Michigan vs. Washington: College Football National Championship Game Prediction & Odds (1/8/24)

The College Football National Championship takes place on Monday (1/8/24) between 14-0 Washington and 14-0 Michigan. Find the latest betting odds for the big game and a full matchup preview in this article. In addition, find our Washington vs. Michigan best bet, Michigan -4.5.

Washington Huskies Vs. Michigan Wolverines Prediction

On New Year’s Day, the College Football Playoff treated us to two instant classics as Michigan and Washington extended their undefeated seasons to reach the national championship. In the final season of Pac-12 football, the conference sent a team to the title game for the first time since the first ever CFP championship. In the process, Kalen DeBoer has led the Huskies to a 21-game win streak — the longest in the country.

Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh has led a complete resurgence for Michigan football that he hopes will reach its apex on Monday night. With the help of two of the best coordinators in the country, OC Sheronne Moore and DC Jesse Minter, this Michigan team out-bullied the biggest bully of them all in Alabama in the Rose Bowl.

This matchup represents a real clash in styles. Michigan suffocates its opponents with a physical, grinding approach that eats clock and swallows opposing passers. Washington, on the other hand, burns opponents with an electrifying downfield passing attack that can make the best defenses uneasy. Which team comes out on top? Let’s dive into the numbers to find out.

When Washington Has the Ball

Michael Penix Jr. has had a magical season, with over 4,600 passing yards and 35 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. In the Pac-12 Championship win over Oregon, and the Sugar Bowl win over Texas, he has a combined 11 big-time throws to just one turnover-worthy play. There is little doubt that he’s far and away the best quarterback Michigan has faced all season.

Penix is flanked by three elite wide receivers who will all play in the NFL soon enough. Rome Odunze is the best downfield receiver in the country, who arguably should have been the Biletnikoff Award winner, while Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan round out arguably the best wide receiver room in the country. No team has more passing plays of 10+ yards than Washington this season.

However, Michigan enters this game with a dominant defense against the pass. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter’s group has allowed the third-fewest passing plays of 10+ yards this season with the top-ranked coverage unit in the country per PFF. Last week, they held Jalen Milroe without a single explosive pass after he had completed 35 throws of 20+ yards with 26 big-time throws to zero turnover-worthy plays.

Washington’s offensive line won the Joe Moore Award this year, and it’s a tremendous group. However, much of their success stemmed from Penix being as good as it gets at feeling pressure and not taking sacks – he had a paltry 8% pressure-to-sack rate this season. Texas came through with 20 total pressures against this front, and Michigan has arguably the best pass rush in the country with the second-highest pressure rate.

If Washington can’t find the explosive downfield passing gains that have fueled their offensive success this season, significant questions remain about their ability to manufacture methodical drives against Michigan’s defense. The Wolverines had an incredible 89th-percentile havoc rate against Alabama, living in the backfield and holding Alabama to minimal offensive success.

When Michigan Has the Ball

Regardless of how things end up on Monday night, Blake Corum has cemented himself as one of Michigan’s best players of all time and one of the best running backs in college football history. With his game-winning touchdown in overtime against Alabama, Corum scored for the 56th time as a Michigan Wolverine, the most in Michigan history. That’s undeniably special for the winningest program in college football history.

Corum enters the national championship with an opportunity to further cement himself as a Michigan legend against a Washington run defense that has had issues all season. The Huskies rank 126th in rushing success rate allowed and 132nd in defensive line yards. Texas ran all over this team last week, averaging 6.4 yards per attempt despite their top running back, Jonathon Brooks, suffering a season-ending injury earlier this year.

Washington had a 4% defensive run stuff rate in the Sugar Bowl, which ranked in the 0th percentile. They also ranked 106th in tackling per PFF and had nine missed tackles against Texas. Despite the clear advantage, Texas never truly leaned on the run game. Michigan won’t make the same mistake. They’ll lean into what has been their biggest strength since this run of success began in 2021.

Michigan will live in standard downs in this game, as they rank ninth in standard downs rate, while Washington ranks 113th in that same metric. The Wolverines will avoid any obvious passing situations for J.J. McCarthy, and he should keep a clean sheet as he has done for most of the season with just one interception since September.

With Michigan staying ahead of the sticks and Washington forced to overcommit resources to stop this run-heavy offense, McCarthy will have opportunities to hit receivers downfield on play-action shots. McCarthy’s legs can also be an essential factor as a passer and extension of the run game now that he’s fully healthy after dealing with an ankle injury to close the season.

Conclusion

Michigan dominated Alabama from start to finish in the Rose Bowl, winning in the trenches on both sides of the ball and holding the Crimson Tide to a measly 4.36 yards per play, which would be in the 13th percentile nationally. However, the Wolverines were their own worst enemy with atrocious special teams play that nearly spelled disaster thanks to a massive swing of over 15 expected points added (EPA) per GameOnPaper.

It’s easy to start talking yourself into a 20+ point Michigan win if they had avoided those special teams blunders, particularly in the first half when they were particularly dominant on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, Washington did what they have done all season in the Sugar Bowl, winning a one-score game where some major bounces went their way. Texas lost two huge fumbles, resulting in Washington gaining 5 points in turnover luck.

After watching those two games unfold, it’s difficult for me to get to a place where these teams should be power-rated within a touchdown of one another. It has been a magical season for Washington, but an 8-0 record in one-possession games is simply unsustainable. Michigan proved a ton in their statement win over Alabama, and their run game should be dominant here as it has been all season.

Michael Penix Jr.’s ascension into a superstar has been profoundly entertaining, but I believe Washington has met its match here. Michigan stormed into Columbus last year and bludgeoned a similarly built Ohio State team with C.J. Stroud and Marvin Harrison Jr. That experience should serve the Wolverines well here, as they can lean on their dominant defensive line and well-versed secondary.

The Wolverines are ready for this moment.

Washington Vs. Michigan Prediction: Michigan -4.5

Washington Vs. Michigan Best Odds

Before Washington’s win over Texas had even finished, FanDuel had posted a line for this game with Michigan opening as 3.5-point favorites. That number was quickly scooped up in the market, and the consensus line ever since has been Michigan -4.5. That’s a fairly dead number between the two biggest keys of 3 and 7, although 4 is a relatively key number in betting on college football spreads.

The over/under for this game opened at 55, but action hit the over, driving it up to the current 56.5. The implied final score with these odds would be around Michigan 30-26, and team total odds can be found around 30.5 for Michigan and 25.5 for Washington. Kalen DeBoer has a 5-0 straight-up and ATS record as an underdog at Washington. Can he make it 6-0?

Washington Vs. Michigan Key Matchups

There are so many matchups that will tell the story on Monday night. From Michael Penix Jr. against Michigan’s pass defense to Blake Corum against Washington’s run defense, there’s a ton to dive into. I’m focusing on each team’s best defensive player and how they match up with their respective offensive counterparts in this game.

Michigan’s Offensive Tackles Vs. Bralen Trice

If Washington is going to get stops in this game, they’ll have to find ways to get Michigan into longer down-and-distance situations. As I broke down above, Blake Corum should have plenty of production on standard downs against Washington’s run defense, so I don’t expect it to happen often. If it does, Bralen Trice could make a significant impact.

Trice finished with 70 total pressures during the regular season, which led all Power Five edge rushers per PFF. In the Sugar Bowl, Trice finished with seven total pressures, two sacks, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. However, Michigan should be up to the task after holding Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell to a combined five pressures and one sack in the Rose Bowl.

Left tackle LaDarius Henderson has been Michigan’s most significant weakness over the season’s final stretch, allowing a combined 16 pressures in their wins over Ohio State, Iowa, and Alabama. Henderson finished the Rose Bowl with a dreadful 17.1 PFF pass-blocking grade. However, Trente Jones was excellent at right tackle, finishing with an 80.1 PFF pass-blocking grade and allowing just one pressure on 28 pass-blocking snaps.

Rome Odunze Vs. Will Johnson

The Washington offense is full of superstars, but Rome Odunze is the most dangerous weapon of the bunch. This season, Odunze has 87 catches for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has ten games this year with over 100 yards, including Washington’s Pac-12 Championship and Sugar Bowl wins.

Odunze’s downfield ball-tracking ability is outrageous and he led the FBS with 20 contested catches per PFF. Michael Penix Jr. never hesitates to give Odunze opportunities to beat his man in coverage downfield when he’s given one-on-one matchups, and he has just three drops all year compared to 87 receptions.

In this game, Odunze faces his most formidable opponent of the season in Michigan’s Will Johnson. In the Rose Bowl, Johnson didn’t allow a single catch in coverage, and he has allowed just 15 catches for 256 yards on 267 coverage snaps this season. That translated to a 35.4 passer rating allowed in coverage this season. Get your popcorn ready – this is strength on strength and will be a fascinating matchup.

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I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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