Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart reacts after a missed field goal during the first quarter of the College Football Playoff Semifinal between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl In Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. (Jason Getz /

Kirby Smart: TCU has ‘similarities’ to Georgia team culture, acknowledges defensive struggles

ATHENS — Kirby Smart’s takeaway on TCU is that the Horned Frogs belong in the national title game for much the same reason as his Georgia Bulldogs.

“Their kids believe, they have a lot of similarities to our kids in terms of the culture created there,” Smart said on the Tuesday CFP Championship Game teleconference.

“The way they play, the way they believe. I think they have the most comebacks in college football in the fourth quarter and that shows what your mental makeup is.”

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Georgia will play TCU at 7:30 p.m. on Monday in the CFP Championship Game in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.

The Bulldogs came from behind to beat Ohio State 42-41 in the CFP Peach Bowl Semifinal on Saturday after the Horned Frogs stunned Michigan, 51-45, leading wire-to-wire and returning two inceptions for touchdowns.

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“They create tough situations defensively, they do an incredible job on special teams, they have one of the best returners I’ve ever faced,” Smart said.

“And they score a lot of points on offense with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback (Max Duggan), so it’s a recipe to be playing for a national championship.”

Smart indicated he’s not exactly sure what tone the CFP title game will take on, as his proud Georgia defense has been shredded the past two outings.

“It’s hard to play quality defense anymore because I know we try really hard here, and I know they do at TCU as well,” Smart said. “It seems like tackling becomes worse as the season goes on and there’s more scoring. I don’t know why that is.”

TCU, to Smart’s point, has given up 82 points and 932 yards of offense between its 51-45 win over Michigan and 31-28 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Georgia has given up 71 points and more than 1,000 yards of offense (1,016, over the past two games, 850 of it passing), and Smart said he doesn’t have all the answers.

Mind you, this is a program that publicly states its goal is to allow 13 points or less per game, and the last two times Georgia allowed 41 points were in 41-24 losses to Alabama in 2021 (SEC Championship) and 2020 (in Tuscaloosa).

“I’ve been a part of some unique national championships with the LSU-Alabama rematch that was lower scoring,” Smart said, “but outside of that, I’ve been part of a lot of shootouts.”

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was 23-of-34 passing for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns, in addition to gaining 71 yards on his 8 scrambles.

Smart said Georgia went deep into its bag of tricks before finally keeping the Buckeyes in check in the fourth quarter, holding Ohio State to 3 points over the final 15 minutes to open the door for the offense to redeem itself.

“We tried man, we tried zone, we mixed it up,” Smart said, asked about defending Stroud.

“The most disappointing was the series (leading to a TD) before the half. They earned it most of the time, and we had some big momentum stops in the first half and then had some big momentum stops in the second half.”

Georgia will be looking for more of the same against Heisman Trophy runner-up Max Duggan, who led six come-from-behind victories this season.

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