No Big 12 team has won a national championship in the College Football Playoff era and no school has repeated as champion in that span. One of those will change tonight at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles when No. 3 TCU of the Big 12 faces defending champion and No. 1 Georgia of the SEC. The Bulldogs are -12.5 at Caesars Sportsbook, but bettors are backing the Horned Frogs.
TCU was picked to finish just seventh in the Big 12 this season but has become the first school from the conference to reach the national championship game in the CFP era. National Coach of the Year Sonny Dykes has worked wonders. His team has six wins over ranked schools this season, tied with Tennessee for the most.
When lookahead lines were posted for every potential championship matchup on Dec. 5, Georgia was listed as 17.5-point chalk over TCU. After the semifinals on New Year's Eve, Georgia opened at -13, briefly got to -13.5 and now is -12.5.
"There were 14s and 14.5s out there elsewhere," said Joey Feazel, lead college football trader at Caesars Sportsbook. "I opened this at 13, and the market moved toward us and now a little past us with it at 12.5. Right now, it's been all TCU money. I do think the Georgia-TCU handle will surpass both semifinals, and that's with the Georgia-Ohio State handle blowing every other college football game this season out of the water. But would this game surpass the handle of an Ohio State-Michigan or Georgia-Michigan? I don't think so."
At Caesars, TCU has taken 75.1% of the tickets and 91.2% of the handle. Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale put down $1 million on TCU +13 (-110) as the largest spread bet. Even subtracting Mattress Mack's wager, TCU is bringing in almost three times as much money to cover the spread as Georgia.
"It's 13 points in a championship game, so I can see why TCU is getting this action," Feazel said. "But I think the talent difference is huge. Sonny Dykes also had a whole month to prepare for Michigan, now he only has eight days to prepare for Georgia. We saw a rare sighting of Georgia's defense getting shown up, so this could be some recency bias. It can be tough to lay it with a big favorite like Georgia when they looked vulnerable in their previous game."
TCU is looking to become just the fifth team (and the first since Michigan State in 1962) to win a national championship after having a losing record the previous season. The Horned Frogs are the third team since 1998 to play in a national title game after being unranked in preseason AP Top 25.
Both national semifinal games were high-scoring affairs. This game's total opened at 63 and has settled at 62.5. A total of 82.1% of the tickets are on the Over, but only 52.5% of the handle is on the same wager.
"There were some differences with some of the other opening totals elsewhere—one opened 64.5 and another opened 59.5," Feazel said. "We're now at 62.5, and I think that's the right number there. We're going to need the Under in the end, even though I see sharp action continuing to come in on the Under. I think the total could drift up because the public just saw two shootouts in the semifinals, so we'll see Over money for sure."
When Georgia beat Alabama in last year's national title game, Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett was named the Offensive MVP after throwing for 224 yards and two scores with no turnovers. The Heisman Trophy finalist is a -150 favorite to repeat that honor with Horned Frogs QB and Heisman runner-up Max Duggan next at +475. It's the final collegiate game for both Bennett and Duggan (he could have returned but instead declared for the draft). The only other player below +1000 is UGA running back Kenny McIntosh.
The most-wagered props tonight at BetMGM are: TCU to win by 1-6 points at +750, Duggan to score an anytime touchdown at +125, and McIntosh to score the game's first TD at +650.
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