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College Football National Championship Analytics Betting Preview: Success Rate, Havoc & More (Jan. 9)

College Football National Championship Analytics Betting Preview: Success Rate, Havoc & More (Jan. 9) article feature image
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Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: A TCU football helmet.

After a full year of football, it all comes down to TCU and Georgia in Los Angeles. We were fortunate enough to have the best semifinals in College Football Playoff history, but will the National Championship be as good of a game?

Oddsmakers certainly do not think so, with the spread opening at Georgia -14 before moving down to -12.5 at the time of writing. This is fairly in line with our projected spread of -11.5, so where can you find value in this matchup?

Let’s take a look at how these teams stack up analytically.

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While Georgia has been known as a defensive football program in the past, this year’s offense led by Stetson Bennett has been a juggernaut. The Bulldogs rank in the top 10 in Success Rate, Havoc and Points per Opportunity.

While they may not have a ton of explosiveness, this squad has not needed it to put up a ton of points.

In particular, I expect Georgia to punish the Horned Frogs with the run game. The Dawgs rank 10th in Rushing Success Rate and 19th in Rushing EPA/Play. On the flip side, TCU ranks 80th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 89th in Rushing EPA/Play Allowed.

Expect Kenny McIntosh to have a big day running through massive gaps created by Georgia’s offensive line.

However, the Bulldogs may have slightly less success through the air than they’re used to. The Horned Frogs’ secondary capitalized on mistakes by Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy and managed to grab two pick-sixes.

I don’t expect Bennett and the Georgia pass game to struggle against this defense, but they may find it tougher to move the ball through the air than they anticipate. While Georgia ranks in the top six in both Passing Success Rate and Passing EPA/Play, TCU comes in at 21st in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 32nd in Passing EPA/Play Allowed.

Like McCarthy, I think Bennett is good for at least one interception in this one.

When TCU has the ball, it will be looking to get it into the hands of future first-round pick Quentin Johnston. The future NFL star snagged six catches for 163 yards and a touchdown against Michigan, and Max Duggan will be looking his way again.

We could be seeing a preview of NFL Sundays to come, as Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo will surely be looking to line up against him. Ringo is a major reason why the Bulldogs have one of the best pass defenses in the country that ranks ninth in Passing EPA/Play Allowed and 14th in Passing Success Rate Allowed.

While TCU’s passing offense is above average (22nd in Passing Success Rate, 53rd in Passing EPA Play), it will need moments of individual brilliance from Duggan and Johnston if it wants to keep up with Georgia through the air.

When TCU tries to run the ball, I expect Georgia’s defense to shut it down completely. Led by future top-five pick Jalen Carter, the Bulldogs have the best run defense in college football that ranks in the top five of both Rushing EPA/Play Allowed and Rushing Success Rate Allowed.

TCU’s rushing offense is just slightly above average (sensing a theme here?), coming in at 41st in Rushing Success Rate and 43rd in Rushing EPA/Play. With these two factors combined, I’m forecasting a lot of long passing situations on second and third down for the Horned Frogs.

I think Ohio State is a much better team than TCU, and while the Horned Frogs captured lightning in a bottle against Michigan, quite literally everything broke their way early — and they still almost lost.

This Georgia offense will steamroll the Horned Frogs on the ground, allow the clock to move and smother them on offense. Combine that with one or two Duggan interceptions, and you have a recipe for a low-scoring game for the Horned Frogs.

Pick: TCU Team Total Under 24.5 (-115)

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