Published by: Bear Acuda
Finally, we have arrived.
Today is the day all college football fans have been waiting for (yes, even those who’s bowl games didn’t go as planned). Tonight, the College Football Playoff National Championship in Houston, Texas, is set to be a historic encounter between No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Washington. This will be the final championship game before the playoff expands to 12 teams next season. The victor of this eagerly awaited matchup will not only remain the sole undefeated team in the FBS, but also claim their school’s first national title in the College Football Playoff or BCS era.
Michigan’s last national championship victory dates back to 1997, just before the BCS system was introduced. Washington, on the other hand, celebrated their last title in 1991.
This season, both teams have showcased distinct styles of play; Michigan, a more classic Run & D style, and Washington, with a more innovative, nuclear offense. Both have dominated their respective conferences and secured narrow victories in the CFP semifinals. The clash between Michigan’s formidable defense and Washington’s exceptional passing game presents an exciting finale to the 2023 season as college football transitions from this four-team era of the CFP format to the exciting 12-team CFP, amid a massive conference realignment in 2024.
What can we expect from the showdown in Houston on Monday night? Here’s an analysis of the game along with predictions for the outcome and the betting spread.
Michigan vs. Washington: The “Nuts & Bolts”:
Spread: Michigan -4.5
Moneyline: Michigan -197, Washington +163
Michael Penix Jr. – Washington’s Star Quarterback: The standout player in this championship game is Washington’s quarterback, Michael Penix Jr. In his two years in Seattle leading the Huskies, the sixth-year senior has an impressive 25-2 record. Penix, previously with Indiana in the Big10, has not fared well against the Wolverines in recent years, losing every confrontation. But since he reunited with Washington’s second-year head coach Kalen DeBoer, who was the offensive coordinator at Indiana at the time, the two-have perfected his system.
Since reuniting at Washington in 2022, Penix has been phenomenal, surpassing 4,600 passing yards in each of the last two seasons and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy race this year. Penix’s precision as a south-paw was on full display in the Sugar Bowl semifinal against Texas, where he amassed 430 passing yards and a Sugar Bowl Offensive MVP award. His leading receiver, #6 overall NFL prospect Rome Odunze, should give Michigan’s defense some headaches. Should the Wolverines clamp-down on the star wideout, Pennix has a pool of talented pass-catchers to pull from.
Michigan’s Physical Defense – Michigan’s defense is renowned for its physical calibur and its strong fundamentals, ranking No. 1 nationally in yards allowed per game (243.1). They have consistently held opponents below 400 yards AND 24 points, and their Rose Bowl victory over Alabama was no different, holding them to a season-low 288 yards. Michigan’s secondary, featuring four top 75 prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, is well-equipped to disrupt Washington’s passing game. The team’s ability to apply pressure, highlighted by six sacks in the Rose Bowl, will test Washington’s offensive line; an o-line that boasts being the recipients of the Joe Moore Award for being the nation’s best.
Authority vs. Resiliency – Michigan has shown dominance throughout the season, outscoring opponents by an average of 25.8 points per game, while Washington has excelled in close contests, winning 10 consecutive games by 10 points or fewer. Michigan’s ability to maintain leads contrasts with Washington’s proficiency in tight games, but both teams won on the last plays of the game in the CFP Semifinals. It will be interesting to see who has the edge, should it come down to a last play.
Michigan vs. Washington: Where to watch
College Football Playoff National Championship
Date: Monday, Jan. 8 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Broadcast: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS | Live streaming: ESPN
Who takes home the trophy tonight?
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