We have finally arrived at the biggest game of the college football season. Whether you like watching powerhouse programs with the best athletes in the country or enjoy pulling for an underdog that overcomes the greatest of odds, this is the perfect matchup for bettors and casual fans alike.
The No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs are the team everybody expected to be here. The defending champions opened the year as 2-1 favorites before rattling off 14 straight wins and emphatically answering every challenge. The Bulldogs aren't without flaws, but their combination of talent, coaching and experience has allowed them to remain the only unbeaten team in the nation.
The No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs are the team nobody expected to be here. They are a refreshing face for those fatigued by watching the same four or five teams qualify for the College Football Playoff. TCU entered the season with less than a 1 percent chance to win the title at 120 to 1, but its 10-3-1 ATS record proves how wrong the market has been on this team all season. Although, after a huge statement in its college football semifinal victory over Michigan, TCU is far beyond the point of sneaking up on the market.
The implied moneyline odds on TCU (+375) give them a 21% chance of handing the Bulldogs their first and only loss. A win would make TCU the most remarkable underdog story in recent college football history. But, as much as I'm a sucker for the little guy beating up the bully, I'm a little less emotional about who I will place my wagers on. Let's break down the side I played, my best bet for Monday's game and another way to play Georgia to win without laying double-digit points.
The Bulldogs are 13-point favorites at BetMGM, and it's entirely warranted. This game will come down to whether TCU can hold up in the trenches versus the most physically dominant team it has faced all season.
TCU has a path to staying competitive, but it mirrors exactly what we saw in both semifinal matchups, and I can't bet on lightning striking twice. The Horned Frogs rank second in the nation, behind only Tennessee, in explosive plays of 30+ yards this season. So Sonny Dykes' offense has to hit big plays early and get out to a big lead, which isn't entirely unrealistic against a Georgia secondary that allowed C.J. Stroud to go off for 348 yards and four touchdowns. If TCU can get Georgia's defense on its heels early, the Horned Frogs can utilize tempo to try and wear down Georgia's ferocious front led by Jalen Carter. If they get down early, we aren't going to get the dramatic finishes of the semifinal games.
Timing is everything for TCU. Unfortunately, that's where it will run into trouble against Georgia. After falling behind early against Ohio State, it has to be a point of emphasis for Kirby Smart to score early and get control of the game. The Bulldogs are uber-efficient on offense, ranking sixth in points per play, and are first in red-zone scoring offense (97.4% of red-zone trips have been converted into points). TCU's ability to physically hold up against Georgia's running game is a valid concern. When you mix in the linebackers having to deal with Brock Bowers, it truly turns into a scenario of TCU picking its poison.
I see Georgia getting out to an early lead in this one, and being able to pin its ears back on defense. Max Duggan will valiantly try to keep TCU close, but ultimately Georgia punishes the Horned Frogs with the running game and pulls away late to cover this number.
Two additional ways to bet Georgia
Best Bet: Georgia Team Total Over 37.5 (-130)
This is my best bet of the night and a solid way to protect against a TCU team that doesn't quit and could battle its way into a backdoor cover. Georgia's offense has balled out in all of its big games. The Bulldogs buried Oregon's defense for 49 points in their opener, and scored 50 and 42 in their last two games against LSU and Ohio State. When you can hang 40+ in the SEC championship and college football semifinal, you can do it against TCU. Especially considering the Horned Frogs just allowed 528 yards and 45 points to Michigan. Stenson Bennett has shredded defenses that utilize five DBs this season, completing 70% of his passes (via Tailgate Tent). If you are going to make one wager, bet on the Bulldogs offense.
Halftime/Final: Georgia/Georgia (-185)
I discussed earlier that I like Georgia to move the ball without much resistance early in the game, and this is a great way to capitalize on that fast start. Sure, it's a little more expensive than your standard -110 odds, but it's much more appealing than laying -500 on the Georgia moneyline. In addition, TCU has been more of a second-half team this season, while Georgia has consistently been a frontrunner. TCU averages fewer points in the first half this season (18.4 compared to 20.3 in the second half), which increases my confidence the Bulldogs can build a halftime lead, leaving them only to hoist the Natty to cash this bet.
Stats provided by cfbstats, Tailgate Tent, and teamrankings.com