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CFP National Championship Preview: Matchups to Watch

Several high-profile athletes will be on the field when the final game of the college football season kicks off on Jan. 9.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Texas Christian at Michigan Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

TCU and Georgia will square off for the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The third-ranked Horned Frogs earned their way into the title game with a Vrbo Fiesta Bowl win over the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines, while the top-ranked Bulldogs held on to beat fourth-ranked Ohio State in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. TCU and Georgia feature two of the strongest offenses in the nation, while the Horned Frog and Bulldog defenses have thrived in different ways. Here, we’ll take a closer look at some of the key individual matchups to watch for during the title game.

Quentin Johnston vs. Kelee Ringo

TCU’s No. 1 wide receiver and Georgia’s No. 1 cornerback will be battling it out next Monday. Both players are expected to be selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Johnston was named the Offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, recording six receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown, while Ringo was tasked with containing standout Ohio State wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. during the Peach Bowl. While Harrison and Emeka Egbuka each went over 100 yards for the Buckeyes, many of Harrison’s receptions came without Ringo in coverage. Should the Horned Frogs manage to continue finding Johnston for big-play receptions, TCU’s offense could be in for a big-time performance against a Georgia secondary that has allowed 850 passing yards and seven touchdowns over the team’s last two games.

Dee Winters vs. Kenny McIntosh

Winters was named the Defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl after a dominant performance against the Wolverines, finishing with seven tackles and a pick-six for the Horned Frogs. The senior leader of the TCU linebacking corps will be charged with containing Georgia’s versatile McIntosh, who led the Bulldogs with 70 rushing yards and added five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in the Peach Bowl. McIntosh has shown shades of former Georgia standout D’Andre Swift with his three-down pass-catching ability, racking up 505 receiving yards with an average of 12 yards per reception on the season. McIntosh has 779 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns with an average of 5.5 yards per carry this season.

TCU’s interior offensive linemen vs. Jalen Carter

The Horned Frogs boast plenty of experience in the middle of the trenches between fifth-year senior and All-American left guard Steve Avila, sixth-year senior and All-Big 12 First Team center Alan Ali and sixth-year senior right guard Wes Harris. Those three men will have one of their toughest challenges of the season in handling the talented Carter, who projects as an early first-rounder in the 2023 NFL Draft. Carter had two tackles and one sack against LSU in the SEC Championship, but the 300-pound defensive tackle was very quiet in the Peach Bowl, totaling one tackle as he frequently faced double teams from the Buckeyes. Neutalizing Carter will allow Max Duggan to have more time in the pocket to make throws.

Dylan Horton vs. Broderick Jones

Horton has gained steam over the second half of the season for the TCU defensive line, compiling 10 sacks in the team’s last seven games. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive end shined during the Fiesta Bowl, however, racking up three sacks in the first half alone and finishing with four sacks in what was arguably the greatest game in his career as a Horned Frog. Horton, who also totaled six tackles along with one forced fumble and one pass defensed, will have a chance to take on the left tackle and anchor of the Georgia offensive line, who projects as a potential first-rounder in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Bulldogs feature one of the elite offensive lines in the nation, allowing just nine sacks through 14 games.