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Swanson: Of course TCU is no match for Georgia in CFP title game

INGLEWOOD — Shoulda been ’Bama.

Well, no, maybe not. Alabama lost twice this season, so we understood why the No. 5 Crimson Tide missed the for-now four-team College Football Playoff for just the second time in its existence.

But still, for as long as you were watching Monday, you were wishing it woulda been ’Bama.

Because as No. 1 Georgia rolled to a stunning 65-7 championship victory on a stormy night in Southern California, the Bulldogs (15-0) coldly destroyed any hope that No. 3 TCU (13-2) might win a big one for the little guy, might prove an ultimate disruptor, might pull one last rabbit out of its helmet.

The Bulldogs dismissed any thought that the Horned Frogs – who were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 in Sonny Dykes’ first year as coach and instead wound up in their first national championship since 1938 – might muddy an exclusive pool of blue bloods.

That they might bring down one of college football’s Haves – programs that, between 2002 and 2021, have dominated these national championship games, with at least one top 13 recruiting class making up the core of those rosters. Georgia – the fourth-ranked team according to 247Sports’ Team Talent Composite since 2015 – had a massive edge Monday on TCU, which rated 32nd.

Now we know. On its way to its second consecutive national championship at SoFi Stadium, Georgia wasn’t moved by such whimsical fantasies. Or by a Horned Frogs team that played a whole month of the season before being bestowed a ranking, and then made a rollicking, rewarding season of close scrapes and thrilling escapes.

The what-if game within the game Monday: The fact that during its unbeaten regular season, TCU won seven consecutive games by 10 points or fewer, with seven of their 13 wins coming by a possession or less.

Those tightrope stunts included a 43-40 double-overtime victory over then No. 8-Oklahoma State on Oct. 15, when the then-No. 13-ranked Horned Frogs trailed 24-7 five minutes into the second quarter and by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before rallying for a tone-setting victory.

But what if the Sooners’ drive hadn’t stalled – with a holding call and three consecutive incomplete passes – in the second overtime of that game? I’ll tell you what: It would’ve knocked down a domino that knocked down a domino that would’ve had to have ended with a more compelling national championship contest.

Or what if, on Nov. 19, Baylor hadn’t given up nine points to TCU in the final 2:07 in the Horned Frogs’ 29-28 victory in Waco, Texas?

Georgia might’ve won its second straight natty, might’ve even waltzed to it, but it wouldn’t have rolled to all those records on its way.

They likely wouldn’t have set the high-water mark for most points in a first quarter (17 points), or in a half (38). They almost certainly wouldn’t have tied the CFP’s scoring record for a championship game – in the third quarter! Because that’s when the lead ballooned to 52-7. And they wouldn’t have set the record for most points overall in one of these things.

Georgia QB Stetson Bennett wouldn’t have gotten a curtain call with 13:25 left, having thrown for 304 yards with four touchdowns in the air and two on the ground – accounting for a CFP championship record-tying 36 points.

So, OK, what if No. 2 Michigan hadn’t dug such a deep hole to start its 51-45 semifinal loss against TCU on New Year’s Eve, when the Horned Frogs led 34-16 with 2:36 to go in the third quarter?

Well, then we wouldn’t have had that semifinal thriller. And that was pretty great.

TCU, the little private school from Fort Worth, Texas, earned its shot at a championship.

But that didn’t mean it belonged on the field with Georgia on Monday.

While Georgia’s players were enjoying their confetti shower after the game, Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan stared into space in a news conference nearby and said the lopsided result was as much a product of self-inflicted errors as Georgia’s outsized prowess.

But, objectively, TCU couldn’t stop Bennett and his Bulldogs, who scored on 10 of their 12 drives, which included letting time elapse at the end of the game. Georgia scored through the air and on the ground, with quick-quick strikes and even a couple clock-chewing, 11-play drives en route to a total of 589 yards. The Bulldogs averaged a whopping 8.2 yards per play.

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And when TCU had the ball, it couldn’t figure out a way through or around Javon Bullard (who had two interceptions) and his Georgia mates, who recorded takeaways on three of TCU’s drives, forced punts on five others and limited the Horned Frogs to just 188 yards. Their one touchdown came with 2:06 to go in the first quarter.

About all TCU could do was reinforce the unfairness of college football, reminding us that – even when more upstarts are invited to play in a 12-team tournament starting in 2024-25 – it’ll take more than a streak of good luck and well-timed pluck to dislodge the sport’s preeminent powers anytime soon.

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