LOS ANGELES – Just a day away from the big game, University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart and Texas Christian University head football coach Sonny Dykes took the podium inside the Los Angeles Airport Marriott ballroom to take questions from the media Sunday morning.
The Bulldogs, undefeated through 14 games this season, and the Horned Frogs, who have suffered just a single loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, will face off Monday night in SoFi Stadium.
The two schools at the top of the college football mountain could not be different. Georgia enrolls three times as many students as TCU (37,606-10,489) and is a powerhouse program playing for a consecutive national title. Texas Christian is a Christian-focussed college in the heart of Texas with not much of a national identity. Dykes spoke of having key players on his roster not having played in a bowl game until this season.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart answers questions during a press conference on Sunday, January 8, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)
The differences between the programs continue as Georgia is the defending national champion and Southeastern Conference champion and TCU finished second in the Big 12 following a 31-28 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game December 3, 2022. The program hasn’t played for a national championship since 1938. The Horned Frogs won the 1935 and 1938 titles.
None of that may matter Monday night though. There are only two teams left playing college football. “There’s countless hours and minutes that these teams, both of us, have spent preparing,” Smart said of the teams being at this point of the season during the head coaches press conference.
TCU head coach Sonny Dykes answers questions during a press conference on Sunday, January 8, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)
The big game is new for this year’s Horned Frogs, but Dykes believes his team is up for the challenge. “This is obviously our first time being on a stage like this,” he said. “Bowl prep, playing in big games like this is new for our guys, not necessarily for TCU. It’s been a heck of a journey for these guys.” TCU, which has been referred to as a “Cinderella”story, only has four players on its current roster that have participated in a bowl game before the Fiesta Bowl semifinal against Michigan last week.
Both coaches spoke about their team’s preparation time, representing their respective conferences, recruiting, developing talent, mental health for the players and coaches, managing time off for their families, and of course, playing for a national title.
Georgia lost 15 starters on defense from last year’s championship team, but have retooled and prepared because of all the practice time teams get for conference championships and bowl games. “A lot of the reason we were able to turn our roster over from last year to this year was the practices,” Smart said.
Will he or won’t he?
Smart briefly talked about junior tight end Darnell Washington being fit to play Monday night. “He’s worked hard, done a lot of rehab, and I know he wants to play,” said Smart. Washington was one of Georgia’s top weapons this season with 27 receptions for 426 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The national championship has a 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 ET scheduled kickoff.