5 players to watch as TCU-Georgia battle at SoFi Stadium for the national title

Will a first-time FBS champion be crowned on Monday night or will we have our first back-to-back champion?

No. 3 TCU is a 12.5-point underdog when it faces defending national champion and top-seeded Georgia at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Horned Frogs (13-1) shocked the college football world when they knocked off No. 2 Michigan 51-45 in the semifinals on New Year’s Eve. They will look to continue their Cinderella run toward their first national title since 1938.

Georgia needed to come back from a 14-point deficit to defeat Ohio State 42-41 to advance to the championship game for the third time since the current format was adopted. The Bulldogs (14-0) will look to win their second consecutive championship after breaking a 40-year title drought last season.

This game will feature a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. The heavyweight showdown will also feature several potential first-round picks in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.

Here are the five players fans should keep an eye on during Monday night’s game.

JALEN CARTER, DT, GEORGIA

Carter could be the first defensive tackle selected in April’s draft. He is a physical specimen at 6-3, 300 pounds and flashes as soon as the Bulldogs defense steps on the field.

Carter’s production is as good as any defensive player in the country. In 2022, Carter had 30 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks as he helped Georgia rank 11th in total defense (304.5 yards per game). Because of his outstanding season, the junior out of Florida was a first-team All-American this season.

MAX DUGGAN, QB, TCU

TCU goes as far as their star quarterback takes them. Against Michigan, Duggan finished 14 of 29 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

During the regular season, the 6-2, 201-pound Duggan threw for 3,546 yards, 32 touchdowns with just six interceptions. If TCU is going to pull off another stunner, Duggan will need to have the game of his life against a Georgia defense that’s been stingy at times this season.

If the senior signal-caller can slay the Bulldogs, the Heisman Trophy-runnerup could rise up draft boards heading into the Senior Bowl next month.

LADD MCCONKEY, WR, GEORGIA

Dealing with tendonitis in his knee, McConkey didn’t have the impact fans are accustomed to seeing from the redshirt sophomore in the semifinal win over Ohio State. However, he could have a much better performance against TCU.

This season, McConkey caught 53 passes for 674 yards and five touchdowns. Despite reaching the national championship, TCU’s defense has been terrible all year long. The Horned Frogs allow an average of 461.8 yards per game, which is 119th in the FBS.

If McConkey is healthy, expect him to be an X-factor with so much attention likely paid to tight end Brock Bowers.

QUENTIN JOHNSON, WR, TCU

Johnson is one of the most underrated receivers in college football. On Monday night, Johnson could showcase his skills on a national stage.

In 13 games as a junior, Johnson registered 59 receptions for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 18.1 yards per catch this season. This game against Georgia is reportedly his final one before heading to the NFL.

What stands out about Johnson is his combination of size and speed. At 6-4, Johnson is tall enough to snatch the ball from opposing defensive backs. He is also fast enough to run past most defenders regularly, as he showed against Michigan with his 76-yard catch and run for a touchdown.

Johnson has the potential to be a first-round pick in the draft.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH, DB, GEORGIA

Smith is a Swiss Army knife-type player on Georgia’s defense, as he can play on multiple levels. He can play the run close to the line of scrimmage, play in center field in zone defense as well as a slot defensive back.

What really stands out about Smith’s game is he is a downhill player who tackles well in space. The 5-11, 195-pound senior out of Atlanta does an excellent job of being physical with ball carriers and will be counted on to slow down a potent TCU offense that can strike at any given time.