CFB: This one is for the Crystal Football as Michigan meets Washington in the CFP National Championship

darren cooper
By:
Darren Cooper
02/01/2024/
NCAAF

Highlights

  • Michigan edged Alabama, 27-20 in overtime in the Rose Bowl to advance to their first College Football Playoff National Championship game.
  • Washington held off Texas, 37-31, in the Sugar Bowl to reach the CFP final and features star quarterback Michael Penix Jr.
  • Michigan hasn’t won a national title since 1997, while Washington split the national championship in 1991 with Miami.

If the CFP Final in Houston is anything like the semifinals, college football fans rejoice.

Michigan running back Blake Corum scored on a 17-yard run in overtime and the Wolverines defense slammed the door on Alabama on the next possession in the Wolverines win. While Washington had to hold off a late drive by Texas in the Sugar Bowl in a thrilling 37-31 win.

Michigan and Washington will meet for the crystal football and legend status Monday in Houston. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

Michigan sportsbooks already have the early lines posted on the showdown, with the Wolverines five-point favorites at PointsBet and 4.5-point favorites at DraftKings. The over/under total starts at 55. That’s high.

Hail to Michigan 

Michigan fumbled an early punt, botched a PAT try, but still found a way to beat Alabama. The ball has just bounced right for the Wolverines in key moments this season, like when Crimson Tide QB Jalen Milroe fumbled just when Alabama seemed to have things going their way.

In the overtime, it was Michigan who had the better resolve, with Corum breaking through for a touchdown run, and then on fourth and goal for Alabama, Milroe had nowhere to go on a quarterback keep (strange play call).

It was the Wolverines first win in the College Football Playoff in three tries, and sets up a date with the Huskies at NRG Stadium. Michigan walloped Washington 31-10 in the second game of the 2021 season, but a lot has changed since then.

Washington’s Big Man 

Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was second in the Heisman Trophy balloting and is the axis of the Huskies offense that scored 38 points a game.

The 6-foot-3 Penix Jr. is not a runner. He has under 50 yards on the ground, but his size and vision make him difficult to stop. He’s thrown for 4,648 yards this season, 35 touchdowns and nine picks. He’s blessed with two star wide receivers in Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk. Odunze was a first-team All-American choice.

The Huskies defense is good, but nothing like Alabama’s. They give up 137 yards on the ground a game.

The Key To Victory 

For Michigan to win, they have to limit Penix Jr. Saying they have to stop him is stupid. No one will fully stop him. He’s going to make some plays, but instead of him throwing for 400 yards, which he has done three times this year, it has to be around 250.

Michigan has the edge up front, so should have some success running the football with Corum, and quarterback JJ McCarthy looked accurate and healthy for the first time in a month. Washington wants to turn the game into a shootout.

The Wolverines must avoid the mistakes that almost cost them in the Alabama game. Who fields a punt inside their own 5-yard line with under a minute to play? If Michigan plays a clean game, then the crystal football will come to Ann Arbor.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.