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Advanced Stat/Scheme Preview - Georgia vs TCU

Graham Coffey

Alright, we’re here… This is the big one, folks. Georgia versus TCU in the CFP National Championship here in Los Angeles. I’m not sure it fully hit me what this team is on the verge of accomplishing until I got out here and spoke with the UGA team and coaches. One National Championship makes you college football royalty. Back-to-back titles makes a program into the king of kings. 

The Dawgs are 60 minutes from history. What stands in their way? Here are my notes on TCU. 

TCU Offense vs UGA Defense

- Glenn Schumann told me at CFP Media Day that Georgia was 7 of 8 getting off the field against Ohio State on 3rd & 7+ YDS to go. Those plays produced sacks, QB pressures, bad passes, etc… He said that Georgia needs to play better on early downs. I agree. The Dawgs haven’t been great at getting pressure with just 4 rushers since Nolan Smith went out against Florida. 3rd and long lets them pin their ears back and attack the passer. If UGA can win on early downs it will go a long way towards winning this game.

- The interesting thing about TCU? They are 15th in the nation in Early Down Success Rate. The Frogs are just 65th in 3rd/4th down Success Rate. That’s all the more reason that 1st & 2nd down are the key in this game and all the more evidence that TCU will be rudderless if they land in 3rd & 5+ against Georgia repeatedly. 

- TCU is just 83rd in the FBS in Passing Success Rate, but they are 30th in Expected Points Added (EPA) through the air. What does that mean? TCU is a boom or bust offense in some ways. They’ll spit and sputter, and then BAM… Long TD. For Georgia this is actually good news. Schumann told me the Bulldogs define explosive plays as rushes of 12+ YDS and passes of 15+ YDS. Dave Bartoo (@CFBMatrix) helped me look into that a bit further. They have allowed 17 explosive rushes and 39 explosive passes this year. A grand total of 0 of the explosive runs have gone for TD’s. Just 4 of the passes have gone for TD’s. Georgia may be the best in the country at tackling guys on big plays to keep them from scoring. If that trend continues I don’t know how TCU wins. 

- Duggan was 11/17 for 97 YDS and 2 INT’s when kept clean against Michigan. When blitzed he was 6/13 for 167 YDS and 2 TD’s. When pressured he was 3/12 for 128 YDS & 2 TD’s. One of those plays was Quentin Johnson’s TD for 76 YDS. 

- Max Duggan had 225 YDS passing against Michigan. 168 of those yards came through Quentin Johnston. He is a beast of a WR and is VERY good after the catch. On the season he has 18 forced missed tackles against the first defender he faced after the catch. 525 of his 1,064 YDS have come after the catch. Georgia MUST tackle Johnson when he gets the ball.

- TCU’s next best WR is probably Taye Barber. He has 605 YDS this year with 5 TD’s and 16.8 YDS per catch. The question is this… Can a TCU wideout other than Johnston hurt UGA with any significance? If not, it’s hard to imagine TCU winning this game. 

- Starting HB Kendre Miller is questionable for this game. He’s very good. He averages 3.69 YDS after contact per attempt and 6.2 YDS a carry. TCU is about 60% Zone Scheme vs Gap Scheme when he is in the game. Emari Demarcado ran admirably in his place in the Fiesta Bowl, and he actually averaged a full 4.01 YDS after contact per attempt. He’s a very good RB. Neither guy is great as a pass blocker. Demarcado had over 4x Zone Scheme runs to Gap Scheme runs against Michigan (13 to 3). I expect TCU to go very heavy with Zone Scheme runs with how their OL personnel matches up with UGA’s DL. 

- TCU’s OL has been excellent this year in run blocking. They were also excellent against Michigan. For all the talk around Duggan/Johnston, the ground game is what makes this team go. Against UM TCU hit 12+ yard runs in the following gaps- Off LT (69 YDS), between RT/RG (16 yds), between Center/LG (15 yds), Off the right edge with an Inline TE (14 yds), between Center/RG (14 yds), off the left edge with an Inline TE (13 yds) and on a broke down pass play with a Duggan scramble (12 yds). That’s the thing to watch in this matchup for me. If Georgia can do to TCU what they do to every other rushing offense it is hard for me to see them losing this game. 

- As far as pass blocking, I don’t believe TCU’s performances throughout the season tell us a whole lot. The closest thing they have faced to UGA’s DL was Michigan but UGA is a totally different animal. The tape of the Fiesta Bowl tells me that TCU is pretty strong on the left side of the OL. LT #77 Brandon Coleman and LG #79 Steve Avilia are good players. None of these OL are on the level of what UGA saw against OSU, but these two are solid on the left side. Where UGA has the best chance of finding success rushing Duggan is over C #78 Alan Ali and against the RG slot. TCU rotates there between #78 Wes Harris and #53 John Lanz. Neither are very good. Neither had a shot in hell of blocking Jalen Carter straight up. 

- TCU’s two TD passes against Michigan came when the Wolverines blitzed and Duggan backpedaled long enough to let his wideout clear the middle of the field against man coverage. If Georgia is going to come heavy against Duggan they must get home. 

UGA Offense vs TCU Defense

- Michigan had a whopping TEN scoring opportunities (drive inside TCU’s 40) against the Frogs. The Wolverines only got 4.1 Points Per Opportunity out of those trips. 3 of their drives that got inside TCU’s 5 combined for just 3 total points (TCU had 6 scoring opps against UM and got 5.17 Pts Per Opportunity).

- TCU’s 3-3-5 means their LB’s have to cover and blitz depending on the situation. They don’t play 4 down linemen and the LB’s hang back until the OL commits to blocks. The defense is designed to stop big plays from happening. Michigan looked like they didn’t know who to block for a half. Then their offense took off in the 3rd quarter. UGA’s OL has to be patient when picking blocks in Zone Scheme runs. 

- There’s also the change in coverages to consider for Bennett. He has to read the LB’s and recognize if they drop into zone, cover a man, or blitz. The closest thing to TCU’s 3-3-5 that UGA has seen in the last two years was against Arkansas last season in Athens. UGA was able to take advantage of the 3 man fronts and hit runs on early downs. They also hit lots of throws on the perimeter. This Georgia offense is less reliant on long TD’s than last year’s team. That should be a good thing for the Bulldogs. 

- Slow developing runs can be problematic against TCU. The LB’s play the run hard but so do the CB’s and Safeties. LILB #57 Johnny Hodges is good at setting the edge. MLB #13 Dee Winters fills the middle gaps. SS #28 Miller Bradford also crashes down and Slot CB #26 Bud Clark also does a great job playing the run. Georgia’s personnel is athletic up front. UGA will be at an advantage on plays where the OL gets into the open field and comes downhill at TCU. 

- TCU’s linebackers are BIG. They aren’t necessarily slow, but they aren’t as quick as what UGA sees weekly in the SEC. Granted, there are 3 out there instead of 2, but TCU is at a disadvantage if UGA can get any of its skill guys matched up on these LB’s in the passing game. 

- MLB #13 Dee Winters picked McNamara last week and baited him into it. That doesn’t mean he’s a good cover guy. He’s allowed 42 TGT/33 REC this year for 285 YDS. 

- I think UGA has a matchup advantage with its pass catchers against every TCU defender except for the boundary corners. CB #1 Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson is very good and he didn’t allow a catch on five targets last week. On the opposite side is #24 Josh Newton. Both are allowing a Reception on just over a third of the plays they’ve been targeted this year. They also haven’t faced anyone like AD Mitchell. They also haven’t faced an Arian Smith. That said, I think UGA can do a ton of damage with TE’s, RB’s and Inside WR’s. 

- Slot CB #26 Bud Clark gave up 5 TGT/4 REC for 129 YDS against Michigan. #14 Abraham Camara allowed a reception on every one of his 6 targets and also allowed a TD. He only gave up 48 YDS but they were often succesful plays. SS #28 Millard Bradford allowed 3 REC’s on 4 TGT’s for 75 YDS and a TD 

- Want more evidence that the middle of the field is ripe for the picking? McCarthy was 5 of 6 for 203 YDS and a TD on passes of 20+ YDS between the numbers. 

Final Analysis/Score Prediction

TCU is more physical than people thought they were going into the Michigan game. That offensive line is nasty and they do a good job of resetting the line of scrimmage. For TCU to have success on offense in this game they need to do two things. The first is to get consistent production out of wideouts not named Quentin Johnston. The second is to run the ball with enough success to stay out of 3rd and long. 

I am doing my damndest to not underestimate a 14-0 team playing in a national championship. TCU is very good. I just can’t see a Kirby Smart defense getting run on consistently in a national championship game. 

The TCU offense is reliant on the big play. Georgia hasn’t allowed a rushing TD of over 12 yards all year. The task for the Frogs is going to be the same for every team UGA has seen this year- They will have to score TD’s in the red zone and drive the field. 

Even against OSU, the Bulldogs didn’t allow a play of over 37 yards. Ringo may get beaten by Johnston at certain junctures, but I think UGA can tackle him and keep the home run TD from happening. The Dawgs certainly won’t let it happen more than once in a game. 

In the end, I think UGA can hold TCU’s offense in check. If Georgia is able to beat TCU’s offensive tackles with any regularity it could be a blowout. I think Jalen Carter will be a force in this game. The Bulldogs should control the middle gaps. I do worry about their ability to set edges in the run game. Mondon, Dumas-Johnson, Bullard, etc. will need to come downhill and make tackles on outside runs. 

On offense, I really like Georgia’s chances to be effective in this game. The Bulldogs should be able to run the ball and there will be opportunities in the middle of the field for the slot receivers and Bowers. I expect some creativity from Monken in the HB passing game. McIntosh on Wheel Routes, Angle Routes, etc.

TCU’s boundary corners have been excellent all year and held down a lot of the WR’s they have faced. If AD Mitchell is getting production on the boundaries that is a big deal. The Frogs should struggle enough in the middle of the field. They can’t afford anything on the outside. I believe Arian Smith will be the fastest wideout the TCU defense has seen all year. He may break another big play or two in this game and I think Monken may line him up in the Slot to get him matched up on one of the TCU safeties for a big play. 

If UGA’s offensive line comes out early and isn’t struggling to block TCU in the run game then a blowout might be in the cards. This 3-3-5 is designed to confuse. Georgia has good coaches and analysts that should have it fully scouted. If UGA is able to benefit from that by coming out prepared instead of having to adjust to the 3-3-5 during the game that will be a large deal for the Dawgs. 

If Stetson Bennett plays a good game it will be hard for UGA to lose this one. I expect him to use his legs at some points in this one and I think the experience against Arkansas last year and Mississippi State this year is a big deal. Passing into this can be a bit odd but Bennett should be more in control and measured after last week. Bennett will have his moments, but Georgia will control this game on the line of scrimmage and its running backs will have big nights rushing and catching. That’s especially true if Washington is healthy enough to play in the trenches. If he is that will be huge. 

I am worried by the fact UGA struggled to run the ball against Mississippi State in 2020 and 2022, but this defense is pretty different than the one that MSU runs. Georgia has Todd Monken and I trust Todd Monken. Michigan also showed quite a few things that the Bulldogs can exploit.

The game that UGA won last week is the type that makes you believe on a whole new level. TCU also has a ton of belief in its coaches and program, but the way Georgia won makes me feel like they may come out very crisp in this game.

At media day it was clear that UGA sees this as a business trip. I think they take care of business on Monday night. 

Georgia 38 - TCU 13

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