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NFL

NCAA: National Championship Preview

On Monday night in Los Angeles, the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs go up against the upstart TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

The reigning champion Bulldogs squeezed past the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Peach Bowl semifinal, while the Horned Frogs held off the Michigan Wolverines in the Fiesta Bowl to punch their ticket to the title game.

As far as Cinderella stories go, TCU are up there with the best after being picked by experts to finish seventh in the Big 12 in preseason polls.

Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan has overcome heart surgery, a benching and various other injuries to lead his team to within one win of their first national championship since 1938.

WhatTCU v Georgia, CFP National Championship Game
WhereSoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California
When19.30 ET, January 9th 2023
How to watchESPN, streaming via FuboTV
OddsTCU +375, Georgia -500

Georgia go for rare repeat

Georgia is looking to become the first team to repeat as national champions in the College Football Playoff era, and the first team to do so since Alabama in 2011-2012.

Kirby Smart's team has evolved from the defensive behemoth that bullied opposition offenses into submission last year into a more balanced team with weapons on both sides of the ball.

Led by Heisman Trophy finalist Stetson Bennett IV at quarterback, the Bulldogs offense has become highly efficient as the team has registered at least 30 points in 11 of their 14 games this year.

Bennett, a former walk-on who is not guaranteed to get drafted later this year, embodies the spirit of the group.

His leading receiver coming into the playoffs was tight end Brock Bowers, but Bennett spread the ball around in the Peach Bowl.

Adonai Mitchell, who had been hurt for the majority of the season, caught the game-winning touchdown, while fellow sophomore wideout Arian Smith had 129 receiving yards and a critical fourth-quarter score.

But Darnell Washington, the other Bulldogs tight end that NFL scouts drool over, is not certain to feature after exiting the win over the Buckeyes with a lower body injury.

The Bulldogs have four backs with at least 60 carries this season, so don't lack depth, but the undoubted star is Kenny McIntosh.

The senior leads the team with 141 carries for 779 yards and 10 TDs and also rates a major third-down threat as a receiver, having made 42 catches for 506 yards on the season.

TCU defense far from fragile

TCU have some dynamic defenders capable of stepping up to meet the challenge, such as LB Johnny Hodges.

The Navy transfer has had three games with 10 or more tackles this season and played a major role in stuffing the attempts of Big 12 rivals Texas to establish the run back in November.

The Horned Frogs' star running back is Kendre Miller, who has racked up 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.

He suffered a right knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl, but has been making progress and took part in practice on a limited basis on Thursday.

Getting him back to attack Georgia's second-ranked rush defense will be critical in keeping much off the pressure off TCU QB Duggan.

Also a Heisman Trophy finalist, Duggan has played some incredibly smart football this year and can use his legs if he needs to escape trouble.

The Dawgs haven't allowed a 100-yard game to any RB or quarterback all year, and have only given up more than 100 yards on the ground four different times this season, but they are vulnerable through the air.

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Bulldogs secondary could be challenged

The Horned Frogs should be confident of putting up some points on a Georgia secondary that was torched by Ohio State's passing game last time out.

LSU put up 502 yards passing on them in the SEC Championship Game to make it 850 yards and seven passing scores that they have given up across their last two outings.

Whether Georgia can stand up to the deep shots and make some plays on the ball themselves when their defense inevitably forces TCU into some third-and-long situations could be the key to the game. 

The Bulldogs are favored by 12.5 points, which is not really a lot when you consider that the average margin of victory in the CFP Final over the past four years has been 22 points.

Smart's team overcame a potentially superior opponent by 15 in Atlanta last year in a game that featured 51 points in total.

Georgia could put up another 30-40 points in this one if the offense keeps clicking, but the potential for the game to turn into a shoot-out makes the over 63.0 point Total an intriguing option at -110.

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