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College Football Playoff: Previewing the 2023 National Championship
January 9, 2023
After a long college football season, two riveting playoff semifinal bowl games, and much anticipation, the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship game officially kicks off tonight from Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
Despite the pre-season odds being stacked against them (and then some), #3 seeded Texas Christian University (TCU) has made it to the championship to take on this year’s 14-0 Goliath: The #1 seeded Georgia Bulldogs, your defending 2022 champions.
With kickoff set for 7:30 PM EST tonight on ESPN, here’s all you need to know about both contenders:
#1 Georgia Bulldogs
#1 Georgia Bulldogs
Following a 33-18 beatdown of Alabama in last year’s championship game, the University of Georgia had aspirations of coming into this season and repeating as college football kings. The Bulldogs lost numerous pieces on both sides of the ball to the NFL, including four players selected in the first round of last year’s draft. But with senior quarterback Stetson Bennett under center for head coach Kirby Smart, Georgia has yet to drop a game as they sit at 14-0 on the year.
Bennett, a Heisman Trophy-finalist, has quarterbacked a talented Georgia offense this season, bit as was the case when they were champions a year ago, it’s been the defense that’s shined. Led by surefire first round NFL draft picks in defensive back Kelee Ringo and defensive lineman Jalen Carter, the Bulldog defense has allowed an average of 14.8 points per game. This includes shutting down the likes of Oregon (three points scored), South Carolina (seven points), and Tennessee (who scored 13 points against Georgia while finishing as the #6 ranked team in the country).
The defense looked less intimating in the Peach Bowl, a 42-41 win against #4 Ohio State. The Buckeyes, led by fellow Heisman trophy-finalist quarterback C.J. Stroud, had a chance to kick the game-winning field goal on New Year’s Eve to send themselves to the championship. But just as the ball dropped in Times Square, Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles whacked the ball wide left to end their season.
Does Georgia’s defense have another “fluke” game when it matters most tonight against Duggan and TCU? Or will the Bulldogs return to their dominant ways in a game they’re favored in by almost 13 points? You’ll have to tune in tonight and find out.
#3 TCU Horned Frogs
#3 TCU Horned Frogs
TCU comes into the championship game having proved doubters wrong all season. The Horned Frogs finished last season without even being bowl game-eligible (requiring at least 6 wins on the season), boasting a 5-7 record that was good enough for 8th in the talented Big 12 Conference. The record does come with the asterisk of having a head coach that left mid-season: After 21 seasons with TCU, Gary Patterson resigned in October 2022 when told his contract would not be renewed after the season. New head coach Sonny Dykes has now turned the program around to the tune of a 13-1 record heading into the year’s final game.
Dykes has relied on senior quarterback Max Duggan to lead the Horned Frogs this year. A QB who started games since arriving to Fort Worth, Texas in 2019, Duggan posted career highs in completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns this season.
Alongside Duggan offensively is star wide receiver Quentin Johnston. The junior is expected by many NFL scouts to be the first pass catcher to come off the board in this April’s draft.
Both Duggan (225 yards, 2 touchdowns, 122.4 passer rating) and Johnston (6 catches, 163 yards, touchdown) balled out in TCU’s 51-45 upset over #2 Michigan in this year’s Fiesta Bowl. Duggan and the Horned Frogs offense got off to a 21-6 lead at halftime, but saw a back-and-forth shootout in the second half as a combined 69 points were scored between the two teams. Will TCU be able to put up those video game-like numbers tonight against one of the nation’s toughest defenses?