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The National Championship Prediction: #2 Washington vs. #1 Michigan

Will the Huskies take home the trophy tomorrow night?

NCAA Football: Washington at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

All betting lines from DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details

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Andrew Berg (12-2 SU, 6-7-1 ATS)

There is not much mystery in the big-picture matchup between Washington and Michigan. The Huskies have one of the best pass offenses in the country, buttressed by a generational QB and an outstanding group of receivers. The Wolverines have outstanding DBs and get pressure on every QB. Michigan hasn’t played a passing offense like UW’s and UW hasn’t played a defense like Michigan’s. The other side of the ball is less sexy; UW will have to find a way to defend a power run attack better than they have all year.

The trick in projecting the game is that it’s not a simple on/off switch of whether UW will be able to pass on Michigan. There are infinite degrees of how much pressure Michigan can put on Michael Penix, of how well the corners can stick with the receivers, and even how effective UW’s defensive front can be at limiting Michigan’s rush offense. Will Penix be able to get the ball downfield to Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk? Probably, but how deep and how often? Will UW be able to force Michigan into third-and-long where they have to go against their preference to throw the ball? Sometimes, sure, but often enough?

In the aggregate, UW will certainly make some big plays. Whether they win the game will depend on how many. I think Michigan will do a better job limiting those big plays than most of UW’s other opponents this year, both by blitzing from odd angles to get pressure on Penix and by making more plays on the ball in the secondary to make life difficult for the receivers. I also think UW will make some plays defensively, especially as long as Tuli Letuligasenoa is on the field, but I also think Michigan will generally find a lot of success keeping the ball on the ground, grinding out first downs, and limiting UW’s possessions. These teams are great, so the margins are fine. One or two more long passes or stuffed runs could be the difference in the game. Based on the games I’ve seen and the probabilities dictated by performance to date, I’m giving Michigan the edge in a close game.

Washington- 27, Michigan- 30

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Iyo Stephensbailey (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS)

Let’s get one more swing at this and defeat the superstitions that have prevented me from predicting most games. Look, my co-writers know I’ve been the riskiest this season among them and for good reason, we are currently 14-0 and playing in the CFP title game.

Michigan is fantastic. They are elite. They are strong...Well strong defensively. Hear me out, Washington’s knock has always been their defense can’t be relied on and fourteen games later, it’s still a concern for some. The same can be said I feel for Michigan’s offense. Sure, they’ve been good enough for 14 wins, but I don’t believe for a second they are capable of scoring more than 28 points in Houston.

Washington has had slow moments but unlike the Wolverines they have battled an unreal amount of injuries and illnesses on a much tougher schedule than what Michigan has played. The offense is gritty and they play their opponents as if its chess. I don’t believe we can run on them past 150 yards total, but we will surely let it fly. I believe Michigan’s secondary will be worse against Washington’s receivers than Washington’s line against Corum.

I’m going Washington all day because they will likely score more than 30 points. #PurpleReign

Washington- 35, Michigan- 27

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Mark Schafer (14-0 SU, 9-4-1 ATS)

So it’s come to this. After everything this team has been through this season, it has finally led us to the end of the road, with a classic matchup to boot. This is “strength on strength” personified. For Michigan, their defense is a hallmark when their QB leaves a little to be desired in terms of attempts. Their running game is also a little scary, with Blake Corum seeing the end zone an unbelievable 25 times. Their line is also a force to be reckoned with.

But the Wolverines haven’t seen a quarterback like Michael Penix, or receivers like Odunze, McMillan or Polk! Or offensive lineman like Rosengarten or Fautanu. They may have seen corners like Muhammad, or safeties like Turner or Hampton, but they haven’t seen how you can bend this unit, but they are the very definition of unbreakable! This game, like most of the Husky games this year will turn on a few plays, clutch first downs, turnovers, and impossible throws that Mike has made all year, and once again this will be the case for the Huskies! Expect Penix and company to put together one more offensive masterclass, with the various motions that Grubb employs confusing the Wolverines and getting the receivers open and opening up lanes for the running back (whether it’s Dillon Johnson or any of the other backs on the depth chart) and the defense to just hang on to give UW its first title since 1992!

Washington- 28, Michigan- 24

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Max Vrooman (12-2 SU, 8-5-1 ATS)

We’re actually here. If Washington wins this game they will have completed a 15-0 undisputed national championship season in the year of our lord 2024. Unbelievable.

And yet, now that we’re here it’s not hard to believe at all. The Huskies fell off of the national radar a bit as they and in particular Michael Penix Jr. struggled midseason. Whether it was illness or injury, it was clear the Husky offense wasn’t quite as potent as it was at the beginning of the year. After what Penix just did against Oregon and Texas in consecutive games there shouldn’t be any doubt that this is the version of the UW offense that merits “destroyer of worlds” status.

If there’s any defense though that can slow them down it should be Michigan. The Wolverines have ground almost every team they’ve played into dust on the way to their own 14-0 start. It’s true that Michigan hasn’t played a passing game anywhere close to as lethal as Washington. But it’s also true that Washington hasn’t played a defense anywhere close to as elite as Michigan’s.

The Huskies will get yards through the air. Michigan will get yards on the ground. This game will be decided though by whether Michigan will be able to pass the ball or Washington will be able to run the ball. JJ McCarthy is extremely talented but it seems like the Michigan coaching staff wants to avoid putting the ball in his hands whenever possible. If he throws for an efficient 200+ yards without a dumb turnover then it’s not likely the Huskies come out on top.

Washington struggled to run the ball against an elite Texas run defense last week with an injured Dillon Johnson. Everyone insists DJ will play but if he isn’t close to 100% then it takes away a major portion of the offense.

My head tells me that Michigan has enough on defense to slow the Huskies down while their run game will control the clock and limit possessions while gaining 7-8 yards at a time up and down the field. I don’t know how you could have watched all 14 of Washington’s games this year though and conclude that in a close game with high stakes that Michael Penix Jr. and the rest of this team won’t come through. Huskies go the distance.

Washington- 31, Michigan- 30

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THE FINAL TALLY

Straight Up: Washington- 3, Michigan- 1

Against the Spread (UW +4.5): Washington- 3, Michigan- 1

Over/Under (56.5): Over- 3, Under- 1

Average Score: Washington- 30.3, Michigan- 27.8