Washington Should Be Favored Over Michigan In The College Football Playoff National Championship Game

Making the case that Washington, not Michigan, should be favored in the CFP championship game. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Oddsmakers got it wrong The Michigan Wolverines are favored over the Washington Huskies by 4.5 points in the College Football Playoff finale. They shouldn’t be.

Both UM and UW are one win away from their first national championship in the CFP era. The Wolverines beat Alabama 27-20 in overtime in the first semifinal, while the Huskies knocked off Texas 37-31 in the late game to earn their spot in the decisive game.

As both teams look to make history, allow us to make the case that Vegas got it wrong, and that Washington should enter the matchup as the hunted, not the hunter.

Why Washington over Michigan in CFP? The game of football is about two basics: scoring points and stopping opponents.

UW and UM stack up well in both categories. Washington was 10th in scoring offense, while Michigan allowed fewer points per game than any FBS program.

6-0 against top-25 teams

However, Washington, despite playing in an effectively-dissolved Pac-12 conference, is the more tested of the two programs. They are 6-0 against top-25 teams and played their two most impressive games of the year in their last two outings against No. 5 Oregon and No. 3 Texas.

The Huskies also have the best player in the matchup in QB Michael Penix Jr., the Heisman runner-up.

Washington’s senior gunslinger has 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season and just went 29-38 for 430 yards and two TDs against Texas. He also made numerous throws that could have passed for clips from Tom Brady or Peyton Manning’s highlight reel.

Although the Wolverines statistically had the best defense in the country and already played juggernauts such as Ohio State and Bama, they haven’t faced anything like Penix and the Washington offense.

According to Pro Football Focus, UW had the third-best pass-blocking unit in the country. They also have a projected top-10 draft pick in wide receiver Rome Odunze who’s gone over 100 yards receiving in five straight games.

It might not be fair to totally disregard Michigan’s defense, but we’ve seen this story before.

Last year, the Wolverines ranked 7th in the country with 16.1 points allowed per game. They faced a strong TCU offense in the semifinal and uncharacteristically gave up 51 points in a loss. The year before that they ranked eighth with 17.4 points allowed but gave up 34 to Georgia in the CFP semifinal.

Analyzing the matchup Since the Wolverines don’t have a historic defense, it’s fair to expect the Huskies to find success moving the ball. The question then becomes how will UM’s offense handle the UW defense and the overall flow of the game.

Blake Corum ranked 35th in rushing yards but led all backs with 25 TDs. He also scampered for a game-winning 17-yard touchdown in overtime against Alabama that only the elite of the elite could make.

Blake Corum’s college highlight reel is endless but this might be the best of them all.

Rose Bowl-winning touchdown in OT to knock off Alabama and send Michigan to the national championship.

Legendary player making a legendary play in a legendary game.pic.twitter.com/RVBFkdFt09

— Brandon Koretz (@BrandonKoretz) January 2, 2024 Stopping the run was one of Wasington’s biggest issues this season. They allowed opponents to pick up 137.1 yards per game on the ground (41st) on 4.4 yards per carry (84th). Meanwhile, PFF graded Michigan as the 11th-best run-blocking team.

The key to Michigan knocking off Alabama was its resilience, whether it be their late 75-yard game-tying TD drive or Corum’s special run. But with Washington’s proven ability to get down the field in a hurry, they’re going to need to be even better.

J.J. McCarthy played a clean game and went 17-27 for 221 yards and three TDs on Monday. At the same time, he missed some throws and did not open up the field vertically the way UW will.

Michigan had not faced a fourth-quarter deficit all season until the Bama game.

Penix and co. are also incredibly comfortable playing in tight games, having gone 8-0 in one-score games. Meanwhile, Michigan had not faced a fourth-quarter deficit all season until the Bama game. Their heavy run-first system also does not project well in high-scoring or one-score games.

The bottom line is that Michigan might be the more well-rounded team, but styles make fights. Washington’s explosiveness will heap pressure onto a Michigan team that isn’t equipped to match them, and that is why they should be in pole position.