Monday, January 8th, 6:30PM CT
2 WASHINGTON (13-0) VS 1 MICHIGAN (13-0)
Well, here we go the final game of the College Football season and the final game of the 4-Team CFP era. Washington, who has been the underdog in their last two games, is in familiar territory as they face the number one Michigan Wolverines in Houston, Texas.
Washington was able to defeat Texas 37-31 in New Orleans last Monday in a game that went down to the final play. The Huskies have relied on their dynamic offense which may be the most potent offense we’ve seen since the 2019 LSU National Championship team. They now face their biggest task yet, the Michigan Wolverines who are coming off a 27-20 overtime win against Alabama. If Washington wants to win this game they’ll have to do it on their terms and turn this game into a track meet. A high-possession, high-scoring affair favors them but I think that’s the only type of game they can win.
Michigan has multiple ways to win, they could play a defensive slugfest and run the ball keeping Washington on the sideline, they could win a back-and-forth game kind of like last week or they could even win the high-scoring game if that’s what it calls for. Washington defensively isn’t the best unit. UW ranks 94th in Total Defense which would be the lowest of any National Champion during the CFP era. Michigan will look to dominate the trenches and run the ball, chewing up the clock and forcing Washington to feel pressure offensively to score every time they touch the ball. Texas had a lot of success against Washington in the run game rushing for 180 yards and if they can do it Michigan certainly can.
The key for Washington you have to have your best game defensively but also the offensive line will have to hold up. The Wolverines were able to sack Jalen Milroe six times last week with five of those coming in the first half. Michael Penix Jr. is better than Milroe with his pocket movement and the Washington offensive line is an overall better unit than Alabama has. If they're able to protect their soon-to-be first-round Quarterback then Penix Jr. will be able to replicate the sensational performance he had against Texas. He went 29 for 38 for 430 yards and two touchdowns.
A matchup I’m looking forward to seeing is Rome Odunze the Huskies' number one wideout and soon-to-be potential top-10 pick in the NFL Draft versus Will Johnson the number one cornerback of the Wolverines who won’t be draft eligible until 2025 but he will be highly coveted. Washington does have more than just Odunze as Ja’lynn Polk had five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown and Jalen McMillan chipped in with five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown as well. However, Michigan built its defense to stop high-powered offenses. When Ohio State beat Harbaugh and company year after year he realized they had to make a change to handle their potent offenses and here we are Michigan with the chance to play Washington who is just as dynamic as the C.J. Stroud-led OSU offenses.
This game will come down to Washington's ability to stop the run or lack thereof as well as if they can protect Michael Penix Jr. for him to be able to hit his elite weapons. In the end, I think Michigan has more ways to win and they’re the better team winning their first National Championship since 1997 in what could be Head Coach Jim Harbaugh’s last game.