TCU Hopes to Hypnotize Georgia for CFP Title
The College Football National Championship game is set for Monday between the Georgia Bulldogs and the surprising TCU Horned Frogs.
All Hail the Hypnotoad. All Hail the Hypnotoad.
You could say we’re believers in the TCU Horned Frogs captivating avatar. After all, how else to explain TCU’s presence as one of the last two college football teams still standing for a national championship?
The Hypnotoad was a creation of former Futurama writer Eric Kaplan, who told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth the toad has the power to make you believe anything it wants you to believe. TCU Director of Athletics Video Production Clayton Regian, a Futurama fan, introduced Hypnotoad as a way to get in the heads of opposing players.
It’s done more than that. The Horned Frogs will play the Georgia Bulldogs for the national championship Monday night at SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles. That TCU managed to crash the Georgia/Alabama/Clemson/LSU/Ohio State party—the only five teams to win the College Football Playoff Championship since its 2014-15 inception—is a feat demanding otherworldly explanations.
First, let’s begin by pointing out TCU opened the season at 200-1 to win the national championship. “Afterthought” doesn’t come close to describing the Horned Frogs’ place in the college football food chain.
Iconic comedian George Carlin once famously said about a rigged system, “It’s a big club. And you ain’t in it.” He very well could have been referring to TCU here. College football is a rigged system. Only one team outside the SEC, Big Ten and ACC has made the national championship game ( Pac-12 Oregon Ducks in 2014). And the Horned Frogs aren’t in that club.
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Oddsmakers Skeptical of TCU
Again, however, the oddsmakers aren’t having any of it—Hypnotoad aside. Before the dust settled on Georgia’s wild 42-41 Peach Bowl victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes last Saturday night, Caesars installed the Bulldogs as 13-point favorites to repeat as national champions. That line nudged up to 13.5 at several books, as early money has come in on Georgia to squash Hypnotoad and restore order to the College Football In-Club.
There are trends running against Georgia covering here that go beyond cartoon toad avatars. First, no champion has repeated. The Alabama Crimson Tide’s three titles in the CFP era came in 2016, 2018 and 2021. The Clemson Tigers’ two came in 2017 and 2019. Ohio State’s lone title came in the era’s first game in 2015. The LSU Tigers won their only title in 2020. So while the In-Club remains elite, the members have spread the wealth among themselves.
In doing so, being ranked No. 1 is more a curse than a blessing. Only twice in eight games has the No. 1-ranked team going in won the national championship.
The final trend Georgia bumps into. While favorites have covered the last three games, underdogs are 5-3 ATS. That encompasses the first five games of the series. The largest point spread in this series was the Alabama Crimson Tide’s nine-point edge in 2021. The Crimson Tide easily covered, bludgeoning Ohio State, 52-24.
For now, that record belongs to Georgia, which closed as three-point favorites before dispatching SEC rival Alabama, 33-18, in last year’s game.
On the moneyline, Georgia’s odds fluctuate between -500 and -600. You can get TCU anywhere from +380 to +430. The total opened at 61.5 and drifted upward to as much as 63 at some books. The common number as of this writing is 62.5.
This could be a key number for bettors and a good wagering option because the Over is 5-3 in this series. Only once in eight games have the teams scored fewer than 50 points. That came in Alabama’s 26-23 overtime win over Georgia in 2018. And because of a low total (46.5), that game went Over.
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Look at the Over
The average point total in the eight games is 64.5, with the winning team scoring 33 or more in seven of the eight games.
When you look at what these two have done offensively, it’s certainly a viable option if you’re not comfortable laying 13.5 points, or if you don’t trust Hypnotoad and TCU’s heretofore miracle-working quarterback Max Duggan to carry the Horned Frogs to yet another improbable victory.
Duggan and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett are near mirror images of each other. Neither will remind you of pro prospects Bryce Young of Alabama or C.J. Stroud of Ohio State. Neither make pro scouts drool in anticipation. Pro Football Network projects Duggan as a fringe NFL draft prospect. It projects Bennett, who is only 5-11, 190, as a late Day 3 draft pick—if at all.
But both were Heisman finalists, both have that intangible gear that spurs them into making the right play at the right time and both can look brilliant and baffling in the same series. Expect more of the same Monday night.
The overriding question here is what it always has been with TCU: Can the Horned Frogs hang with the vastly more physical, more athletic Bulldogs? Against the Michigan Wolverines, they answered that question in the affirmative, rolling up 51 points on a Michigan team that held Ohio State’s explosive offense to 24. But TCU got two pick-sixes and some generous—and bizarre—help from the officials on several calls in that game.
Did TCU use up all of Hypnotoad’s karma here? Can the Horned Frogs deal with a Georgia team on another plane physically and athletically?
Does Hypnotoad have one more mesmerizing performance left for the Horned Frogs? Even now, we’re not sure. But we’re certain a lot of points are in the offing.
Prediction: Bulldogs-Horned Frogs Over 63
Watch: Monday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, FuboTV
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