Georgia football-TCU-2023 national championship game
Heisman trophy finalists, from left, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, TCU quarterback Max Duggan, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams stand for a photo with the Heisman Trophy before attending the award ceremony, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Georgia football-TCU share some key connections ahead of 2023 National Championship Game

ATLANTA — In the moments after Georgia’s thrilling win over Ohio State, the Bulldogs didn’t know what was next. So locked in on their own contest, players had no idea who had won the game between Michigan-TCU that went final shortly before Georgia took the field.

Running back Kenny McIntosh was told by members of the press that it would be the Horned Frogs who Georgia would see in Los Angeles, as TCU beat Michigan 51-45.

“We got to get back to the drawing board and do what Georgia does,” McIntosh said. “We need to work on the little things so that we can be better in the future.”

McIntosh’s head coach was a little more forceful in how Georgia needs to get better when taking on the Horned Frogs. TCU was a 7.5-point underdog against Big Ten champion Michigan, yet the Horned Frogs led wire-to-wire in the win.

“If we want any chance at winning a national championship, we have to play a lot better football than we played tonight,” Kirby Smart said. “We’ve got to keep the resiliency and composure along with us.”

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On paper, Georgia might not be as familiar with TCU as the other two playoff participants. They don’t recruit in the same circles and last played the Horned Frogs in the 2016 Liberty Bowl. That game capped Smart’s first season with a 31-23 win over TCU. Trent Thompson was Georgia’s best player that day and it was Georgia’s last game before quarterback Stetson Bennett walked-on to the program.

Much has changed for both programs since then. TCU is now run by Sonny Dykes, who is in his first year at TCU after coming over from SMU. Dykes did add a little Georgia flavor to his roster when the Horned Frogs added defensive lineman Tymon Mitchell to the team out of the transfer portal.

Mitchell signed as a defensive lineman for Georgia in the 2019 class before entering the transfer portal after the conclusion of spring practice in 2022. Mitchell has played in all 14 games for TCU this season, picking up 3.0 sacks for the Horned Frogs.

Georgia also added an element from TCU’s program to its own, as the Bulldogs hired Chidera Uzo-Diribe to be the team’s outside linebackers coach. Uzo-Diribe worked with Dykes at SMU and followed him to TCU before ultimately landing the Georgia job.

Uzo-Diribe will have a lot on his plate in this game, as the Bulldogs are extremely thin at the outside linebacker position. Neither Nolan Smith nor Chaz Chambliss are expected to play against TCU, putting a lot on the shoulders of Robert Beal and Marvin Jones Jr.

“We had Chaz go down with an injury, had Darnell go down with an injury,” Smart said. “At one point, we had our third and fourth string guys on special teams that hadn’t played all year. We’re at the point in a long season where it’s accumulating, and you’re having to play a lot of guys who maybe haven’t played.”

Georgia has also gotten to know TCU through the various award circuits this offseason. Stetson Bennett and Max Duggan were both Heisman Trophy finalists, giving the two a chance to bond along with C.J. Stroud and Caleb Williams.

Both school’s offensive coordinators were also up for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach. TCU’s offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, brother of USC head coach Lincoln Riley, won the award over Georgia’s Todd Monken.

“You talk about Garrett and TCU. I think people forget they just got there,” Monken said at the Broyles Award ceremony of Riley.” “(Former Tennessee offensive coordinator)Alex (Golesh) was talking about year two, that’s year one. How impressive of a year they’ve had.”

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