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Tonight's college football final could make underdog history

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

No matter who wins tonight's college football final, history is going to be made. It's a showdown between returning champs, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. If Georgia takes it, the Dogs will have their first repeat national championship ever. But if you're more interested in underdogs, well, we've got to talk about the Horned Frogs. If they win, TCU would be the first team in more than 30 years to start the season unranked and end it with a national title. Holly Anderson, co-host of the "Shutdown Fullcast," billed as the world's only college football podcast, joins me now. Hey, Holly.

HOLLY ANDERSON: Hello.

SUMMERS: All right. So let's start off with the Horned Frogs. Can you just give us a little bit of historical context about just how unlikely TCU's appearance is in this game?

ANDERSON: First of all, TCU is a private school. They don't have a large alumni base, and what that translates to in the college football sphere is they're operating at a funding and a resource deficiency compared to a huge juggernaut program like Georgia. No matter what happens tonight, TCU has already pulled off a historic one-year turnaround. They have two claimed titles in their school history. They've been playing football since, I think, 1896. Both of their titles occurred in the 1930s. They're also less than a year removed from kicking out an institution. They fired their head coach of - who'd been at the school for decades in one role or another, Gary Patterson. There's a statue of him on campus, and he was pushed out last year. So not only do they have a first-year head coach, they're trying to win a college football title against a team that has every possible material advantage.

SUMMERS: OK, so take us through this season. How exactly did a school like TCU, with all of the backstory you've just explained, make it to the final?

ANDERSON: If I told you, you wouldn't understand it any more if you had watched it happen yourself. That's not a dig. They - TCU isn't as talented on paper - you know, isn't as big, isn't as physically strong on paper than Georgia is, but they just keep doing this.

SUMMERS: Before I let you go, I've got one last question for people out there who maybe don't know every player's stats and story and all of the history behind this game, I'm hoping you can just quickly give me one player for each team that we should be watching tonight.

ANDERSON: So Georgia is the Monstars, for those of you who grew up in the "Space Jam" era, but Georgia has a pair of tight ends, one of whom may or may not be playing tonight - Darnell Washington is, like, going to be a gametime call, but Darnell Washington and Brock Bowers are - they are Monstars among Monstars. They are kaiju. There is no physical reason on this Earth that they should be that big and move that fast, but they do. It's like looking at a pair of statues on Easter Island, and they have two of them, and they can move at warp speed. It's absolutely terrifying, but their secondary is vulnerable, and the last time they faced a single receiver who is as good as Quentin Johnston is for TCU, they got lit up. He will be catching balls from Max Duggan, who is another one of those narratives that college football types love. You know, he's a country kid from Council Bluffs, Iowa, from a blue-collar town. He is entering the NFL draft after this game, so this is his last stand on the collegiate level. And when things tend to go off-script, he can go off-script very effectively. He does have the ability to surprise you, so keep an eye out there.

SUMMERS: We've been talking with Holly Anderson, co-host of the "Shutdown Fullcast." Holly, thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you so much, Juana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Gabe O'Connor