The 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship is set. No. 1 Georgia will square off with No. 3 TCU at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Monday, Jan. 9. It’s a David vs. Goliath battle as the defending champion Bulldogs put their crown on the line against a Horned Frogs team seen as the biggest longshot of the four teams to reach this season’s CFP.
Georgia got here thanks to a thrilling 42-41 comeback win over No. 4 Ohio State in the Peach Bowl semifinal. The Bulldogs found themselves down 38-24 entering the fourth quarter but put together three scoring drives to rally and win. Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV found wide receiver Adonai Mitchell for a 10-yard touchdown to finish a five-play, 72-yard drive with only 54 seconds remaining. Bennett ended the game with 398 yards passing and three touchdowns with most of his work coming in the fourth quarter. It was only the second this season the Dawgs found themselves in a one-score game.
TCU reached the title game after pulling off the biggest upset in playoff history. The Frogs beat No. 2 Michigan 51-45 as an eight-point underdog in a wild Fiesta Bowl that saw the Frogs’ 18-point lead dwindle to as few as three early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Max Duggan threw two interceptions and completed only 14 of his 29 passes for 225 yards but made enough key plays to give his offense a chance. Wide receiver Quentin Johnston caught six passes for 163 yards, and the TCU defense had two pick-sixes. TCU’s victory was the first win by a Big 12 team in the CFP.
Let’s take a look at where each team stands ahead of the CFP National Championship before our CBS Sports college football experts provide their first-look picks for the game.
No. 1 Georgia (14-0), Peach Bowl champion
Georgia is supposed to be here. The Dawgs won their first national title since 1980 last year and began the 2022 season as one of the favorites to win the crown again. They’ve done what was expected of them, even if things have looked a bit different. Last season, Georgia had what many considered to be one of the greatest defenses in college football history as it dominated opponents. This year, the Dawgs defense is still one of the best in the country, but it has not been nearly as dominant.
There were times this season when it looked like Georgia was playing with its food. After announcing its return with authority in a 49-3 win over Oregon in the season-opener, the Dawgs messed around in games against Kent State, Missouri, and Kentucky. However, when it came time to handle business, Georgia did it repeatedly. it crushed rival Auburn, ended Tennessee’s dreams of a perfect season, spanked Florida one more time and put up 50 points on LSU in the SEC Championship Game. After beating Ohio State in the Peach Bowl, Georgia has a chance to become the first team to win consecutive national titles since Alabama (2010-11) and the first to ever do it in the CFP era.
No. 3 TCU (13-1), Fiesta Bowl champion
You know how there’s always that one team that tells you, “nobody believed in us,” even though they’ve won multiple conference titles and were favorites to win it again this year? Well, if the Frogs tell you nobody believed in them, believe it. Nobody believed in them. TCU went 5-7 last year and fired longtime coach Gary Patterson. Sonny Dykes crossed town from SMU to take over the program, and the Frogs began 2022 unranked with notably low expectations. They started the season with three straight wins over a lackluster nonconference slate. It wasn’t until TCU beat No. 19 Oklahoma 55-24 that it got any respect.
TCU debuted at No. 17 in the AP Top 25 the following week and did nothing but move up from there. The win over Oklahoma was the first of four consecutive victories over ranked opponents. TCU added a fifth win over a ranked team when it beat Texas 17-10 on the road in mid-November. The Frogs were masters of the comeback, routinely being knocked to the mat only to bounce back and continue to fight until their opponents eventually cracked. Duggan began the season as the backup, but an injury to QB Chandler Morris left the door open for Duggan to take the job back — and he never relented. Duggan finished the season as Heisman Trophy finalist, and his resiliency was a perfect reflection of the Frogs as a whole. Now the team that began the season unranked and wasn’t supposed to be here has a chance to shock the world again.
Georgia vs. TCU early pick, predictions
No. 1 Georgia opens as a 13-point favorite over No. 3 TCU in Los Angeles, according to Caesars Sportsbook.