TCU is the best player against Georgia as it looks for a Hollywood finish


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A half-hour drive from Hollywood is perfect.

TCU’s story is like a movie script. An underdog that no one noticed in September suddenly emerges to enter the final game of the season as one of the great underdog stories in college football history.

Standing in his way is mighty Georgia, the sport’s new powerhouse, its first repeat national champion in a decade. And despite everything it’s accomplished, despite all the wild wins and Michigan’s surprising upset in the Fiesta Bowl, TCU remains a long way from ending this rags-to-riches story. It’s a colossal 12.5-point game Monday night at SoFi Stadium, the largest spread in the College Football Playoff’s nine-year history. He started the year with odds of 200/1 to win it all. The champion with the longest chance of lifting the trophy? Auburn at 50/1 in 2010.

“If you go back to August, how many people in Las Vegas would say, ‘Yeah, let me drop $10 on TCU to win the national championship?’ ” said Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s lead college football analyst. “I don’t know if anyone was, including their own fans.

Max Duggan
Max Duggan started the year as TCU’s backup QB.
AP

“This is a team that has been against all odds all year and don’t tell them they don’t have a chance on Monday night. In fact, tell them that. I think they like hearing that because it seems to turn them on.

TCU (13-1) went 5-7 last year and changed coaches, going from Gary Patterson to Sonny Dykes. He finished seventh in the Big 12. He did not receive a single vote in the Associated Press preseason poll. Quarterback Max Duggan started the year as a backup, then had his own fairytale season at TCU after an injury to starter Chandler Morris, producing the best season of his career and finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting. The Horned Frogs rallied from five in the second half to win, then beat Michigan as an eight-point underdog to become the first Big 12 team to reach the championship game since the new format was adopted. They pulled off the biggest upset in playoff history. .

“We certainly do with every fiber of our being [believe we can win]”, TCU star Quentin Johnston said. “We’ve been written off for a long time. … A lot of people don’t think we have what it takes to have some things in the Big 12. We’ve proven that. We’ve got to come out, we will continue to prove it.”

TCU cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top quarterback, said, “Man, we’re here to win the game. … It’s time to start taking us seriously. We are no joke and we are here [and] like other teams that have had great seasons.”

Sonny Dykes
Sonny Dykes is in his first season as TCU’s head coach.
USA TODAY Sports

The last hurdle will be the hardest. Georgia (14-0) is not Michigan. This is unlike any team TCU has seen in the Big 12. He has won 16 straight games and 32 of his last 33 games. He had two one-hitters all year. He’s explosive and dynamic on both sides of the ball, able to win the slugger or the shootout, and ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense and eighth in points scored. It’s loaded with future NFL players, pushing them to play better than they did in the Peach Bowl win over Ohio State and winning back-to-back titles since SEC rival Alabama in 2011-12 was the first school.

“This team has it all,” Kenny McIntosh said. “For us to be able to go back and get another one, it’s just history — legendary.”

On paper, it’s a mismatch. Kirby Smart has put together the best recruiting class under coach, with 15 players being five-stars and 53 being four-stars, according to rankings by the website 247 Sports. TCU has just one five-star, LSU transfer Marcell Brooks, a non-starting quarterback and 16 four-stars. According to the same rankings, Georgia ranks second in the nation in terms of talent behind only Alabama. TCU was #33.

“You think, ‘Why are we playing on a Monday night?’ But we all know it’s more about how the team comes together and what it’s going to be,” said Herbstreit. “And TCU is a great example of that.”

It’s definitely David vs. Goliath. Big vs. SEC 12. TCU’s three-star and Georgia’s five-star recruit against transfers. College football’s new dynasty against the ultimate underdog.

This is a story made for Hollywood. One thing is missing.

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