42% of those dropbacks. Michigan doesn’t have a Jalen Carter-type presence, but their decision to repeatedly blitz left their secondary open to explosive plays, and Georgia could suffer a similar fate.
Quentin Johnston vs. Kelee Ringo
In the most premier matchup of the national championship, we’ll see two likely top-15 picks go head to head as wide receiver Quentin Johnston will see plenty of coverage from cornerback Kelee Ringo on the perimeter.
Ringo had an impossible task last week in covering the best wide receiver in the country, Marvin Harrison Jr., and he was excellent. Harrison was targeted six times with Ringo as the nearest defender per PFF, and Harrison caught just one pass for 16 yards on those targets.
Johnston is a different type of receiver, particularly as he’s perhaps the most explosive wideout in the country. In the third quarter against Michigan, Johnston took a well-designed shallow screen pass 76 yards to the house, and it turned the game on its head as Michigan was mounting an impressive comeback to cut the TCU lead to 3 points.
— Reel Analytics (@RAanalytics) January 1, 2023
Johnston was being covered by five-star freshman corner Will Johnson in that game, and Johnson led the Power Five in PFF’s coverage grading this season even with that play included. Almost half of the yardage he’s allowed all season came on that one play.
Ringo is a highly talented cornerback with five-star athleticism and traits, but he can be caught off guard by explosive plays at times. He allows an above-average catch rate on man coverage (53%) and a well above-average aDOT (12.9 yards). He was also the fifth-most penalized cornerback in the country with nine flags drawn.
While Ringo has the edge over most receivers he faces, and he certainly had the edge last week over Harrison, I’d give a slight nod to Johnston in this matchup. Johnston’s ability to win consistently here will be massive for TCU’s chances at an upset win.
Georgia’s Offensive Line vs. TCU’s 3-3-5 Defense
There’s a misconception surrounding the 3-3-5 defense. With only three down linemen, it’s easy to think that TCU would be weak against the run, but it’s actually quite the opposite. The Horned Frogs have a handful of stout linebackers who fill gaps and swiftly meet ball-carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Michigan wasn’t ready to face the 3-3-5 defense, and it led to them being stuffed on 25% of their runs, as I broke down above. TCU forced Michigan’s ball-carriers to run laterally where the Horned Frogs’ superior speed in their linebacking corps could win out. Michigan’s heavy sets didn’t help that mismatch in terms of speed.
The Bulldogs run a ton of heavy sets with their stout offensive line and elite tight end tandem. Darnell Washington’s ankle injury isn’t nearly as bad as originally feared, and it sounds like he has a strong chance to play in the national championship. He’s perhaps the best blocking tight end in the country.
Washington’s ability to block on the perimeter is the perfect counter for the purpose of the 3-3-5 defense. Michigan didn’t have that kind of blocking presence, and you saw it as the TCU linebacker swarmed to the ball every time Donovan Edwards bounced to the outside. Check out this block from Washington here.
I love watching Georgia TE Darnell Washington block man lol. pic.twitter.com/KSNphZIluP
— Joey Richards (@JRDrafts) November 9, 2022
Linebacker Dee Winters was PFF’s highest-graded TCU defender in the Semi Final, but he wasn’t alone as Jamoi Hodge and Johnny Hodges were electric in the middle of the defense. Watching those linebackers work against Georgia’s excellent offensive line will be fascinating.
Stetson Bennett’s Deep Ball vs. TCU Secondary
Of course, it was far from a perfect day for the TCU defense against Michigan. J.J. McCarthy torched their secondary with multiple downfield passes. He went 5-6 on passes to the deep center (20+ yards between the hashes). He registered 203 yards and one touchdown along with two players who were tackled at the one-yard line.
According to PFF’s tracking, Bennett could be due for some positive regression in this area. He has 18 big-time throws to four turnover-worthy plays on 20+ yard passes, but just five touchdowns to six interceptions. He’s only completed 28% of his passes to the deep center, but his adjusted completion rate is 44% on those throws.
Despite having an elite 92.2 PFF grade to the deep center, his best of any area, Bennett has a passer rating of just 44.7 on those throws, his worst of any area. If those passes start to come to fruition consistently in this game, it could be a long day for the TCU secondary.
TCU ranked 99th in overall defensive explosiveness allowed this year and 128th in pass down explosiveness allowed. Joe Gillespie has to have his defense more prepared in this specific area, because if Bennett is repeatedly beating the defense deep, it will be curtains for them.
More #Skycast corn 🔥
Georgia with the deep ball by Stetson Bennett. pic.twitter.com/BSkawHvyJb
— Ben Cary (@Ben_Cary_) January 1, 2023
To be successful, both Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, who won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, and Josh Newton must hold up in coverage. They were both inside the top five Power Five cornerbacks in catch rate allowed as they allowed a combined 34.5% catch rate this season.
Hodges-Tomlinson and Newton will be matched up with perimeter receivers like Adonai Mitchell, Ladd McConkey, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, and Arian Smith, and they might even have the advantage in some of those matchups. Smith was the hero of the Ohio State game with his 76-yard touchdown catch, and he will need to be big again with McConkey clearly not close to 100% health.
But how do you cover a player like Brock Bowers? If Washington isn’t a full go for this game, Bowers will be even more important to the offense, and he has absolutely taken over games this season. TCU hasn’t faced a tight end like him this season, and Joe Gillespie will be up late at night this week thinking about how to slow Bowers down.
Derius Davis: the X-Factor
Derius Davis is the big X-factor in this game, and he has to perform at a high level for TCU to pull off the major upset win. Davis is tied for the FBS lead with two punt return touchdowns this season and he ranks fourth with an average of 14.9 yards per punt return. Davis can flip field position and create momentum-shifting plays.
Kirby Smart paid respect to Davis, calling him “one of the best returners I’ve ever faced in the return game.” He will create issues for a Georgia punt coverage team that has surprisingly struggled – the Bulldogs allowed 18.3 yards per punt return, which is ranked third-worst in the FBS this season.
Overall, TCU had better special teams than Georgia this year. They ranked 49th in ESPN’s efficiency metrics compared to Georgia’s ranking of 84th. TCU ranked 13th in special teams FEI per Football Outsiders compared to Georgia who ranked 57th. The Horned Frogs need every edge they can find, and special teams is a big one, particularly with Davis.
Davis could also be huge in the passing game. He only came up with two catches for 12 yards against Michigan, and while one of those catches was for a touchdown, his presence wasn’t felt on offense very consistently. However, this matchup sets up well for him.
Georgia’s secondary lost some key pieces from last year, and it’s quietly been difficult for them to replace that talent. Outside of Kelee Ringo, some of the Bulldogs cornerbacks had awful games against Ohio State last week. The trio of Malaki Starks, Kamari Lassiter, and Javon Bullard gave up a 100% catch rate and had putrid PFF coverage grades.
Emeka Egbuka lined up in the slot on 75% of his snaps last week, and he caught eight passes for 112 yards and a score. Davis has played primarily in the slot all year, and he has the talent to take advantage of the matchup in the same way that Egbuka did last week.
TCU Vs. Georgia Prediction: TCU has a Real Shot
TCU isn’t a complete flash in the pan. While wholly unprecedented in the modern college football era, there are repeatable aspects of this team that have led it to this point.
TCU is experienced – eight players have started 30+ college games, and 14 have started 20 or more. Only one first or second-year player sees significant snaps (nose tackle Damonic Williams).
TCU is healthy – wide receiver Quentin Johnston had a lingering ankle issue down the stretch and running back Kendre Miller is questionable for that game, but that’s about it. The offensive line is set to go 75 for a possible 75 starts among the top five this season.
TCU is talented – while lacking overpowering talent by recruiting metrics, the Horned Frogs have unearthed gems who provide the backbone for this team. Hodges-Tomlinson might be the best example – he wasn’t a top 1,000 recruit in 2019, but he won the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football this season.
The Big 12 wasn’t an overpowering conference this season, but the Horned Frogs had two top 10, four top 30, and eight top 50 wins in-conference by FEI. Then, they upset Michigan with a wire-to-wire effort. They have won five games after trailing in the second half, but they’ve also won blowouts.
The Horned Frogs have real matchup advantages to lean on here, but they’ll also need to catch some breaks in the turnover battle and special teams. That’s nothing new for this team, though. Labeled as “lucky” all year, they’re simply an opportunistic bunch that continues to make the most of every opportunity in front of them.
So can the Horned Frogs pull one last rabbit out of their sleeve on the biggest stage in college sports? That’s for you to decide, but doubting this team has been a losing proposition all season, and TCU is one win away from etching themselves in college football lore as the most unpredictable champion of all time.