Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; TCU Horned Frogs running back Kendre Miller (33) tries to break away from Michigan Wolverines Makari Paige (7) past during the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Rondone-Arizona Republic

Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game

TCU’s Kendre Miller (knee) hoping to play in championship game

Underdog TCU will need to be at full strength Monday if it wants to deny Georgia back-to-back national championships.

And a big part of the team is running back Kendre Miller, who sustained a sprained right MCL last weekend in the first College Football Playoff semifinal against Michigan.

Miller has been deemed questionable to play against the Bulldogs this week, but head coach Sonny Dykes told reporters on Saturday that Miller has a shot of playing.

“We’ll continue to try to see where he’s at. I think to me in the next 24 hours is when obviously we’ll have to make a determination, have a pretty good idea on what he’s going to be able to do going into the game Monday,” Dykes said. “We’re still optimistic that he’s going to be able to play. So we’ll see how he feels today.

“I think today is going to be important and see, just kind of see where he’s at. See how he feels. And the biggest thing obviously is he’s confident and feels good about it. And we want him to be very effective. We just don’t want to put him out there and give him an opportunity to get more injured.”

Miller does feel good about it. He told ESPN on Saturday that his knee is at about 50 percent — and that’s enough for him to prepare to play for the national championship, at least.

“(Sunday) definitely is going to be pretty much the deciding factor if I can go or not, but I’m going to definitely try,” Miller said. “It’s kind of like a 50-50, but I’ll most definitely suit up either way and try.”

He said his knee is getting better every day but that he’ll have to feel confident before he attempts to play.

“If it’s not stabilized, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going out there and playing,” Miller said. “That’s kind of why I didn’t play in the second half of Michigan. I tried.”

Miller ran for 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns for TCU in 14 games to lead the Horned Frogs in rushing this season. Behind him were Emari Demercado (622 yards, six TDs) and quarterback Max Duggan (461 yards, eight TDs).

TCU beat the Wolverines 51-45 in the semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl, and Demercado carried the ball 17 times for a career-high 150 yards with a touchdown with Miller unavailable. The senior is from Inglewood, Calif., where the College Football Playoff title game will be played at SoFi Stadium between TCU (13-1) and Georgia (14-0).

“For me, that’s something special,” Demercado said. “I’ve been walking around telling people like it’s something scripted … my last college game, I get to go right down the road from my house. It’s just a surreal feeling, and I’m excited for it.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; TCU Horned Frogs running back Kendre Miller (33) against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

TCU hopes RB Kendre Miller (knee) cleared for CFP title game

TCU standout running back Kendre Miller is questionable to play in the College Football Playoff title game because of a knee injury, head coach Sonny Dykes said Tuesday.

Miller sustained the injury in the Horned Frogs’ 51-45 win over Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve. The first-team All-Big 12 selection had eight carries for 57 yards before leaving the national semifinal game.

“We’re hopeful we’ll get Kendre back,” Dykes said, per The Athletic. “As the week progresses, we’ll know a little bit more every single day. Right now, I’d say he’s questionable and then we’ll try to make a determination as we get through the week.”

Miller ran for 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns for TCU in 14 games played to lead the Horned Frogs in rushing this season. Behind him were Emari Demercado (622 yards, six TDs) and quarterback Max Duggan (461 yards, eight TDs).

The national championship game pits TCU (13-1) against defending champion Georgia (14-0). It will be played Monday in Inglewood, Calif.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) throws a pass against Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) during the SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Alabama won 41-24. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia flips focus in Alabama rematch

Georgia play-caller Todd Monken wants quarterback Stetson Bennett to keep it simple in his third career shot at Alabama.

Bennett was MVP of the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve in a performance that hushed some of the criticism that emerged following Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game.

Bennett was 20 of 30 for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ beatdown of Michigan last week. And he was brave and accurate in the face of pressure from the Wolverines. That could be a sign of progress for Monken, Georgia’s offensive coordinator. When facing pressure against Alabama in the SEC title game in December, Bennett had 10 incompletions in 15 attempts. His five completions went for 60 yards with an interception, and he was sacked three times.

“I don’t see it as those two games are going to predict the future. I don’t see it that way,” said Monken on Wednesday in Indianapolis, noting the former walk-on who left Georgia for junior college but returned also has two very good statistical halves out of four against Alabama.

“He has everything we need to be successful offensively. And our issues with turnovers aren’t his issue, particularly. That’s everybody in this country — if you turn the ball over you’re not going to win, no matter how you do it. The first turnover a year ago was a batted ball that was out of his control. The second interception was a tipped pass on an end cut that went directly to them. The third one was a poor decision. So the bottom line is I can do better as a coordinator to put him in better position to be successful. He understands that. Our team understands that. So I expect him to play well just like I did last week.”

Bennett has 10 touchdown passes in the past three games.

But keeping up with Alabama has been a challenge for Georgia — and many others — on the biggest stage.

Georgia linebacker Quay Walker is an essential ingredient for the Bulldogs’ bid to stop Alabama on Monday.

In the previous meeting, the Bulldogs largely survived on a drop zone look that kept eyes on Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young at quarterback. But missed tackles and busted coverage fed the Crimson Tide’s big-play offense and Georgia played second fiddle in the SEC.

“Since being here I’m 0-3 against them,” Walker said Wednesday. “So that felt pretty bad. But knowing that we didn’t have any sacks, knowing we didn’t have any sacks on defense, any turnovers, more than likely you’re not going to win that game if you don’t do those types of things. So at the end of the day I pretty much already knew. They were pretty much the team that day we didn’t execute on those types of things. As bad as I want to say it hurt, it did I kind of pretty much already knew why we didn’t win the game. I knew the mistakes we already made that led up to that.”

Walker said Georgia is not listening when “people outside of the team” mention the defense went from being historically good statistically to merely mortal against Alabama last month.

“At the end of the day, we just have to prove to ourselves, me proving to those other 10 guys that I’m out there on the field with and the offense as well as a whole team. We have nothing to be worried about about proving to anybody else outside of this building, outside of this team,” Walker said.

Walker won’t take it quite as far as Bennett, who can easily ignore social media because he’s a 23-year-old pocketing a flip phone. The device is, perhaps obviously, nothing new. Bennett said he had the same phone prior to the season.

“Yes, having a flip phone — I don’t think you really care too much about the outside noise and social media,” Walker said.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Ja'Corey Brooks (7) is tackled by Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Lewis Cine (16) in the second half during the SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia out to avenge Alabama loss in all-SEC National Championship rematch

The All-SEC rematch that not everybody wanted to see will be on the big stage Monday night when No. 1 Alabama faces No. 3 Georgia in the College Football Playoff title game at Indianapolis.

Alabama feasted on the Bulldogs 41-24 in last month’s SEC title game and the one-sided nature of the contest dulled excitement over a possible second meeting.

Alabama (13-1) knocked off Cincinnati 27-6 in its CFP semifinal and Georgia (13-1) trampled Michigan 34-11 to set up the rematch.

Anybody suspecting another easy victory hasn’t run the subject by Crimson Tide star linebacker Will Anderson Jr.

“That was last game. We have to focus on this game,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be a whole, totally new game, new area, new setting, everything. So we’re going to see something different that we probably haven’t seen before. We have to be prepared for it.”

All Kirby Smart has seen during his coaching stint at Georgia is losses to Alabama — he is 0-4 against former boss Nick Saban.

And Smart isn’t fond of being reminded of his team’s shortfalls against the Crimson Tide.

“They’ve also been a problem and a thorn for any team they’ve played besides ours,” Smart said. “We have that in common with a lot of teams.”

The Crimson Tide are defending champions and are looking for their fourth title in eight seasons under the CFP format. Coach Nick Saban has won six national crowns at Alabama and seven overall.

One of the CFP titles was a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia in the 2017 championship contest. That was in Smart’s second season at the helm after his stint as Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama.

The Crimson Tide’s victory in the SEC title game was stunning in that the Bulldogs hadn’t allowed more than 17 points all season.

But Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young passed for 421 yards and three touchdowns and Jameson Williams had seven receptions for 184 yards and two scores as Alabama easily dissected the vaunted Georgia defense.

“We didn’t play a good game at all on the defensive side of the ball,” Bulldogs cornerback Derion Kendrick said of the first matchup. “We’ve got to help the offense out as well.”

The Georgia defense was back in form in the victory over Michigan. The Bulldogs controlled the contest and the Wolverines scored their lone touchdown with 4:25 remaining.

Georgia has held eight opponents to seven or fewer points this season and the performance against Michigan led to the Bulldogs being installed as slight favorites against Alabama.

That is just fine with Crimson Tide star running back Brian Robinson Jr. who rushed for a career-best 204 yards in the victory over Cincinnati.

“Sometimes we always feel like the underdog even when we’re expected to win a game,” Robinson said. “I feel we’ll be motivated. We’ll come out with the underdog mentality and be ready to play.”

Even with performers like Young (4,503 passing yards, 46 touchdowns), Robinson (1,275 rushing yards, 14 scores), Williams (75 receptions for 1,507 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Anderson (17.5 sacks), there were times when Alabama looked in danger of missing the playoffs.

A comeback 24-22 quadruple-overtime win over Auburn on Nov. 27 was a lifesaver one week prior to the SEC title game. But the one loss — 41-38 to Texas A&M on Oct. 9 — stands out in Saban’s mind as the season’s pivotal moment.

“I think that losing a game gave our team an opportunity to mature,” Saban said. “We have a really, really young team. We don’t have very many seniors that play a significant role. So I think with young players who sort of had a lot of success in terms of wins prior to the Texas A&M game, maybe they lost respect for winning or what it takes to prepare to win on a consistent basis.

“I think it made people realize the importance of leadership, setting a good example and holding each other accountable.”

Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett displayed some impressive traits in a big outing against Michigan with 313 yards and three touchdowns. However, he was picked off twice in the loss to Alabama and expects to see similar defensive tendencies from the Crimson Tide in the rematch.

“They’re going to be Alabama, and we’re going to be Georgia,” said Bennett, who has 27 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. “And we’re going to see who executes better. And if there is a wrinkle come Monday night from either side, then whoever adjusts best to that will win the football game.”

Georgia is looking to win the title for the first time since Herschel Walker led the 1980 team to an undefeated 12-0 season.

–Field Level Media