What to know about the College Football Playoff championship

There will be some history made Monday night when Georgia and TCU face off in the College Football Playoff national championship game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

The Bulldogs can be the first team to repeat as champions in 10 years and would be just the ninth program to achieve the feat. With another upset in the playoff, the Horned Frogs would be one of the unlikeliest teams to win a national title in the modern era of the sport and would be the school’s first football champion since 1938.

USA TODAY Sports will provide live updates, the latest news, analysis and scenes as Georgia and TCU clash throughout the night. Follow along.

What time do Georgia and TCU kick off?

The College Football Playoff national championship game starts at 7:30 p.m. ET with kickoff scheduled for 7:45 p.m. ET.

What TV channel is the College Football Playoff national championship on?

ESPN is televising the game between Georgia and TCU with Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (color commentator), Holly Rowe (sideline) and Molly McGrath (sideline) on the call. ESPN Deportes will also have a Spanish-language broadcast.

Latest odds on CFP championship?

Georgia is a 13.5-point favorite, according to Tipico Sportsbook, which has the over/under for total points scored at 62.5.

Georgia vs. TCU expert picks and predictions

Scooby Axson: Georgia

Jace Evans: Georgia

Dan Wolken: Georgia

Erick Smith: Georgia

Paul Myerberg: Georgia

Eddie Timanus: Georgia

Check out USA TODAY’s full game predictions here.

Raining ‘Frogs and Dogs’

It was raining Frogs and Dogs on Monday, one wise guy noted as Texas Christian Horned Frogs fans and Georgia Bulldogs fans scurried inside SoFi Stadium to escape the rain and cold before the College Football Playoff national championship game.

But hundreds of fans braved the elements during an outdoor concert about 2½ hours before kickoff, as temperatures dipped into the 50s.

‘’I’m sure when they got this in L.A. the first thing they said is we’ll have good weather,’’ said John Holmes, who was wearing a Bulldogs jersey and said he had flown in from his home in Atlanta. “So it’s hilarious we have rain in Los Angeles on the day of the national championship.’’

Not everybody appeared to be laughing as they attempted to dodge raindrops and puddles. Which begged the question: Would inclement weather favor the Frogs or Dogs?

“I think frogs like water,’’ Tammy Walden of San Antonio said as she and a group of about 15 TCU fans hustled toward the stadium.

Inside the covered stadium, TCU players were warming up in the dry but breezy, chilly conditions. Those watching the teams warm up could see their own breath.

A general view of the SoFi Stadium and logos on the field before the CFP national championship game between TCU and Georgia on Monday.

A general view of the SoFi Stadium and logos on the field before the CFP national championship game between TCU and Georgia on Monday.

Outside continued the game before the game: Get to the stadium as dry as possible.

Jay Southworth of Austin said he and his entourage broke out the rain ponchos they’d had for two years and had yet to use.

Mike Michalowicz and John Briggs sported purple wigs and soaked up rain drops and attention from other TCU fans.

“Ironically, it absorbs more rain,’’ Michalowicz said of the wigs. “And as it rains harder, our heads are getting bigger, bringing about this awkward confidence that we’re going to win.’’

Although the rain had let up when Maurice Kinsey arrived at SoFi, he still was dripping – with Georgia regalia. How did he feel about the weather?

“It’s way colder where I live in Northern Virginia, so I’m not tripping,’’ he said.

— Josh Peter, USA TODAY

College football’s most well-known live mascot will watch the national championship on television this year. A trip to Los Angeles was too far for Uga X, Georgia football’s beloved bulldog mascot. At 9½ years old, Uga, known as Que by his Seiler family owners, is too old to make an extended journey like he did for the 2017 Rose Bowl. — Ryne Dennis, Athens Banner-Herald

Winning the physical battle against the Wolverines suggests TCU will be able to achieve a degree of success on the ground against Georgia.

The Horned Frogs have averaged 213.8 rushing yards in four games against ranked opponents and have topped the 200-yard mark in six games against Power Five competition. This is also one of the nation’s most explosive ground games: TCU ranks second in the Bowl Subdivision in gains of 30 or more yards (18), tied for fourth in gains of 40 or more yards (11) and tied for second in gains of 50 or more yards (seven).

There is no doubt TCU will approach Georgia with a similar offensive blueprint. But the Bulldogs’ run defense will be up to the challenge.

Read Paul Myerberg’s keys to the game here.

The Max Duggan-Stetson Bennett quarterback battle

Again and again, Stetson Bennett has defied expectations to earn a place in Georgia’s pantheon of great quarterbacks. He’ll be tested by the TCU pass defense, however, which has stood up to a heavy volume of attempts by creating tight windows and with an opportunistic mindset. With underappreciated team speed and unique blitz packages, the 3-3-5 scheme used by defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie could catch Bennett and Georgia off guard and set an early tone.

Meanwhile, Duggan and the TCU passing game could find creases against a secondary that has struggled in recent games against LSU and the Buckeyes. But that’s only if the Frogs can stamp out the Bulldogs’ pass rush.

Read Paul Myerberg’s keys to the game here.

How can TCU stop the Georgia pass rush?

The Bulldogs stepped things up since the end of November after a largely sluggish regular season. Before facing Georgia Tech on Nov. 26, the Bulldogs had notched multiple sacks in a game just four times, with a season-high of six sacks in the convincing win against Tennessee.

But they had four sacks against the Yellow Jackets, another four sacks against LSU in the SEC championship game and four more against Ohio State. The defensive front has also been more aggressive in making plays behind the line of scrimmage, with a combined 25 tackles for loss during this three-game span — accounting for over 30% of the Bulldogs’ 82 tackles for loss on the season.

The speed and athleticism was always there for the pass rush to return to this level of effectiveness. While TCU held Michigan to just one sack and three tackles for loss, the offensive line will be put to the test against Georgia.

Read Paul Myerberg’s keys to the game here.

How TCU can scheme to get WR Quentin Johnston involved

But if able to protect Duggan, the Horned Frogs could dig up explosive plays against a pass defense that stands as Georgia’s biggest on-paper weakness. The last two games haven’t been pretty: LSU threw for 502 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions on 9.7 yards per attempt, while the Buckeyes finished with 348 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers on 10.1 yards per throw.

In doing so, Ohio State became the first Georgia opponent to eclipse 300 yards on more than 10 yards per pass with multiple scores and no interceptions since LSU in 2013.

TCU will look to spread the ball across multiple receivers. Five players have accounted for at least 22 receptions; these same five players account for 24 of the team’s 33 receiving scores. But no target is more vital to the Frogs’ offensive success than Quentin Johnston, one of the top receivers in the country.

He had the big play against Michigan, a 76-yard catch and run two minutes into the fourth quarter that pushed the Frogs’ lead to 48-38 and erased the Wolverines’ momentum. Overall, Johnston has made 59 catches for 1,066 and a team-best six touchdowns. Even facing off against Georgia, he may be the most talented player on the field Monday night.

Read Paul Myerberg’s keys to the game here.

Will TCU RB Kendre Miller play?

The all-conference running back left the Fiesta Bowl with what appeared to be a lower-body injury and is questionable for the game, said TCU coach Sonny Dykes. Miller ranks second in the Big 12 with 6.3 yards per carry and second with 17 touchdowns.

If he’s unable to go, the offense will turn to backup Emari Demarcado, who answered the call against Michigan with a career-high 150 yards and a touchdown on 8.8 yards per carry. But the offense will also need a contribution from Duggan, who ranks third on the team with 461 yards and has taken on a larger role in recent weeks.

In the past two games, Duggan has accounted for 167 yards and three rushing scores on 5.6 yards per attempt. Even if Georgia dedicates resources to limiting Duggan’s ability to escape the pocket, he’ll be a huge factor as a runner inside the red zone and in short-yardage situations.

Georgia’s offense has one injury to watch. Tight end Darnell Washington, a powerful blocker and key receiving target, is “resting up and hopefully he’ll be good to go,” coach Kirby Smart said, after he left the Peach Bowl with an ankle injury.

Read Paul Myerberg’s keys to the game here.

How the transfer portal helped TCU’s massive turnaround

Never in the modern history of college football has a team as unlikely as TCU played for a national championship. In a sport where elite results typically track with elite recruiting, there is no template for a team without single recruiting class ranked in the top 20 over the last five years getting this close to a title.

But it also doesn’t seem like a coincidence.

When the NCAA lifted pretty much all restrictions on transfers two years ago, there was a not insignificant amount of panic that free movement of players would only help the rich get richer. But with the Horned Frogs set to play Georgia in Monday night’s College Football Playoff title game, the evidence would suggest that it has in fact does more to level the playing field than anything the NCAA has tried to legislate since scholarship limitations began in 1973.

“We wouldn’t be where we are had we not added (transfers),” TCU coach Sonny Dykes told the Houston Chronicle last month. “It’s a way to fix your program quickly.”

Continue reading Dan Wolken’s column here.

How Sonny Dykes’ fearless approach has TCU on cusp of college football national title

As TCU coach Sonny Dykes prepared his team to play heavily favored Georgia, his two siblings recounted another time when he looked to be overmatched. Dykes, 5, was riding his Big Wheel down a steep hill in the family’s backyard and getting airborne on the low-riding tricycle before landing in a creek.

“We dressed him up with a football helmet and shoulder pads, and Sonny just jumped on (the Big Wheel) and he took off,’’ his brother Rick Dykes told USA TODAY Sports. “First time we did it, we didn’t know how it was going to work, and hit that last hill, he was in the air and he probably covered 10 yards.

“We were like, ‘Oh my god.’ And when we got down there to him, I thought he was going to be crying and upset, and he was laughing.’’

“Sonny was kind of the cocky one,’’ his sister, Bebe Petree said, “and the great thing for me is to see that cockiness, that little edge that he always had. He was that way when he was a kid playing baseball. He would just rush home plate and knock the catcher off the plate and score the run.

“He always had confidence and swagger.’’

Now 53, Sonny Dykes is leading with that same fearlessness. It’s emanating from his team, too.

Continue reading this USA TODAY Sports feature on Dykes here.

Kirby Smart’s embrace of offense, and why Georgia is better off because of it

When Georgia plays for its second consecutive national title Monday night against TCU, head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t just accept that the game might be a shootout — he practically expects it. And over his seven years as a head coach, the Bulldogs have evolved to the point where they’re built for it.

“It’s important to me that we’re good on defense and we’re explosive on offense,” Smart said. “Do those things lend themselves to each other? They can. They do for us.”

As college football winds down another season, it’s difficult to find a matchup that would better represent the current state of the sport. — Dan Wolken, USA TODAY

A look at Georgia, TCU’s uniforms for national championship game

Scenes around LA in the lead-up to kickoff

Trae Young rooting hard for Georgia

The Atlanta Hawks superstar shouted out the Bulldogs after his game Sunday night.

Listen: College Football Fix previews championship game

Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg recap the fantastic semifinal matchups and look ahead to the championship game in this week’s version of the College Football Fix.

Catch up on our coverage of Georgia-TCU

Watch Georgia’s gameday hype video

Watch TCU’s gameday hype video

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: TCU vs. Georgia updates: What to know from CFP national championship

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