Uncovering key trends for TCU-Georgia national title game

January 3, 2023 03:12 PM

Monday’s College Football Playoff national title game between TCU and Georgia is one of the most unusual matchups the playoff system has produced, as it pits an ultimate underdog against a prohibitive favorite. 

The Horned Frogs were predicted to be, at best, the seventh-place place Big 12 team after their 5-7 season in 2021 and were listed as 200-1 shots for a college football title back in August. The Bulldogs meanwhile, were the defending national champs and were expected to be here, listed at 4-1, behind just Alabama and Ohio State at the season’s start. 

The odds for the game reflect the disparity of the teams’ preseason expectations as well, showing Georgia as a 13-point favorite with a total of 62.5, according to DraftKings. Let’s take a quick look at some of the key trends I uncovered regarding the matchup, including some angles derived from recent national championship game contests. 

Recent Bowl Game Trends

Big 12 dogs catching more than 9 points in bowl games are on a 14-5 ATS run.

Steve’s thoughts: Including Oklahoma’s ATS win versus Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl last week, Big 12 teams have been a solid bet for backers as big bowl game underdogs. Typically, they fare well in such scenarios because the best underdogs are those that are capable of putting up points to stay in a game, and most Big 12 bowl teams demonstrate this ability. TCU is certainly a capable offensive team, scoring 41.1 PPG, good for fifth best in the country.

 Double-digit bowl favorites are 6-1 SU but 2-5 ATS this season and 28-7 SU but 14-21 ATS over the last five bowl seasons.

Steve’s thoughts: There have been seven games so far in the 2022-23 bowl season in which one team was favored by double digits over another. The only one of these teams to lose outright was in the Celebration Bowl, as Jackson State fell to NC Central 41-34 in a game matching FCS-level opponents. However, the other four teams, while 6-0 on the scoreboard, were just 2-4 ATS at the betting window. Three of the games were decided by four points or fewer. Large underdogs in high-profile games such as bowl or title games tend to get motivated by these inflated point spreads, and considering how well TCU fared in a sizable underdog role versus Michigan in the semifinal game, I would think the Horned Frogs are feeling a bit disrespected once again.

Top-rated matchup trends from VSiN.com 

 TCU is on an 8-1-1 ATS run in its last 10 games versus elite defenses allowing 17.5 PPG or fewer

Steve’s thoughts: This is the top-rated trend of all the angles regarding TCU for Monday’s game, and to me it’s an extremely important one. There is no more defining feature about Georgia than its elite defense, loaded with size, strength and athleticism. The Bulldogs yield 14.8 PPG on the season. However, after giving up 30 points and 549 yards to LSU in the SEC championship game, they allowed 41 points and 467 yards to a prolific Ohio State in the semifinal. TCU meanwhile, put up 51 points and 488 yards on a Michigan defense that had previously allowed just 13.4 PPG. If the Horned Frogs can come anywhere near replicating that effort against the defending champions, they will have a shot at an upset.

 GEORGIA is 1-9 ATS in its last 10 games coming off a close win of 3 points or less

Steve’s thoughts: This is also one of the foremost trends on the list for the angles involving Georgia. It seems the Bulldogs don’t fare very well when coming off close wins. Their closest decision this season before the 42-41 win in the semifinal game over Ohio State was a four-point margin over Missouri, so this will be the first time this angle is tested in 2022-23. Close games are rare for the program, so it will be very interesting to watch how coach Kirby Smart’s team reacts to making it back to the title game after surviving the Buckeyes’ upset attempt.

 TCU is 15-2 OVER the total in its last 17 games vs. good teams winning 80%+ of their games

 TCU is 14-4 OVER the total vs. decent passing defenses yielding fewer than 6.50 yards per attempt

Steve’s thoughts: I chose both of these angles on TCU because they were the most definitive total trends listed for the game on the matchup page of VSiN.com. I find them both to be very relative to the upcoming title game. I think these angles answer a couple of key questions most bettors have as to how this game will play out. First, can TCU hang in against a team the level of Georgia? Second, will TCU QB Max Duggan be able to replicate his success against Michigan on Monday night on the sport’s biggest stage? Well, historically speaking, the Horned Frogs have done a great job turning their recent games against elite teams, and elite passing defenses, into shootouts. Case in point, Saturday versus the Wolverines. We’ll see if coach Sonny Dykes' team has it in them again, but I wouldn’t ever count the TCU offense out.

Top Trends from Recent National Championship Games

These are some of the top trends from recent national championship games. See the full list as well as a log of all the national title games since 1999 in this week’s VSiN Matchups Guide, due out Thursday.

 UNDERDOGS have lost three straight championship games after winning six straight ATS

Steve’s thoughts: There was a stretch of six straight underdog covers in the national championship game from 2014 to 2019, but the favorites have turned it around the last three years. Interestingly, however, we haven’t seen a double-digit point spread in this game since ’14, and if the current line stands (-13), it will be the biggest one ever, considering these title games have been in existence since ’99. 

 SEC teams are 12-5 SU and ATS in national title games since '06

Steve’s thoughts: Considering that three of the losses in this trend have come in title games that have pitted SEC teams against one another, it would seem that the nation’s foremost power conference has made this series a personal playground of sorts. This will be the first SEC-Big 12 matchup in the championship since back-to-back games in ’09 and ’10, both SEC wins and covers. 

 Favorites of 5 points or more are just 6-9 SU and 4-11 ATS in national title games since '99

Steve’s thoughts: There is no shortage of motivation for teams when it comes to a championship game when you consider preparation and wanting to be there. Sometimes the decisive motivating factor can come from the oddsmakers, as the disrespected underdog teams feel slighted. The bigger the line in these title games, the lesser the chance of the favorites covering and seemingly winning as well. 

 OUTRIGHT winners are just 6-3 ATS in the last nine national championship games

Steve’s thoughts: If you read any of the bowl game trends I published on VSiN over the last month, you can probably recall that there are some bowl series in which the outright winner of the games has covered the point spread more than 20 times in a row. Such has not been the case in title games, as outright winners are just 6-3 ATS in the last nine years. Remember, the ultimate goal is winning this game, not so much in being decisive about it. Something to definitely keep in mind with a point spread as big as the one we are looking at for Monday. 

 Teams failing to score 21 points in national title games are 1-13 SU and ATS

Steve’s thoughts: The 21-point benchmark has been a critical one in determining whether or not a team has a good chance of winning or covering a point spread in these title games. Case in point last year when Alabama came up short in producing just 18 points. Can you foresee either of this year’s teams failing to reach 21 points? The line/total combination of -13/62 suggests a final score of 37.5-24.5 in favor of Georgia, so the “experts” expect both teams to score well. 

 Teams scoring 31 points in national title games are 18-3 SU and 17-4 ATS

Steve’s thoughts: On the other side of the high-scoring benchmark, 31 points is the target. Georgia won last year by scoring 33 and is projected to score 37.5 by the oddsmakers here. Does anyone think the Horned Frogs can hit the 31-point mark? They did so in all but three games so far. 

 OVER the total is 12-6-1 in national title game since '05 (5-1-1 in last seven)

Steve’s thoughts: These championship games have been high scoring as it typically takes a very good offense to arrive on this stage. If you go back through the last 10 games, 12 of the 20 combatants have scored more than 30 points. The offenses typically come prepared and both of this year’s teams are explosive. 

 Bettors are 4-1 ATS in the last five national title games when moving lines toward a side

Steve’s thoughts: Following line moves in recent championship games would have been a pretty sound strategy. In the case of the 2023 game, DraftKings opened the game at Georgia -13.5 and it has since moved to -13, indicating bettors are slightly favoring TCU on the number. Be sure to continue to follow this until kickoff as it can change. 

 Bettors are on an 0-9-1 slide in national title games when moving totals

Steve’s thoughts: Bettors have really struck out in these national championship games when it comes to the totals over the last decade as they have lost all nine games that didn’t result in a push. For 2023, DraftKings opened the game at 64, and it has since moved to 62.5, meaning they are favoring the UNDER. 

 Breakdown of national title total results <55: 10-4 OVER, >54.5: 6-4 UNDER

Steve’s thoughts: Typically, the lower the total, the better the chance that these title games have gone OVER. However, since ’14, there have been only two games that showed totals in the 60s or higher. One of those games went OVER, the other pushed.

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