College Football Championship 2023: Critical Matchups in TCU vs. Georgia

Joe TanseyJanuary 1, 2023

College Football Championship 2023: Critical Matchups in TCU vs. Georgia

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) passes the ball during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl semifinal game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on December 31, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The College Football Playoff national championship pits two of the best pass-catchers in college football against each other.

    TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Quentin Johnston broke out this season during the run to the playoff. He was a star in the Fiesta Bowl win over the Michigan Wolverines and will threaten the Georgia Bulldogs secondary on January 9 inside SoFi Stadium.

    Georgia tight end Brock Bowers possesses the same threat inside his team's passing game. He is the toughest threat to contain in the middle of the field on either roster.

    The two quarterbacks tasked with competing passes to Johnston and Bowers will be under the microscope from the first snap.

    Stetson Bennett and Max Duggan have been fantastic for their respective teams, and all it could take is one minor difference to separate the two quarterbacks in the title contest.

Quentin Johnston vs. Georgia Secondary

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    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 31: Quentin Johnston #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs runs after catching a pass during the second quarter in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The CFB Playoff semifinals showed us just how valuable Quentin Johnston is to the TCU offense and how vulnerable the Georgia secondary can be.

    Johnston posted the highest receiving-yard total of either semifinal with 163 yards on six catches.

    Max Duggan will look in Johnston's direction on a frequent basis next Monday.

    The Duggan-Johnston combination could take down UGA in a similar way in which C.J. Stroud challenged the Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl.

    Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. each had 100-yard days for Ohio State. They combined for 13 catches, 218 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

    Georgia needs to clean up its passing defense to deal with Johnston properly.

    If not, TCU's top target could run rampant inside SoFi Stadium. That could lead to a few momentum-shifting plays that either keep TCU in the contest or throw it ahead of the reigning champion.

Brock Bowers vs. TCU Defense

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 31: Brock Bowers #19 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs after a catch during the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Georgia tight end Brock Bowers has at least four receptions in each of his last three CFB Playoff games.

    Bowers caught four passes for 64 yards on New Year's Eve, and he could play an even larger role than usual on January 9 because of the injury suffered by Darnell Washington.

    Bowers is Stetson Bennett's most reliable target, and it would be no surprise to anyone if he was targeted early to pick apart the middle of the TCU defense.

    TCU's linebackers need to crowd the space 15-20 yards from the line of scrimmage to deny Bowers of yards after catches.

    The Georgia tight end will make a few catches, but if TCU is able to contain his production, the Bulldogs will have a tougher time moving the ball down the field on certain drives.

    Bowers is a candidate to be the Most Valuable Player of the national championship because of his connection with Bennett.

    If he explodes for a 100-yard game, Georgia will likely be on the winning end for the second straight title tilt.

Stetson Bennett vs. Max Duggan

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) passes the ball during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl semifinal game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on December 31, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The quarterback battle is fascinating.

    Stetson Bennett is the wily veteran leading the UGA offense. He had an average Peach Bowl and then produced one of the most clutch drives of the season to win the contest.

    Bennett knows exactly what he needs to do to win a national championship.

    The UGA signal-caller had 145 fewer passing yards than Bryce Young in last season's title game, but he made fewer mistakes. Bennett had one more touchdown pass, and Young tossed a pair of interceptions.

    Bennett just needs to be the steady hand that drives the UGA offense. He will likely be outgained in the air by Max Duggan.

    Duggan could be asked to do even more through the air depending on the status of running back Kendre Miller, who was hurt in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Duggan had 225 passing yards and four total touchdowns against Michigan, but he also had two interceptions and completed 48.3 percent of his passes.

    TCU's Heisman Trophy finalist completed 50 percent or less of his passes in the last two games. That could be a detriment to the Horned Frogs, especially if Bennett completes over 67 percent of his passes for the sixth time in seven games.

    Bennett has the edge in experience and recent accuracy. If he plays as close to a mistake-free game as possible, and Duggan even makes one critical mistake, Georgia could leave on top.

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