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CFP title game betting preview: Can TCU pull off another upset?

Georgia and TCU will play for the College Football Playoff national championship trophy on Monday night. (David J. Phillip/AP)
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We’ve reached the end of the college football season, with Georgia facing TCU in Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship game. Here’s a look at how I see the matchup unfolding.

College Football Playoff national championship game

In Inglewood, Calif.

No. 1 Georgia (-13) vs. No. 4 TCU

Over/under total: 63.5

7:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN

TCU (13-1) is a great story, and a Horned Frogs upset of Georgia (14-0) would be a boost for the image of college football, which unlike college basketball almost never sees a Cinderella win. I’m struggling to see how TCU gets to put on the glass slipper, however.

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Lost in the insanity of TCU’s 51-45 win over Michigan in the CFP semifinals is the fact that nearly all the bounces went the Horned Frogs’ way: In a one-score victory, TCU had two pick-sixes and Michigan failed to score on two of its drives inside the red zone (a turnover on downs at the 10 after a dumb Wolverines trick-play call and a fumble at the 1). The fumble came one play after video review ruled that Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson was down at the 1 after his 50-yard reception, a call deemed questionable by many who saw a clear Wilson touchdown.

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Michigan outgained TCU in terms of yards per play by nearly a full yard. Even if you take away the 54-yard run by the Wolverines’ Donovan Edwards on the game’s first play from scrimmage, Michigan still outgained the Horned Frogs in yards per play. Now you’re asking that TCU defense to stop a Georgia offense that averaged more than nine yards every time it snapped the ball against Ohio State, whose defense has more talent and size than the Horned Frogs? That seems like a big ask. Yes, TCU runs an unusual 3-3-5 defense that’s designed to slow down modern go-go offenses, but in the Bulldogs’ one game against that type of defense this season, they beat Mississippi State by 26. Mississippi State’s defense ranks 20th in terms of SP+, a measure of efficiency. TCU’s defense ranks 37th.

Georgia’s one-point win over Ohio State was only the third Bulldogs game decided by single digits over their past 29 contests. In the games that immediately followed the previous two instances — a 26-22 win at Missouri on Oct. 1 and a 10-3 win over Clemson to open the 2021 season — Georgia won by a combined 99-17. The Bulldogs are averaging 3.28 points per drive and 0.27 expected points added per play, both better marks than the Georgia team that won the 2021 CFP title.

Michigan generated very little pressure on TCU quarterback Max Duggan — giving him time to find star wide receiver Quentin Johnson (six catches, 163 yards) — and had only one sack. Georgia sacked Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud four times, and though Stroud threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns, all but 56 of those yards came in the first half or on the first drive of the second half, when the Buckeyes scored their final touchdown. The Bulldogs adjusted in the second half, which might be key against a TCU team that’s averaging 20.3 points in the third and fourth quarters, ranking third in the nation.

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As for the total, I’m thinking that everyone saw those two high-scoring semifinal games and are rushing to take the over in the championship. But as I said, TCU got some gift points from pick-sixes and Georgia kept a potent Ohio State offense out of the end zone for nearly a full half. This one might feature fewer points.

The picks: Georgia -13, under 63.5.