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Can TCU beat Georgia? How Horned Frogs can pull biggest upset in college football championship history

Can TCU beat Georgia? How Horned Frogs can pull biggest upset in college football championship history

Will No. 3 TCU be the ultimate underdog story? 

The Horned Frogs are 12.5-point underdogs against No. 1 Georgia in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday. There have been four previous double-digit underdogs in the championship game since the BCS era started in 1998.

Those are still long odds. 

“I’m not surprised with it given we were picked to be seventh in the Big 12 and ended up coming out on top,” TCU receiver Quentin Johnston said on the CFP teleconference Tuesday. “Obviously being the underdog is something we’re not unfamiliar with.” 

DECOURCY: Cinderella comes to college football, and TCU is it

The good news? Two of those teams won. TCU is the first double-digit underdog in the CFP championship game, however. So, is there a blueprint for the Horned Frogs to become the princes of the playoff? 

Here is a history of those underdogs and a blueprint for TCU and first-year coach Sonny Dykes to pull one of the greatest upsets in college football history: 

Biggest underdogs in championship games

The BCS era began in 1998, four teams have been double-digit underdogs in the championship game since. 

2000 No. 1 Oklahoma 13, No. 2 Florida State 2 FSU -10
2002 No. 2 Ohio State 31, No. 1 Miami 24 Miami -11
2012 No. 2 Alabama 42, No. 1 Notre Dame 14 Bama -10
2013 No. 1 Florida State 34, No. 2 Auburn 31 FSU -12

This is at least a favorable trend for the Horned Frogs. Oklahoma and Ohio State won outright, and Auburn covered the spread. Alabama is the only one of the those four favorites who dominated in the championship game. 

MORE: SN’s experts picks | Betting trends to know

TCU as an underdog in 2022 

The Horned Frogs are 3-0 S/U as an underdog this season, knocking off blue-bloods Oklahoma, Texas and Michigan. 

TCU keys to an upset

Limit the Georgia rushing attack 

Only four FBS teams limited the Bulldogs to less than 175 rushing yards this season. That list included Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee and Ohio State. The Tigers and Buckeyes, of course, nearly knocked the Bulldogs off. 

TCU cannot let Georgia dictate the game with its three-headed rushing attack of Kenny McIntosh (779 yards, 10 TDs), Daijuan Edwards (741 yards, 7 TDs) and Kendall Milton (557 yards, 7 TDs). 

The target number is 5.0 yards per carry. Tennessee and Missouri were able to hold Georgia to less than that. The Tigers had a 10-point lead on Georgia in the fourth quarter. 

If TCU can create some havoc with its 3-3-5 defense and hold its own like it did against Michigan, then the Horned Frogs can play this game on their terms. 

MORE: The way-too-early Top 25 for 2023 

Flex a Big 12 passing attack 

TCU quarterback Max Duggan is one of the best deep-ball passers in the FBS. He completed 36 of 74 passes of 20 yards or more this season for a FBS-best 18 TDs and just three interceptions. Johnston is one of his favorite targets, and they need to take advantage of a Georgia secondary that has been touched up the last two games. 

LSU and Ohio State averaged 425 yards passing on 9.7 yards per attempt against the Bulldogs. That came with eight TD passes. The Horned Frogs have to take shots at Georgia, and the protection must hold up for Duggan. 

“I’m sure they’re correcting some of those plays in the passing game,” Dykes said. “Those are the kind of plays we’re going to have to make. We’ll have to make the 50/50 ball plays, and we’ll have to have our best players step up and play big games.”

MORE: Breaking down the QB matchup in CFP final

Game-changing turnovers 

TCU had two pick-sixes and forced three turnovers in the Fiesta Bowl victory against Michigan. Georgia has a -2 turnover ratio, and they have 12 turnovers in their last seven games. The Bulldogs had three turnovers against Kent State and Florida. 

The Horned Frogs need at least three turnovers. Perhaps that comes from the secondary – which features Thorpe Award winner Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Bud Clark, who had one of the pick-sixes in the Michigan victory. Georgia also had 17 fumbles, and they lost 11 of those this season. 

That also has to be true in the red zone. Georgia led the FBS with a 97.4% scoring percentage in the red zone. What if TCU can force a turnover in that situation? That would be the huge break that could kick-start an upset. 

Luck of the Hypnotoad?  

TCU has embraced the meme from the “Futurama” cartoon, but it’s going to take more than that. In any championship game, a memorable play or two can last forever. Remember that 2003 Fiesta Bowl? Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett stripped Miami’s Sean Taylor of the football after an interception. There was also the memorable pass interference call. TCU will need the breaks – and perhaps the calls – to go their way on those momentum-turning plays. 

Can TCU pull the upset? 

The Bulldogs have been in this spot before, and they are 7-3 all time against the Big 12, and that includes a 3-1 record since Kirby Smart took over in 2016. 

That includes the 2016 Liberty Bowl, in which Georgia beat TCU 31-23. The Horned Frogs led 23-21 heading into the fourth quarter, but the tandem of Nick Chubb (142 yards, TD) and Sony Michel (87 yards, TD) led a Bulldogs’ rushing attack that racked up 248 yards. Seven years later, that will be the priority for TCU. If they can stop the run and dictate the pace into the fourth quarter, then maybe – just maybe – an upset of epic proportions is possible.

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