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Grading the Game: Michigan

A tough loss to end a dream season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 08 CFP National Championship - Michigan vs Washington Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Passing Offense - C-

I hate to give a grade like this, because without Michael Penix Jr. and these receives, Washington doesn’t get close to playing in a National Championship game, let alone competing for the playoff. But, against an elite defense like Michigan’s, they just couldn’t execute at the same level they had most of the season.

Rome Odunze had a long catch of 44 yards, but no other receiver topped 15 yards. Even when receivers were open and Penix had some time to throw, he just plain missed. His 5 yards per attempt was the lowest of the season, and his 3 turnover worthy plays (per PFF) was the highest. The offensive line struggled against Michigan’s front, even when they weren’t blitzing, consistently collapsing the pocket, and disrupting timing. It reminded me of the Petersen teams with players like Budda Baker, Byron Murphy, and Sidney Jones - they played a very physical brand of pass defense, right on the edge, and typically shut down every passing attack unfortunate enough to face them.

Rushing Offense - D+

Dillon Johnson was hurt coming into the game, and reportedly suffered a high ankle sprain on the first play. Including Jalen McMillans 9 yard rush, the Huskies ran for 51 yards on 15 carries (3.4 yards per rush). Johnson gutted it our for 33 of them, but accounted for just 1 missed tackle and 1 first down, both tied for the second lowest totals of the season. Tybo Rodgers and Will Nixon did not get many opportunities and were largely ineffective during their limited time on the field. Oddly, Michigan was only credited with one TFL.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Rushing Defense - C-

The first quarter was brutal with Michigan bruising their way to a 14-3 lead, courtesy of Donovan Edwards runs of 41 and 46 yards. The Huskies seemingly had those plays bottled up, but one missed gap assignment allowed a talented running back to reach the end zone.

While I won’t say Washington’s run defense was good this season, they were relatively solid at avoiding those kinds of moments. Teams could generate 5-6 yards consistently but rarely broke loose, until Monday night. The defense does deserve a ton of credit for tightening up in the 2nd, 3rd, and most of the 4th quarters, effectively bottling up Michigan and holding them to 1-10 on third downs, and 0-1 on fourth downs (which is why this grade isn’t a D). Carson Bruener and Eddie Ulofoshio had three PFF “stops” a piece, which was highest on the team. Once the Huskies got into desperation mode at the end of the game the defense wore down, and Michigan finished the game running for 303 yards and 4 scores.

Passing Defense - C+

There were a couple of backbreaking big plays given up by the secondary, but with Michigan mostly sticking to the run, I’m not sure it mattered much. JJ McCarthy had just 140 yards on 18 attempts, but it seemed like every one came at a crucial time. PFF credits Washington with 9 pressures, and their second lowest coverage grade of the season.

Special Teams - A-

Grady Gross hit both of his field goals including a long of 45 yards. Kickoff coverage typically pinned Michigan deep, not that it ultimately mattered. P Jack McCallister had his second most punts of the season, five, and put two inside the 20 yard line.

Coaching - B

I’m not sure there was a ton more the coaches could have done against this Michigan team, they were just that much better, which made the margin of error for the Huskies that much slimmer. A holding call here, a dropped pass there - they might not have made the difference but they would have had to play a much cleaner game to keep it closer.

While Michigan is certainly the class of the B1G, the Huskies can expect similar styles and trench battles in the upcoming seasons. While I hope the coaches knew this going into the game, this was certainly a wake up call if there ever was one. Most B1G teams won’t be as good as Michigan, but the lines of scrimmage will need to improve in order to be competitive in a new league.

It was a great season, and one I’m sure most fans, including me, won’t forget for a long time. An undefeated conference record, Pac-12 and Sugar Bowl Champions, and getting the privilege to see one of the best QBs in school history is something to cherish. Now we count the days until spring practice. Go Dawgs!