TCU is the true Cinderella of college football… at least for the last 38 years… and even then it’s a discussion.
BYU he won the 1984 national championship through a series of circumstances, but mostly because he beat Michigan in the Holiday Bowl and remained the only undefeated major college team in the country (13-0). In the days before the “Power Five” designation, BYU was considered a power program in a major conference (WAC).
boise state defeat Oklahomahe finished in the top five and sent dozens of players to the NFL during Chris Petersen’s heyday. cincinnati he made it to the college football playoff but was quickly eliminated. And as one observer was quick to point out Saturday night, the Horned Frogs played a tougher schedule in a better conference than the Bearcats on their way to the CFP.
Oh yeah, TCU also pulled off one of the all-time upsets. Michigan was not only favored by more than one touchdown, it was in the midst of its best season ever. The great Bo Schembechler never won a national championship. Now that NFL rumors are swirling around him again, the question arises: Will Jim Harbaugh ever win one?
Maybe that’s being too picky. The point now is that TCU is a Cinderella with brass knuckles. The Frogs showed that they could hold their own and, in some cases, overpower the physical Wolverines. So take that worry off the table in the showdown with Georgia.
that they are not a traditional power… or even a power considering their history.
So, like any great game, an analysis of the College Football Playoff National Championship is more about strategy than combined numbers. Bulldogs are probably better, certainly bigger, and definitely hairier. However, TCU is not intimidated.
How TCU can win
Release quarterback Max Duggan. No one has stopped him this season since the senior took over in the season opener for the injured Chandler Morris. Michigan held the Heisman finalist the closest to his worst passing day of the season (14 of 29) and intercepted him twice. But Duggan was there when needed, finding wide receiver Quentin Johnston on a simple crossing route that turned into a 76-yard touchdown pass that turned out to be a game-winning play in the CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl. Johnston has been playing with a high ankle sprain the past half of the season. It certainly didn’t seem to affect him against Michigan.
That makes Duggan even more dangerous, more inspiring. He just doesn’t look imposing at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Georgia may underestimate him at her peril. He can’t be nervous and will certainly bounce back from a poor performance against Michigan. Has anyone noticed that Georgia has given up a combined 1,000 yards in the last two games?
Duggan has come a long way since having a catheter inserted into his groin two years ago to correct a heart problem. But in this era of the transfer portal, he has stood his ground. On Monday he will mark his 48th game with the Frogs.
The biggest surprise of the Michigan game may have been TCU’s ability to close out the run. After running back Donovan Edwards’ 54-yard scramble in the game opener, Michigan averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Substitute Kalel Millings fumbled on the goal line. The Wolverines were largely ineffective in the red zone.
TCU forced QB JJ McCarthy to pass in the second half. It almost worked. McCarthy passed for his career-high 343 yards, 261 in the second half. But this is a TCU defense that is capable of controlling the running game. He allowed just 28 rushing yards in Texas in a defensive fight.
This may sound strange, but Michigan’s win marked one of the most impressive defensive performances from a team that allowed 45 points. TCU linebacker Johnny Hodges is undersized Navy transfer but leads the team in tackles. Dee Winters (3.0 tackles per loss, one interception and one pass breakup) might have been the best defender on the field as another starting LB for the Frogs.
At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, defensive lineman Dylan Horton will be a tough matchup for the Dawgs coming off a four-sack game. Defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie has been very adept with the 3-3-5 “Stack” that relies on hybrid defenders who can cover and play in the box.
RB Kendre Miller’s health remains key. The 1,300-yard (17 TD!) running back played solo until early in the second half and then left with what is still an undisclosed injury. The biggest surprise was backup Emari Demercado, who rushed for his career-high 150 yards in his absence. Demercado returns home for the championship game; he is from Inglewood, California, the location of SoFi Stadium.
How Georgia can win
Follow Stetson Bennett IV to the Promised Land. He has done it once. Why not again? Georgia’s sixth-year quarterback has passed all the tests, from walking to playing in college to riding the bench to, well, becoming a superstar. Now, he is arguably the most celebrated signal caller in program history, a designation that will cement itself if he is able to lead the Dawgs to back-to-back national championships.
Bennett’s latest accomplishment was cheering Georgia on in the fourth quarter to the greatest comeback in CFP history. With nine minutes to go ohio state, his team trailed by 11 points. At that point, the Georgia staff saw Ohio State in a fake punt formation. Trainer Kirby Smart was able to quickly call a timeout nullifying what would have been a first down run.
On the next play after the punt, Bennett threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Arian Smith. The Buckeyes were no longer comfortable; they were protecting a precarious runway. Bennett cemented himself as a Comeback Captain completing his last six passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
He had thrown the game-winning touchdown pass with 10 minutes left against Alabama in the 2022 CFP National Championship. Against Missouri, in the closest regular-season shave from UGA, led the Dawgs to rally from a 13-point deficit. So, it’s fair to say: beat Bennett and you’ll beat the Dawgs.
Like Michigan, this version of Georgia is consistent but perhaps not always spectacular offensively. Smart likes to distribute the ball on the ground. For the third year in a row, there is no 1,000-yard rusher. All-American tight end Brock Bowers is the clincher, though he didn’t start until late against Ohio State. Same for possession WR Ladd McConkey.
As physical and productive as the TCU secondary played against Michigan (two picks six), she was called multiple times for holding and pass interference. Georgia’s receivers are a bit deeper and more dynamic than Michigan’s. Bennett will find them. He always does. In a career year, he should top 4,000 passing yards against TCU.
Who will win?
It’s hard to believe the nonsense that Georgia just “woke up” after trailing Ohio State by two touchdowns before the fourth quarter. In many ways, the Dawgs are lucky to be here. We bring up those issues to reinforce how frogs can get their foot in the door. does anyone remember that LSU threw for 500+ yards in the SEC Championship Game? CJ Stroud may have been the best player on the field at the Peach Bowl. In other words: There are holes in Georgia’s defense. TCU just has to find them.
In its last 138 snaps covering the past two games, Georgia has allowed 7.36 yards per play. What the Dawgs have become of late gives the Frogs a chance. TCU will be forced to get past Georgia and make sure their defense isn’t suddenly clamped down. Not when TCU has come this far and has a legitimate shot at surprising Cinderella.
A shootout favors the frogs. History favors the Dawgs. Back-to-back championships for Georgia would be the first since Alabama (2011-12) and the first in the college football playoff era. Bet on the end and bring your popcorn. This should be epic. Let’s say Georgia 34, TCU 30.