Since the College Football Playoff began in the 2013-14 season, the semifinal games have not been the greatest. Almost every year, at least one — if not both — matchups end in blowout fashion. However, this year's semifinal games became an exception as we witnessed not only two of the greatest semifinal games of all time but also two of the greatest games in recent years. Each game saw explosive plays on offense from all four teams and saw defenses make huge plays on their own end. But we also saw some bad officiating on replays and penalty calls, as well as one of the greatest called timeouts of all time. But only two teams could prevail, and they were the No. 3 seed TCU Horned Frogs and the No. 1 seed — and defending national champs — the Georgia Bulldogs.
So with them having had just a week to catch their breath, here is everything you need to know about the CFP National Championship.
How to Watch & Current Betting Odds
- Date/Time: Monday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m. (EST)
- Channel: ESPN
- Betting: Georgia -12.5, O/U 62.5
Betting-wise, TCU +12.5 feels like a slam dunk. While TCU will be going up against Georgia's NFL-ready defense, they were able to run up the score on Jim Harbaugh's Michigan Wolverines. Georgia is ready to repeat, but TCU may have magic and momentum on their side.
TCU Upsets Michigan to Earn National Title Appearance
Heading into their Vrbo Fiesta Bowl semifinal matchup with the Michigan Wolverines, the TCU Horned Frogs were considered the underdogs as soon as the final four teams were announced. But this was not the first time the Horned Frogs have been underestimated despite their perfect regular season, and many thought they were "overrated" and benefited from a "down" Big 12 Conference. The Horned Frogs' defense got things started with a pick six, which led to a 21-6 lead at halftime.
TCU's defense would get not only another interception but one that went back for another score to help their high-scoring offense in the second half. The offense, for its part, matched Michigan score for score; every time the Wolverines thought they had closed the gap, the Horned Frogs would answer right back. Michigan also was on the bad end of two questionable calls — one that resulted in a touchdown being called back, with the Wolverines fumbling on the 1-yard line on the very next play; and one that ruled there was no targeting on their final play of the game.
Regardless, the Wolverines had other opportunities to take control of the game and made self-inflicted errors that allowed the Horned Frogs to upset the Wolverines and move onto the National Championship Game.
Georgia Fights Off Buckeyes in Instant Classic
I think it is fair to say that the better team did not win on Saturday night, as the Georgia Bulldogs narrowly beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, but I will say the better-coached team did win. After falling to a 21-7 deficit in the first half, the Bulldogs managed to get things close with a 28-24 score at halftime. But a 10-point shutout by the Buckeyes had the Bulldogs down by 14 entering the final quarter.
And this is where all madness ensued. After connecting on a field goal to get within 11 points, the Bulldogs' defense forced a three-and-out. But on fourth down, the Buckeyes planned to run a fake punt to pick up the first down — and it would have worked had it not been for Kirby Smart calling a timeout at the right moment, forcing Ohio State to punt. Then, the Bulldogs struck gold on their first play, scoring on a 76-yard bomb. And then bad coaching kicked in for the Buckeyes. On the ensuing drive, the Buckeyes got to Georgia's 18-yard line and decided to get cute on second down and were sacked for a loss of 12 yards, forcing the Buckeyes to eventually kick a field goal to put them up by 6.
The Georgia Bulldogs would then score in just five plays, going 72 yards to take the lead with just 54 seconds left. But once again, Ryan Day could not help himself; as the Buckeyes got into Georgia territory, he played way too conservatively and even ran a dive play out of the pistol formation that lost one yard, forcing Ohio State to call its last timeout. And after two incompletions, the Buckeyes were forced to settle for a 50-yard game-winning field goal that was nowhere close — and the Georgia Bulldogs moved onto their second straight National Championship Game.
TCU's Keys to Victory: Don't Let the Mailman Deliver
Offense: Allow Max Duggan to air it out and attack on quick slants. Convert on red zone scoring chances and do not settle for field goals.
Defense: Do not let Stetson Bennett get in a groove. He is not the greatest quarterback, but when he has confidence, he plays like one and heats up as the game goes on.
Georgia's Keys to Victory: Keep the Frogs Cornered
Offense: Try to hit some big plays early in the air to help establish a run game that can be very dominant. Get Bennett's confidence up early.
Defense: Contain Duggan and force the Horned Frogs into second- and third-and-long situations. A couple turnovers could put this game away early.
Here's What You Should Know Ahead of Kickoff
This matchup seems very similar to what the TCU Horned Frogs just went through. TCU is considered to be undersized, outmatched and the complete underdog compared to the Georgia Bulldogs. But the Horned Frogs proved that they were not, in fact, to be doubted against the Wolverines. And did the Buckeyes expose and prove that maybe Georgia's defense just hadn't been tested by a high-power offense? The Horned Frogs have nothing to lose, and the Bulldogs have everything to lose as these two teams go head-to-head in the National Championship Game. Can Georgia hold off TCU and repeat as national champs? Or can the Horned Frogs cap off their surprise season with a national title of their own?
Final score: TCU 38, Georgia 34.
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