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National Championship Game Team Comparison

Michigan and Washington will play for the championship; here’s how the teams compare using advanced stats

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 CFP Semifinal - Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas vs Washington Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Both Michigan and Washington enter the National Championship game with narrow semi-final victories.

National Championship: Washington vs Michigan

This one, as they say, is for “all of the marbles”.

2023 Pac-12 Championship - Oregon v Washington Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images

No need to introduce UW.

Michigan finally made it to the finals after losing in the semi-finals the last two years. They made it to the finals by beating Alabama in overtime. Like UW, they are 14-0. Until that semi-final game, their closest game was their win over Ohio State (6 points). They only had 2 other games (besides the Rose Bowl) which were decided by less than 10 points (Penn State and Maryland); both of them were on the road.

The two teams played one common opponent: Michigan State. UW beat them 41-7 (after leading 35-0 at halftime) while Michigan won 49-0 (they were up 28-0 at half time). Both games were played at Michigan State. It would be a mistake to draw any conclusions about the differences in the margin of victory between the teams-other than to say that both UW and Michigan were vastly superior to Michigan State.

In the Massey Composite Rankings, Washington is #2 and Michigan is #1 (which obviously also matches the CFP rankings).

Here is how both teams look in some of the advanced stats.

Advanced Stat Comparison-Washington vs Michigan

School FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank FPI
School FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank FPI
Washington 9 9 12 8 12
Michigan 2 1 1 2 1

You can see why Michigan is favored-their advanced stat ranking is higher than UW. (But then again, Texas is ranked higher and lost; Oregon is ranked higher as well, and UW beat them twice.)

Here’s how both teams’ ratings and rankings changed over the course of the season with one of the advanced stats.

Michigan was consistently in the top 4 all year. After starting the year outside of the top 15, UW moved into and out of the top 10 a couple of times, ending up just inside the top 10.

Here’s what the advanced stats look like for both sides of the ball for each team.

Off/Def Advanced Stat Comparison-Washington vs Texas

Team/Side FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank
Team/Side FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank
UW Off. 4 4 4 5
Michigan Def. 2 1 1 5
Michigan Off. 5 6 12 10
UW Def. 27 36 44 22

This looks like a strength-on-strength matchup with UW’s offense vs the Michigan defense. But, UW has faced some tough defenses this year. Here’s how they did against some top F+ defenses:

  • Oregon (#13): 36 and 34 points
  • Texas (#9): 37 points
  • Utah (#15): 35 points

On the other side, Michigan’s defense has faced just 2 top-25 offenses.

  • Ohio State (#22): 24 points
  • Alabama (#17): 20 points

SP+ is similar. It has Michigan facing just 1 top-25 offense and only 4 top-50 offenses while UW’s defense has faced 5 top-25 offenses and 9 top-50 offenses. And Michigan has faced 7 top-25 defenses while UW has faced just 3.

It is clear that UW’s offense is much better than anything that Michigan has had to face. And while Michigan’s defense may be better than anything that UW has had to face, is it really that good, or is it being propped up by not playing a lot of good offenses?

The opposite is likely true for UW’s defense. It doesn’t look great in comparison to Michigan’s, but it had to face Oregon twice, Arizona, USC, Oregon State, and Texas-all of which are ranked higher than anyone that Michigan had to face.

The advanced stats are supposed to take into account the opponents, but there is only so much they can do given the actual opponents that they face. As a result, it isn’t clear that you can take too much from the rankings-especially given the way UW has won its last two games against teams that were supposedly better.

Projections

Several sites are projecting which team will have the advantage in the game.

  • ESPN’s FPI has Michigan with a 74.3% win percentage.
  • Beta Rank has Michigan with a 72% win percentage.
  • Massey has Michigan with a 71% win percentage.

Those are consistent and fit with the advanced stats advantage for Michigan. But those sites all had Oregon with a higher win percentage in the Pac-12 Championship Game and with Texas beating UW in the Sugar Bowl, so they are definitely not perfect when it comes to UW.

This one has UW with a slightly better chance than those. It also has a score projection which has the game very close. If you’re a Husky fan, you like UW’s chances if the game is close at the end. This site actually had UW winning against Texas, so let’s hope they are wrong on this one!