Best bets for the College Football Playoff Final
Monday, Jan. 9
7:30 p.m. ET
Tim Murray: Trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter against Ohio State, Georgia mounted a comeback and prevailed, 42-41, after the Buckeyes missed a field goal in the closing seconds. TCU, as eight-point underdogs, stunned Michigan, 51-45, to advance to the National Championship. After witnessing those two results, the betting public has been lining up to back the double-digit underdog Horned Frogs. TCU enters Monday night 10-3-1 against the spread while Georgia is 7-7 ATS.
Georgia will have experience on their side after winning last year’s National Championship over Alabama, 33-18. QB Stetson Bennett threw touchdown passes in the victory to TE Brock Bowers and WR Adonai Mitchell. All three will be on the field Monday night in Los Angeles. Mitchell missed the majority of the season due to an ankle injury but had three catches and a touchdown against Ohio St. Georgia is hopeful to have TE Darnell Washington back on Monday night after he exited the Peach Bowl with a foot injury. WR Ladd McConkey only had two receptions against the Buckeyes as he continues to deal with a knee injury.
TCU has injury concerns too. RB Kendre Miller left the Fiesta Bowl and did not return. Head Coach Sonny Dykes said Miller was questionable for the National Championship. RB Emari Demarcado thrived in Miller’s absence, rushing for 150 yards in the victory. Georgia has recruited at an elite level for the past five years while TCU has not. Can the Horned Frogs overcome some hits to their depth as Georgia can?
TCU WR Quentin Johnston had a monster performance against Michigan (6 catches, 163 yards, 1 touchdown), but if Georgia is able to limit Johnston, who will step up for the Horned Frogs? Ohio State piled up 348 receiving yards against Georgia. But even without Jaxon Smith-Ngiba, the Buckeyes have an embarrassment of highly recruited wide receivers, unlike TCU. Defensively, TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie has done a great job this year, but will he have the benefit of a pair of pick-sixes and two possessions inside the five-yard line that result in zero points as the Horned Frogs did against Michigan?
Another way to attack this point spread is to look at the first half. Georgia trailed Ohio State, 28-24, at halftime in the Peach Bowl, but the Bulldogs have thrived in the majority of the first halves of big games this year. At halftime, Georgia led Oregon 28-3, Florida 28-3, Tennessee 24-6, and LSU in the SEC Championship 35-10. On Michigan’s first five possessions in the Fiesta Bowl against TCU, the Wolverines had a turnover on downs inside the TCU 2-yard line, an interception returned for a touchdown, a 42-yard field goal, a punt and a fumble at TCU’s 1-yard line. I do not expect Georgia to self-destruct like Michigan did in the first half.
TCU has been an incredible story all year. For a team that was once 1,000-to-1 to win the National Championship, to reach the title game is remarkable. However, I believe the talent, depth, and experience are going to be too much for TCU to handle. Ultimately, the way I am playing the National Championship is by splitting one unit on Georgia in the first half and on Georgia for the full game.
Pick: Georgia 1H -7/Georgia -12 (Circa Sports)
Matt Youmans: I took the points with both underdogs in the semifinals, and I'll stick with what was a winning strategy. However, this is not the title matchup I was hoping for, so it's not a strong opinion. Max Duggan and the Frogs will put up a fight, but they lack the offensive weapons to fully expose a Georgia defense that allowed 850 passing yards in the past two games. The Bulldogs are not as dominant as last year, and they caught a break against Ohio State, which controlled the game and blew it in the fourth quarter. Alabama simply outclassed Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl, a hint of what's probably coming in another SEC-Big 12 matchup.
Pick: TCU +12.5