Sports

No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Washington square off for national championship in meeting of unbeatens

Posted at 1:14 PM, Jan 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-07 13:14:36-05

No. 1 Michigan meets No. 2 Washington for the title in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night in Houston. Both teams are 14-0. The key matchup pits Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. against Michigan's dominant defense. The Heisman Trophy runner-up is the nation's leading passer for the second straight year. The Wolverines have allowed an FBS-low seven touchdown passes and feature a front seven that can wreak havoc with defensive coordinator Jesse Minter's creative pass-rushing schemes. The teams will play in the same conference next season. Washington is leaving the disintegrating Pac-12 and joining the Big Ten.

Championship Game: No. 1 Michigan (14-0, Big Ten) vs. No. 2 Washington (14-0, Pac-12), Monday, NRG Stadium in Houston, 7:30 p.m. Eastern (ESPN)

FanDuel Sportsbook Line: Michigan by 4 1/2

Series record: Michigan leads 8-5

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Michigan is playing for its first national championship since 1997 and Washington for its first since 1991. The Wolverines, who have won nine national titles, beat Alabama 27-20 in overtime at the Rose Bowl to reach the championship game. Washington, which has two national titles, beat Texas 37-31 at the Sugar Bowl to advance. The game also sets the stage for Washington's move from the disintegrating Pac-12 to the Big Ten. The Wolverines and Huskies meet again Oct. 5 for a regular-season game in Seattle.

KEY MATCHUP

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. vs. Michigan defense. The Heisman Trophy runner-up is the nation's leading passer for the second straight year. The Wolverines' defense has no weaknesses, having allowed an FBS-low seven touchdown passes and a front seven that can wreak havoc. Penix can make all the throws and, like he has done every game with his deep and talented group of receivers, will test the secondary with deep throws. The Huskies offensive line, which won the Joe Moore Award as the nation's best, has allowed just 11 sacks and will face a pass-rush that attacks in creative ways.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Washington: RB Dillon Johnson aggravated a right foot injury late in the Sugar Bowl but has vowed to be ready to go against Michigan. The Mississippi State transfer has been a bit overshadowed because the Huskies' passing game is so prolific. He's run for 732 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last six games. Just as important, he has been outstanding in pass protection. He has allowed Penix to get hit just once and hurried five times in 79 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Michigan: RB Blake Corum will be front and center as the J.J. McCarthy-led Wolverines try to dictate the pace of the game and keep the ball away from Penix. Corum is the fulcrum of the rushing game that averages 37.5 attempts per game and is committed to wearing down opponents. His rushing total (79 ypg) doesn't jump off the page, but 71 of his 237 carries have gone for first downs and he's scored a nation-leading 25 of the Wolverines' 36 rushing TDs.

FACTS & FIGURES

The championship game wraps up a successful yet messy season for Michigan. Coach Jim Harbaugh served separate three-game suspensions, the first for alleged recruiting violations and the second for the Wolverines' alleged scheme to steal opponents' signs using on-site scouting and video equipment. The NCAA continues to investigate. ... Despite reporters' best efforts to elicit a comment, Harbaugh batted away questions about speculation he is set to make the jump back to the NFL after the game. ... Washington enters with 21 straight wins, the longest active streak in the FBS. ... The Huskies are 25-2 in two seasons under Kalen DeBoer, whose career head coaching record is 104-11. Washington is 10-0 against ranked teams under DeBoer.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football