It's Monday... and you know what that means?
It's time to make a title game pick.
Alright, so that doesn't have the same ring to it as all of our other weekend preview columns this year. But, after giving you gambling picks for every weekend since Labor Day, as well as bowl game picks just a few days ago, it's time to preview the big one: Georgia vs. TCU.
The two teams will meet tonight at SoFi Stadium (in a game I will be at, by the way).
And it's time now to make my official pick.
As always, the odds are presented by Betfred Sportsbook - where, and this is incredible: New users who bet $50 can get up to $1,111 in free bets.
Now, to the picks.
National Championship Game: No. 3 TCU vs. No. 1 Georgia
Spread: Georgia (-12.5)
So, like so many of you, when this matchup first became official right as the ball dropped on New Year's Eve, my first reaction was "Georgia is about to destroy TCU."
Yet since the line opened at around two touchdowns it's been bet down a bit to 13. And I tend to agree with bettors: I think this game will be closer than most expect.
In large part because, I'm not sure either of these teams - specifically Georgia - is the team you think they are.
Now to be clear, that's not a slight on Georgia. They are an awesome juggernaut who deserves to be here, despite holding on for dear life against Ohio State. They've been a dominant force from the beginning of the season to the end, and are rightfully playing for a second straight title.
But who they are, is probably a little bit different than you think.
That's because I think we have an antiquated idea of who Georgia actually is. The initial thought is "Well, they're just bigger, meaner and tougher than you. They run the ball down your throat and play great defense, and slowly take the life out of you as the game goes on."
Well, that may be who they were last year. But not so much in 2022 (now 2023).
In reality, this is a team that is probably a bit better on offense than they're given credit for, and not quite as good on defense. On offense, did you know that they are actually a Top 15 nationally in passing, and finished third in the SEC this year behind only Tennessee and Mississippi State in passing yards per game? Meanwhile, while the run game is still lethal, they ranked "only" 23rd nationally, good for fourth in the SEC?
To be clear, that doesn't make Georgia good or bad. Just different than you think.
And it's the same with the defense.
Because Georgia's defense was historically great last year, and has been excellent in a few marquee games this season (Oregon, Tennessee) it leads many to believe that the Dawgs haven't missed a beat since a season ago.
Well, that's simply not the case, especially late in the season. From a betting perspective, four of their last five games have gone over, with all four going over by at least 10 points. They have given up 71 points in the last two games to Ohio State and LSU.
Beyond that, here is something else I found interesting: Georgia actually gives up more big plays than you'd think they would. On the season, they've given up 25 plays of 30 or more yards. Against Ohio State, they actually gave up seven plays of 20+ yards, and two more plays of 19 yards apiece.
And that last part is why I think the Horned Frogs can keep things close.
That's because, if there was one phrase that I'd use to describe how and why TCU has gotten to this point so far, I'd use this: Explosive plays.
On the year, TCU actually ranks second nationally with 48 plays of 30+ yards, trailing only Tennessee in that category.
And really, it was those explosive plays which allowed them to beat Michigan. Every time late in the game against the Wolverines, when things got close, the Horned Frogs were able to rip off a big play to keep the separation.
There was a 48-pass to Quenton Johnson which set up a touchdown in the third. A 69-yard Emari Demercado run to set up another score later.
Then, when Michigan cut the lead to 41-38, it was a 78-yard touchdown pass to Johnson which basically sealed the victory.
In the end, I do still think the Dawgs have too much, and will win their second straight national title.
But consider me among those that believe the Horned Frogs have enough to keep it close:
Final score prediction: Georgia 41, TCU 31
Gambling Picks: TCU (+12.5) and OVER 63