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CFP National Championship Preview: TCU offense vs. Georgia defense

The Horned Frogs found success on the ground against an elite Michigan run defense. The Bulldogs feature the top-ranked run defense in the nation.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Texas Christian at Michigan Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The TCU Horned Frogs scored five offensive touchdowns during their 51-45 win over Michigan in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on Saturday. Three of those scores came on the ground, where TCU rumbled for 263 rushing yards and left no doubt against an elite Wolverine run defense, which entered the College Football Playoff ranked third in the nation at 85.2 yards per game. Despite standout running back Kendre Miller departing with a knee injury, TCU still managed to find the holes, with Emari Demercado stampeding for a season-high 150 yards and one touchdown while Max Duggan added 57 yards and two touchdowns.

The Horned Frogs will once again be tasked with taking on a high-level rushing defense when TCU meets the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship, which kicks off on Monday, Dec. 9 at SoFi Stadium. Currently the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Georgia (14-0) entered the postseason with the top-rated rushing defense, conceding only 77.0 yards per game and allowing just five rushing touchdowns. Ohio State ran the football 32 times during the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, but managed only 3.7 yards per carry, finishing with 119 yards as the Bulldogs held on for a 42-41 victory.

Defensive tackle and future first-round draft selection Jalen Carter headlines Georgia’s frontline in the trenches. Carter has compiled 30 total tackles with seven tackles-for-loss and three sacks for the Bulldogs, who have the fifth-ranked scoring defense at 14.8 points per game. While Georgia’s defense has yielded few yards or points, the Bulldogs rank similarly to the Horned Frogs in key categories including tackles for loss (TCU 35th with 84, Georgia 38th with 82) and sacks (tied at 44th nationally with 30 each). Georgia’s defense has also failed to generate a significant amount of turnovers this season, totaling 10 interceptions (67th nationally) and eight forced fumbles (80th nationally).

Where the Bulldogs have shined, however, has been on third downs, where Georgia has held opponents to a 27.13 percent conversion rate, which ranks second behind only Marshall among all teams nationally. Georgia also shares the nation’s best red-zone defense with Oregon State, allowing opponents to score on just 66.67 percent of their drives. The Bulldogs are led in the secondary by cornerback and future first-rounder Kelee Ringo, who has 41 total tackles with two interceptions and seven pass breakups this season. Jamon Dumas-Johnson headlines Georgia’s linebacking corps, leading the team with four sacks while adding a third-best 66 total tackles and nine tackles for loss. Smael Mondon Jr. has been Georgia’s best tackler, leading the way with 71 total tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.

Despite Georgia’s success containing Ohio State’s rushing attack, the Bullldogs uncharacteristically struggled against the Buckeye passing attack, with C.J. Stroud carving the Georgia secondary to the tune of 23-of-34 for 348 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Wide receivers Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr., who both eclipsed the 100-yard mark against Michigan earlier this season, also exceeded the century mark during the Peach Bowl. The Bulldogs will have the challenge of holding down another talented wide receiver in Quentin Johnston, who was named Offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl after catching six balls for 163 yards and one touchdown in TCU’s win over the Wolverines.