clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

CFP National Championship Preview: Keys to the Game

Winning on early downs and in the red zone are two areas where the Horned Frogs must be sharp on Monday.

Syndication: USA TODAY Joe Rondone / USA TODAY NETWORK

Overcoming Michigan’s stout rushing defense and finishing drives in the red zone were two of the biggest reasons why TCU successfully knocked off the Wolverines during the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on Saturday. The Horned Frogs also excelled at converting on later downs and breaking off chunk plays on the ground and through the air. Despite committing three turnovers, TCU managed to force three turnovers of its own, clinching a berth in the College Football Playoff National Championship with a 51-45 win. TCU will take on Georgia, which torched the Ohio State defense for 532 total yards in a 42-41 win at the Peach Bowl.

Here are three keys to the game for the Horned Frogs, who are seeking their first national championship since 1938 as well as the first 14-win season in TCU football history.

Winning on early downs

The Bulldogs have been one of the best teams in college football this season in convering on third and fourth downs. On the other hand, Georgia’s defense has taken opponents off the field consistently, ranking at the top of the nation in opposing third and fourth-down conversion rates. Only 27.13 percent of third-down conversions are made against the Bulldogs, which ranks second-best in the nation behind Marshall. Offensively, Georgia converts on 49.7 percent of third downs (eighth nationally) and 85.7 percent of fourth downs (first nationally). The Horned Frogs fared well in these categories against Michigan, limiting the Wolverines to a 3-for-13 third-down conversion rate and an 0-for-2 fourth-down rate. Falling behind the chains will statistically favor the Bulldogs in the title matchup.

Success in the red zone

Georgia’s offense has entered the red zone more than any other offense in college football. The Bulldogs rank second behind only Tennessee with 52 red-zone touchdowns and they score on 97.4 percent of all red-zone drives, which ranks first in the nation. Georgia has settled for field goals throughout the season, however, booting 23 red-zone kicks through the uprights which leads the nation by a wide margin. Defensively, Georgia ranks first in the nation in opposing red-zone conversion rate at 66.7 percent. TCU shined in this category on both sides of the fall during the Fiesta Bowl, keeping Michigan out of the endzone twice in goal-line scenarios while scoring touchdowns on every red-zone possession. Holding the Bulldogs to three points or fewer in the red zone will be paramount during Monday’s game.

Attacking the secondary

Georgia’s rushing defense ranks first in the nation, allowing 79.9 yards per game. The Bulldogs contained Ohio State’s rushing attack, but they struggled mightily against C.J. Stroud and the talented Buckeye receiving corps, which exploded for 398 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air. Georgia also conceded over 500 passing yards and three touchdowns during the SEC Championship against LSU. The Tigers and Buckeyes combined for only 3.2 yards per carry against the Bulldog rushing defense, which may not have to deal with standout running back Kendre Miller, who injured his knee during the Fiesta Bowl and has been reported as questionable for the Horned Frogs on Monday. Quentin Johnston will be going head-to-head against Georgia conerback Kelee Ringo in a matchup of likely first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, but the Horned Frogs could have success airing the ball out against a Bulldog secondary that has struggled in recent games.