Does TCU stand a chance against UGA? │CFB Title Game Preview 2023

1/4/22

By: @OOSSports

Does TCU stand a chance against UGA? │CFB Title Game Preview 2023

Ask anyone who knows me; I tell it like it is. If a player lets UGA down, I’m going to bring it up. Accountability is key to building the championship standard the Dawgs are trying to create at Georgia. 

If you truly enjoy winning, whether it’s one championship or three, they’re all equal to me. I don’t know, but I would assume it got sweeter for Mike and Kobe with each passing parade. The Dawgs are looking to bring a title back to Athens for a second straight year, while TCU has a chance to make history and shock the world. In such an unlikely yet intriguing championship game, we must consider what each team must do if they want to be remembered in CFB lore forever.

After two highly contested and chaotic College Football Playoff national semifinal games on Saturday, the matchup has been determined: the reigning champs and unbeaten Dawgs will face the Cinderella TCU Horned Frogs.

The No. 1 Bulldogs (14-0) and No. 3 Horned Frogs (13-1) will battle on January 9 at SoFi Stadium in Southern California. Here is an early look at the matchup between the undefeated Bulldogs and 13-1 Frogs.

KEY MATCHUP:

TCU’s wide receiver Quentin Johnston and QB Max Duggan vs Georgia’s secondary:

In the Fiesta Bowl, Johnston caught six passes for 163 yards and one touchdown against Michigan’s impressive defensive secondary. Johnston, a junior from Temple, Texas, has caught 65 passes for more than 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns on the year. He has had a great season so far. Duggan and his go-to receiver have shown that they can win no matter who their opponent is or how good they are. They are a Cinderella team, but they really aren’t after what I saw from everyone on Saturday. These Frogs certainly are not to be taken lightly, and UGA is highly mistaken if they think TCU got this far to lay down and die. They will come out swinging; they don’t care who you are. This isn’t free money if you plan on betting.

Unfortunately for my Dawgs, they have us right where they want us if they want ANY chance:

Georgia’s secondary is coming off two of its worst performances of the season, surrendering 502 passing yards to LSU in the SEC title game and 348 passing yards to Ohio State in the Peach Bowl. In those games, opponent quarterbacks completed 54 of 86 passes (63%), threw two interceptions, and scored seven touchdowns against Kirby Smart’s team. He is also very aware that this pattern must stop against TCU. UGA will have to mix it up, throw a multitude of different defensive packages, fire zones, and much more to get to Duggan before he makes his reads in time. Jalen Carter got locked up last week, and Ringo looked clueless last weekend. Both definitely lost some NFL stock to me…

The X-Factor:

Tight ends are rarely game changers in big games, but that will be the case in the championship game.

Darnell Washington, a 6-foot-7, 270-pound mammoth of a man for Georgia, left Saturday’s semifinal game with an injured left ankle and did not come back. He was observed entering the locker area with the assistance of two staff members. Smart told reporters later that he didn’t know what was wrong, but that some people thought it was an ankle sprain.

“We’ll have to evaluate and see,” said Smart. “The good news is he’s got more than a normal week [in between games]. I know he’ll do everything he can to get back. He’s headed out west toward where he’s from [he was born in Las Vegas]. It will be important to him to try to get back.”

Washington is a terrific blocker and receiver at the tight end position. This season, he has 25 receptions for 403 yards. Washington and No. 1 tight end Brock Bowers offer Georgia one of the best 1-2 punch combinations at the position. The primary edge Georgia has over TCU is on the lines of scrimmage. Washington is a core part of this. If he is unable to play against TCU, Georgia’s power rushing game and red-zone passing will suffer, but I think UGA will have another player step up if he does not play.

What the Bulldogs need to do to repeat:

The Bulldogs were quite harsh in their assessment of their performance vs Ohio State. Their defense was sliced and diced for the most of the game, quarterback Stetson Bennett IV admitted to playing “about 30 minutes of bad football,” and Georgia missed two field goals. Therefore, this squad will not enter the championship game with a feeling of being superior and disregard TCU. Even with a 14-0 record, the Bulldogs fully understand the importance of what it will take after practically being dead in the water against OSU Saturday.

“If we want any chance of winning a national title, we have to play a lot better,” HC Kirby Smart stated in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Georgia needs to do a much better job of covering receivers and hurrying the quarterback this week. Ohio State’s wide receivers bullied Georgia’s secondary, and quarterback C.J. Stroud had much too much time to read coverage and space to scramble. TCU’s Duggan is a faster runner than Stroud, therefore Georgia will have to keep him in line.

Georgia will likely want to improve its offensive run-pass balance from what it had against Ohio State. The Bulldogs only ran the ball 26 times, which is their fewest since their season-opening game against Oregon. Additionally, offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s approach heavily relies on play-action passing. There is less to fool defenders when there is less of a running-attack. Championship offenses must be multidimensional. 

With that being said, Georgia can pass and run, and on a crucial Peach Bowl night, the strength of its receiving unit was on exhibit. Bennett has a wide range of options for how to move the ball with Adonai Mitchell playing at full strength and Arian Smith showcasing his lightning speed. There are plenty of plays that can be made against the TCU defense, as Michigan and some other opponents have illustrated.

What the Frogs need to do to make HISTORY:

In last year’s SEC title game defeat and Saturday’s close call in the Peach Bowl, Georgia appeared vulnerable to having to face a truly exceptional wide receiver. Quentin Johnston has this power to help the Horned Frogs make plays, and they are not afraid to use it. Garrett Riley, the offensive coordinator, came up with the screen pass plays that led to the touchdown against Michigan on Saturday. Riley is a master at coming up with creative ways to get the ball ton Johnston. Johnston will likely need a game-changing effort to win the game.

But if the championship game becomes a track meet, it will be difficult to play a one-dimensional game against Georgia. Consequently, TCU will also need better output from its running game, regardless of which running back starts (Kendre Miller or Emari Demercado). This is easier said than done against a Georgia defensive front headed by defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who is due for a massive game.

The Horned Frogs’ defense was strong against Michigan’s run game, but it still allowed over 40 points while playing complementary football with two interceptions of their own. The defense may have to stand up without receiving gifts like it did from Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, but it is unknown how it will hold up because it is tough to predict which version of the Georgia offense we will watch. If Georgia has Washington, TCU will need to really, really step up like they did vs. Michigan.

My Conclusion: I’m rolling with the Dawgs in what I expect to be a really intense, competitive, and hard-hitting game.

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