Who to watch in CFP National Championship game

January 8, 2023

#3 TEXAS CHRISTIAN (13-1) vs #1 GEORGIA (14-0); 7:30PM ET; Monday; January 9; ESPN … This year’s national title game has all the feel of a David v Goliath situation with defending national champion Georgia facing upstart TCU. Certainly heading into the game, the key question is whether TCU can hang with the very talented Georgia team that has looked all the best of the best team in the country pretty much all season. And perhaps more to the point can the TCU offense move the ball and put up some points against a potentially dominating UGA defense. In fact, the Bulldogs defense took some major hits at the 2022 draft when 5 former Georgia defenders were selected in the opening round including DE Travon Walker, the first player picked overall. UGA won’t have the same impact on this year’s draft, but do have at least one top 5 prospect in DT Jalen Carter (#88, 6-3, 300), who more than one team has at the very top of the board. The bad news for TCU  is that Carter, who can be unblockable when he’s healthy, is reportedly healthy again after battling an ankle injury pretty much all season. And Carter could be joined in this year’s opening round by CB Kelee Ringo (#5, 6-2, 210) and ER Nolan Smith (#4, 6-3, 235), although the latter will not play this weekend because of an injury. Meanwhile, other Georgia defenders pro scouts will be watching in this one including MLB Robert Beal (#33, 6-3, 250) and safety Chris Smith (#29, 5-11, 200).

The Georgia offense doesn’t get the same pub as the ‘D’, but its also a very efficient unit in its own right and has ranked in the top ten nationally in total offense pretty much all season. Its led by underrated QB Stetson Bennett (#13, 5-11, 190) who is a little undersized for a pro prospect, but is a gamer who gets the ball where its supposed to be. For the record, Bennett has completed 68% of his pass attempts this fall for almost 300 yards per game while tossing 23 TD passes against 7 picks. The strength of the UGA offense, though, are the TEs including Brock Bowers (#19, 6-3, 230), who is arguably the best at the position in college football but won’t be draft eligible until 2024, and rangy Darnell Washington (#0, 6-6, 270), although the latter may be a game-time decison because of an ankle injury. The Dawgs are also set at RB with Kenny McIntosh (#6, 6-0, 210), Kendall Milton (#2, 6-0, 220), both of whom are considered to be second day prospects, and junior Daijun Edwards (#30, 5-10, 205), each of whom ran for over 500 yards this fall. They all work behind a very good OL that includes OTs Broderick Jones (#59, 6-4, 310) and Warren McClendon (#70, 6-3, 300) and C Sedrick Van Pran (#6-3, 310). Jones, in particular, is a rising prospect could ultimately generate some first-round interest, while both McClendon, who figures to kick inside to OG at the next level, and Van Pran should start to get some consideration in the latter part of the second day.

Needless to say, TCU doesn’t have quite the depth of talent for the upcoming draft as Georgia, but the Horned Frogs do have a top 10 prospect of their own in WR Quentin Johnston (#1, 6-3, 215), a rangy, big-play threat, who has emerged as the consensus #1 receiver prospect this year being the fact that he was banged up a lot this fall. No doubt pro scouts are anxious to see Johnson go up against Bulldogs’ CB Ringo in Monday night’s encounter. Johnston also emerged this fall as the go-to receiver for star TCU QB Max Duggan (#15, 6-2, 210), a dual-threat type who finished second in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting after throwing for over 3,500 yards and 32 TDs this fall while running for another 400-plus yards. And that has lifted Duggan literally all the way from being a draft afterthought to a legit late second-day candidate. Meanwhile, Johnston pairs with fellow WRs Taye Barber (#4, 5-10, 190) and Derius Davis (#11, 5-10, 175) to give TCU one of the better receiver corps  in college football; and for good measure, Davis doubles as one of the more electrifying punt returners in college football. The big question for the Ftogs’ offense heading into Monday night’s game is the availability of star RB Kendre Miller (#33, 5-11, 220), an explosive big back who ran for 1,400 yards and 17TDs this fall when he averaged a lusty 6.2 yards per carry. However, Miller has been dealing with an MCL sprain and will likely be a game-time call whether he play.

At the same time, CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (#1, 5-9, 180) is a likely second round pick this year, while OG Steve Avila (#79, 6-3, 330), a consensus All-American, may not have to wait much longer and LB Dee Winters (#13, 6-1, 230), CB Josh Newton (#24, 6-0, 195) and C Alan Ali (#56, 6-4, 300) are later round candidates. The same good have been said for TCU DE Dylan Horton (#98, 6-3, 275), who has generally been a solid enough veteran contributor along the defensive front most of his career, but has just exploded this post-season. Indeed, Horton has racked up 6 sacks in the Frogs’ two playoff games, after posting just 4 all season. And that included a quite remarkable 4 in TCU’s upset semi-final win over Michigan when he spent the afternoon in the Wolverines’ backfield.