DOMINATED: 5 Observations from the College Football Playoff Championship Game- No. 3 TCU falls to No. 1 Georgia 65-7

Jan 9, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) throws a pass against the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half in the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

DOMINATED: 5 Observations from the College Football Playoff Championship Game- No. 3 TCU falls to No. 1 Georgia 65-7

The clock finally struck midnight for Cinderella as No. 4 TCU was manhandled by No. 1 Georgia in the College Football Championship Game 65-7. The Bulldogs won their second consecutive national championship and are on the verge of creating a new dynasty. The Horned Frogs were never able to get on track offensively, and the TCU defense could do little to stop a well-prepared and focused Georgia offense. The Frogs had a great season, but on the final night of the college football season, Georgia was simply too much.

When Goliath has a slingshot too: All season, the TCU Horned Frogs have been underdogs, and their Cinderella story has been one of the best of the college football year.

In the College Football Playoff Championship Game they ran into a Georgia team that was simply on another level. Kirby Smart and his staff have built an absolute juggernaut at Georgia.

Smart is one of the best defensive coaches in the nation, and he is a great recruiter. He served a lengthy apprenticeship under Nick Saban and learned his lessons well. The Bulldogs are well-coached and are ultra-talented. Along with having a roster loaded with 5-star talent, Georgia also runs complex schemes on both sides of the ball, and they are technically sound in all aspects of the game.  

Throughout the season, the Horned Frogs have lived a charmed life, coming up with almost all the right plays when they had to have them, but tonight we saw what happens when the evil empire is firing on all cylinders.

When Goliath is more talented and extremely well-coached, he is awfully hard to beat.

The real thing: In the buildup to the game, a lot of attention was paid to the TCU defense. The 3-3-5 scheme that the Horned Frogs employ is the new sensation amongst all levels of play in football around the country.

 However, it was the Bulldogs that put on a defensive clinic on the biggest stage.

One of the principles that Smart adheres to is creating negative plays. If his defense can win on first down, the offense is out of rhythm, and he can unload his arsenal of exotic blitzes and coverages on third and long.

The Georgia defense stuck to this script almost perfectly. They won the line of scrimmage, limited the Frogs’ running game early in possessions, and then applied relentless pressure, and multiple coverage looks when they got TCU into long-yardage situations.

Most offensive coaches script their first 15 plays or more to take advantage of weaknesses or tendencies they have seen in film study. In the first possessions of this game, it was the Bulldog defense that was exploiting weaknesses however, harassing TCU quarterback Max Duggan and forcing a takeaway that led to a field goal and gave the Bulldogs a 10-point lead before the Frogs even got into the game.

TCU’s first first down of the game came on a holding penalty, a play that would have forced a punt. But Georgia is the rare team that doesn’t mind playing more defense, actually, they relish it. Giving them more snaps on defense is like giving a lion more nights to hunt.

A penalty or mistake does not bother them. They are a team that can control a game when they don’t have the ball just as completely as they can when they do.

The Georgia defense held TCU to only seven points, and less than 200 yards, forcing three takeaways. The 3-3-5 might be the flavor of the month, but the defense played by the Bulldogs will never go out of style.

Why they make the big bucks: Coaches study tons of film in preparation for games, and the reason for that preparation was on display on TCU’s first touchdown. Sonny Dykes and his staff saw that the Bulldogs tend to play man coverage in the red zone. They lined up with a tight end on one side of the field and a slot receiver on the other. By motioning the receiver across the formation to the tight end side, the Horned Frog coaches manipulated the Bulldogs’ force responsibilities and confused the man coverage assignments. On the replay, you can see two Georgia players cover the man in motion, leaving no one to account for Max Duggan on the zone read.

The Georgia offensive coaches responded with a well-constructed touchdown play of their own.

After beginning their third drive with tempo, creating chunk plays, the Bulldogs set up in a sugar huddle, breaking quickly and sending a man in motion before the Horned Frogs’ defense was set, Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken ran two receivers vertical while the Bulldog running back slipped into the flat. With three receivers flooding his zone, the Horned Frog defender settled to cover the shallow route and left Ladd McConkey wide-open for the score.

This type of play design is why these two teams are playing in the last game of the season for the college football crown.

Exposing the hot new trend: Because of the success TCU has enjoyed this season, the 3-3-5 defense has come into vogue among football coaches at all levels around the state and the country.

However, Georgia exposed some of the problems in this scheme in the championship game.  

All defenses must have players devoted to playing force in order to be successful. The force player is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the edge of the defense.

Georgia used formations and tempo to manipulate and confuse the players responsible for playing force in the Horned Frog defense. Tight ends and wings cause the defense to align and declare in certain configurations, but motion or tempo can confuse these players. When the Bulldogs added post-snap misdirection, the result is wide-open receivers, including the nation’s best tight end, Brock Bowers, and chunk running plays from the quarterback. Stetson Bennett rushed for two scores in the first half and the Bulldogs amassed 354 yards and 38 points at intermission.

At one point in the second half, Georgia had scored 45 points on 45 plays.

The dominance continued throughout the second half, the Bulldogs amassed almost 600 yards and a record 65 points, putting an exclamation on the biggest blowout ever in a national championship game.

What comes next?: Both of these programs face the same dilemma following this championship blowout.

What comes next?

Georgia has won two titles in a row and seems poised to rule college football for the foreseeable future. But, these same Bulldogs were somewhat pedestrian until Stetson Bennett established himself as the starting quarterback and a playmaking leader on their offense.  

Once Bennett leaves, the task for Kirby Smart and his staff will be to find a replacement and win at the highest level with more than one signal caller. The fact is that the Bulldogs will likely continue winning, they boast a talented cupboard of recruits and will have multiple options waiting in the wings, but there has been more than one program that stumbled after that key player graduated.

TCU must prove that this season was not a fluke. Sonny Dikes and his staff guided this team to the verge of a championship in their first season in Fort Worth, but they also had a lot of close calls that could have gone the other way.

A field goal at Baylor, multiple improbable comeback victories. The question will be: was this a once in a generation team of destiny? Or does the Big 12 have a new heavyweight that can do battle on the national stage?

Time will tell.

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