If the saying is true that defense wins championships, it is no surprise the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs are a heavy favorite in Monday’s title game.
The Bulldogs enter Monday evening’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game in California as a 12-point favorite to win a second consecutive title.
However, the Bulldogs have been somewhat humbled in it last two games, including a 42-41 last-minute win over Ohio State in the Peach Bowl.
In the last two games, the Bulldogs have given up a combined 71 points.
The Bulldogs, who led the nation in scoring defense while winning last season’s national championship and ranked second entering this postseason, aren’t accustomed to giving up so many points.
“I don’t know how to pinpoint it,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “I don’t know. Traditionally, the teams that are in these games, they’re pretty good offensively. You’d like to say they’re also pretty good defensively, but I think the studies and numbers indicate that as the season goes on and especially the semifinal and final games, scoring has to be going up.”
Georgia is 14-0 heading into Monday’s game while TCU is 13-1 with its only loss in the Big 12 Conference Championship game.
The Horned Frogs, who average 41.1 points per game to rank fifth in the nation, defeated Big Ten Champion Michigan 51-45 win over Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl in the semifinals.
Bulldogs defensive back Javon Bullard said they have tweeted some things defensively to get ready.
“We didn’t play our best game,” defensive back Javon Bullard said. “But there’s a whole lot we can fix ... communication and things like that, just the basic things like that, knowing your leverage, talking. I know we’ve got to talk better throughout the secondary.”
Coming into the season, the Bulldogs had to revamp their defense after having five defensive players selected in the first round of last spring’s NFL draft.
Georgia’s defense was strong again during the 2022 season. The Bulldogs allowed a combined 64 points in their first seven games; five games had 10 or fewer points allowed, including two shutouts.
Thanks to that, Georgia’s defense still ranks near the top of the national leaders. After leading the nation with its average of 10.2 points allowed last season, Georgia ranks fifth at 14.8. Georgia is 11th with 304.6 yards allowed per game.
Georgia played several freshmen late in the Ohio State game.
Outside linebacker became a position of concern after Nolan Smith’s season-ending pectoral injury against Florida on Oct. 29. The position took another hit against Ohio State when Carrollton High product Chaz Chambliss needed help leaving the field with an apparent left knee injury.
Douglas County High product Jonathan Jefferson has appeared in four games this season for the Bulldogs. If injuries mount up Monday, the redshirt freshman could see time in the title game.
“We don’t make excuses around here and talk about injuries and these problems, but we’ve had our fair share,” Smart said. “And nobody feels sorry for us and don’t want anybody to. But we have to get those guys ready to play at a higher level.”
This will mark the 16th time in the last 17 seasons, and 18th overall since 1998, a team from the SEC has advanced to the national championship game. On twelve occasions since 2006 the SEC has won the college football national championship. Overall, the SEC has won 14 of the previous 24 national championship games since the 1998 season, while appearing in 17 prior to this season. The SEC has won three consecutive national championships, with three different programs accounting for those last three championships.
Georgia has allowed 850 passing yards in the last two games in defeating LSU in the SEC Championship Game and against Ohio State.
The players realize they will have to play better to get a second straight national championship.
“We finished the job and did what we had to do,” linebacker Smael Mondon said after the game. “We didn’t play our best game and know we’ll have to play a lot better. We have to go finish the drill.”