This season I have been breaking down a few of college football’s biggest games each week and giving out at least one bet I like from each matchup.
Let’s take a look at the National Championship showdown between TCU and Georgia.
TCU vs Georgia Spread, current line:
TCU vs Georgia Best Bet Prediction:
If I had to play this game against the spread, I’d lean towards laying the points with Georgia, however, my preferred action is bet the over on Georgia’s team total at 37.5 points.
- Georgia Team Total, current line: 37.5 points
When TCU is on Offense
Sonny Dykes’s version of the Air Raid is based on Mike Leach’s system 一 Dykes coached under Leach at Texas Tech 一 but incorporates more run plays, and more downfield throws.
According to Campus2Canton, TCU has used an even 50/50 run-pass split in neutral game situations.
TCU’s running backs benefit from Dykes’s spread offense, as it allows them to run into a light box on 75% of carries, the sixth highest rate in the FBS, per Sports Info Solutions.
This shouldn’t cause too many issues for Georgia, as the Bulldogs prefer a light box anyway 一 they stack the box at a rate 25% below expect based on opponent-adjusted data from Sports Info Solutions. However, it is worth noting the difference in yardage allowed by Georgia’s defense based on the box:
- 4.1 yards per attempt allowed with a light box
- 2.7 yards per attempt allowed with a stacked box
TCU had success running the ball against Michigan, but this was not unexpected based on Michigan’s inability to create consistent contact in the backfield.
Let’s compare Georgia and Michigan based on each defense’s contact rate at or behind the line of scrimmage with a light box:
- Georgia: 45.2%, ranked eighth
- Michigan: 30.4%, ranked 93rd
Let’s also also take a look at their opponent-adjusted yards before contact allowed:
- Georgia: leads nation
- Michigan: ranked 58th
These are critical differences in the defenses based on these numbers for Kendre Miller, via Sports Info Solutions:
- 1.6 yards per attempt when contacted at or behind line of scrimmage, ranked 61st among FBS running backs
- 8.9 yards per attempt when crossing line of scrimmage without contact, ranked 19th
Miller was knocked out of the semifinal game with an injury and replaced by Emari Demercado, who has even more staggering splits: 0.4 yards per attempt when contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage and 8.6 yards per attempt when crossing without contact.
If Georgia can create backfield contact at its usual rate, expect TCU to be forced to abandon the run early and lean heavily on Max Duggan and the passing attack.
Due to Georgia’s modest pass-rush production 一 especially since the loss of leading pass-rusher Nolan Smith 一 Duggan should have time to throw against the Bulldogs.
Duggan uses a zero/one-step drop or RPO on 44% of his pass attempts. Against those dropback types, Georgia generates an 18.2% pressure rate, which ranks 58th per Sports Info Solutions.
Against traditional dropbacks, Georgia’s 44.8% pressure rate ranks 14th.
This discrepancy is likely due to Georgia’s lack of an elite presence on the edge 一 the unit relies more on a total team effort, rather than one unblockable force who can consistently create instant pressure off the snap.
Due to some inconsistent performances in the secondary, Georgia’s pass defense relies heavily on the ability of the pass-rush to create pressure. Take a look at Georgia’s yards per attempt allowed with and without pressure, via Sports Info Solutions:
- 4.3 yards per attempt allowed with pressure, ranked 12th
- 7.6 yards per attempt allowed without pressure, ranked 52nd
Another reason to trust Duggan in this matchup is Georgia’s inconsistent production defending the deep ball.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Georgia allows a 42.1% completion rate on throws 15 or more yards downfield, which ranks 79th. And over the last two games, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (7-for-8) and LSU’s Garrett Nussmeier (7-for-13) have combined to complete 14 of 21 passes at that distance against the Bulldogs.
This trend bodes well for Duggan, who ranks 28th with a 48% completion rate at 15 or more yards downfield.
When Georgia is on Offense
Georgia has a reputation as a run-heavy offense, but Kirby Smart trusts Stetson Bennett and has opened up the passing attack. According to Campus2Canton, Georgia uses a 51/49 run-pass split in neutral game situations.
In the passing game, expect Bennett to have all day to throw against an inconsistent TCU pass-rush. Take a look at these opponent-adjusted numbers from Sports Info Solutions:
- Georgia ranks seventh in pressure rate allowed
- TCU ranks 100th in pressure rate generated
TCU’s poor pass rush had minimal negative impact against Michigan for a few reasons. For starters, Michigan doesn’t protect the quarterback at an elite level 一 it ranks 45th in opponent-adjusted pressure rate allowed.
Another key factor is the difference between Bennett and J.J. McCarthy’s performance against defenses using five defensive backs (TCU relies almost exclusively on 3-3-5 alignments).
As we discussed in last week’s preview, McCarthy struggled mightily against five defensive back formations. Bennett, however, is actually more productive against those formations, according to this data from Sports Info Solutions:
DBs on Field Comp Pct Yds/Att Positive EPA Rate 4 DBs 61.7% 9.1 47% 5 DBs 69.9% 9.0 60%
So we have reason to believe Bennett will be under minimal pressure from TCU, and proven production against TCU’s somewhat unique defensive alignments 一 all of which bodes well for a big day from Georgia’s passing attack.
In the run game, TCU’s 3-3-5 formation means opposing offenses are almost exclusively running into light boxes.
Although Georgia does not have a particularly explosive rushing attack, the light formations should help Bulldog ball carriers:
- Kenny McIntosh: 6.1 yards per attempt versus light boxes, 5.2 versus stacked
- Daijun Edwards: 6.1 yards per attempt versus light boxes, 5.1 versus stacked
It’s also worth noting the mismatch in each unit’s ability to create/prevent untouched rushing yards, via data from Sports Info Solutions:
- Georgia ranks fourth in yards before contact created
- TCU ranks 116th in yards before contact allowed
Any way we break down these numbers, Georgia’s offense appears to hold a massive edge over the Horned Frogs defense.
Final Thoughts on TCU vs Georgia Best Bets
In the Fiesta Bowl preview, I laid out a number of areas where TCU held an obvious edge over Michigan. In this game, however, it’s almost impossible to find a clear advantage for TCU.
That said, there is some data to suggest TCU could hang with Georgia in a shootout thanks to a prolific passing attack, so I’ll stay away from betting the spread in this matchup.
My preferred action in the national championship game is to play the over on Georgia’s team total at 37.5 points, based on overwhelming evidence pointing to a dominant performance from the Bulldogs on that side of the ball.