photo credit: ESPN
Does it get any better than this? Don’t answer that Michigan and Ohio State fans.
For you Georgia and TCU folk, and the rest of us neutrals out here, it has been one hell of a playoff already. Good thing too. We’ve only got one more game left before the long and dreary days of the offseason begin. And although the fans at SoFi stadium won’t be able to tailgate themselves before the game, we invite you to pour a beverage, serve up some delicious food, and follow along with us to get ready for what should be an incredible finale.
So, while we continue to petition and beg the powers that be to move the natty to Saturday night instead of Monday, in the meantime let’s catch up on the semifinals and preview the showdown of showdowns in Los Angeles.
It’s TCU. It’s Georgia. It’s the College Football Playoff National Championship.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP – MONDAY JAN 9 – 7:30 PM EST – ESPN
TCU HORNED FROGS (+13)
Those lizards did it. Despite the majority of pundits and gambling experts picking Michigan to advance, the TCU Horned Frogs were simply too much for the Wolverines.
TCU jumped out to a quick lead in the first quarter. They would sniff out the trick play on 4th and Goal deep in their own territory to keep Michigan out of the endzone.
Side Note: Can we ban the “philly special” for a few years? It ain’t working anymore.
On the next Michigan possession, the Frogs defense would step up again. This time, Bud Clark would pick off JJ McCarthy and take it 42 yards to house for the first score of the game.
After a Michigan punt, Max Duggan and Kendre Miller would lead the offense down the field. Duggan would cap off the drive with a 1-yard TD run on the read option.
Michigan seemed to answer the first quarter run with a touchdown of their own. First, JJ McCarthy found Roman Wilson for 50 yards. A called touchdown was eventually overturned and Wilson was ruled down at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Kalel Mullings fumbled and TCU recovered. Frog fans maaaayyy have gotten away with one and they knew it.
On the ensuing possession, Duggan would find Taye Barber for a score from 6-yards out and this one was looking like a runaway early. TCU would go up 21-6 at the break.
Michigan was the undefeated Big 10 Championship for a reason, however. They came out in the second half and quickly got the game to 21-16 after holding TCU to a punt and an interception on their first two drives.
The Horned Frogs would pick themselves up off the mat and after a deep connection between Duggan and Quentin Johnston, Emari Demercado did the rest, scoring to push it back to a two-score game.
They’d get the stop they were looking for. On 3rd and 3, JJ McCarthy would throw another pick-six, this one by Dee Winters.
Defense was optional for the rest of the third quarter as the teams would trade touchdowns. With two seconds left in the quarter, a costly fumble by Demercado would give Michigan possession going into the 4th only down 11.
The Wolverines would convert on the next drive and all of the sudden this was a three-point game. Unfortunately for Michigan, Max Duggan lives for the big moments. On a broken play he’d hit Quentin Johnston who would make a nifty move and run right past the Wolverine defense for a 76-yard score to go back up 10.
A lot happening in Fort Worth.
Another field goal would make it 51-38, and a late touchdown by Michigan’s Roman Wilson would make it 51-45. The Wolverines would get the stop they were looking for and with 45 seconds they’d have the ball down six.
With 25 seconds to go, Michigan faced 4th and 10. A botched snap turned into a Donovan Edwards pass which ended with Colston Loveland getting tackled by Kee’yon Stewart. And because there wasn’t enough drama, the refs threw a flag for targeting. Michigan fans held out hope, but on review the targeting was reversed.
Soak it in TCU fans.
And soak it all in while you can, because we’re already hearing how TCU won’t be able to hang with Georgia.
Frog faithful don’t give a damn what the media or Vegas has to say. They might be double digit underdogs, but they’re all in on TCU pulling off the upset.
Man has a point.
GEORGIA BULLDOGS (-13)
Georgia has continued their run at the top of the college football world into 2023. An undefeated season and SEC Championship was just a preview to their bid for back to back national titles. To get here, they had to take on a dangerous Buckeyes team first.
Much like the first playoff game, one side got off to a quick start. Ohio State would capitalize on a Georgia missed field goal to go up 7-0 in the first.
Stetson would answer. He’d hit Kenny McIntosh for a 25-yard score to even the game at 7. The Bulldogs defense would continue to struggle though, allowing an 11-yard drive and another OSU score.
It went from bad to worse. Georgia would get the ball back and Stetson Bennett would immediately throw an interception.
About that, Ohio State capitalized three plays later when CJ Stroud found Marvin Harrison, Jr. for a 16-yard score. 21-7 Buckeyes.
Freak out they did, but luckily for the Georgia faithful the Bulldogs offense did not freak out. They’d respond well in the second quarter getting touchdowns on two consecutive drives to tie it up at 21-21.
The second half would get even more exciting. Georgia would tack on a field goal before CJ Stroud found the endzone one more time with less than a minute to go. Buckeyes went into the half up 28-24.
The third quarter started the same, much to the chagrin of Bulldog fans. Emeka Egbuka was on the receiving end of a Stroud touchdown this time, Buckeyes up 35-24.
The two teams would trade field goals but things finally picked up in the fourth quarter.
With under 10 minutes to go, the Bulldog defense would force an OSU punt. On the first play of Georgia’s drive, Arian Smith would get behind the Buckeye defense and Stetson would hit him in stride for the 76-yard score.
Down just three, Georgia would hold Ohio State to a field goal. With 2:43 seconds left, it was time for Stetson Bennett to play hero once again.
“Great moments are born from great opportunity” – Herb Brooks
Bennett would find four different receivers, leading the Dawgs down the field. He’d cap off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown to Adonai Mitchell.
With 54 seconds left, it was on the Georgia defense to make the stop. CJ Stroud is a first round draft pick for a reason though, and he showed why. After a run for five yards, he’d find Julian Fleming for 12 more. Another scramble, this one for 27 yards, and all of the sudden OSU was in Georgia territory with twenty ticks still left on the clock.
On 4th and 11, with eight seconds left, Ohio State lined up for the 50-yard field goal. Noah Ruggles, the Buckeye kicker, had been 17-18 on kicks all year from 49-yards and in, but 0-2 on kicks from 50+. The snap was clean, but the kick never had a chance. Pulled wide left.
Georgia would kneel out the last couple seconds and escape 42-41.
The hard-fought victory had Bulldog fans stressed on Saturday night, but the tune Sunday morning was quite different.
And as Goliath, these Dawg fans know exactly how the game against TCU will turn out.
Looks like they might need to reread 1 Samuel and see how that story ends.
Either way ya’ll, we should have a hell of a game on Monday. Go Dawgs and Riff, Ram, Bah Zoo.