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CFP National Championship: How Michigan’s defense can stop Michael Penix Jr.’s best throw

The obvious marquee matchup in Monday’s CFP National Championship game between the Washington Huskies and the Michigan Wolverines is Washington’s offense, led by quarterback Michael Penix Jr., against Jesse Minter’s Michigan defense. The Huskies have scored 37.6 points per game this season, 10th-best in the FCS, while the Wolverines have allowed 10.2 points per game, and that’s the best in the nation.

Minter, who might wind up in the NFL next season if he keeps it up, had a lot to say on Saturday about Penix’ excellence.

“This is a little bit more of a matchup game where it’s elite quarterback that can get the ball to his guys and is not afraid of throwing in tight windows, is not afraid to give his guys chances in one-on-ones. We expect the ball to be thrown downfield and look forward to the challenge of trying to defend that.

“[Penix] is elite. I think it’s his ability to process the information that he has given. I think they do a really good job structurally trying to undress your defense a little bit and give him an idea of what coverages you’re playing, thing like that. Now he has that information presnap, and he is able to process it really quickly.

“He has a quick release that goes along with his ability to think fast, make quick decision. He is really accurate. Then he trusts himself and he trusts his receivers. There’s very little hesitation in his game, so I think that’s what makes hem really good.”

Penix had just as much to say this week about Minter, and Michigan’s defense.

“That’s a good team over there. They’re coached up very well. But we’re going to be ready for the challenge. They mix up the picture quite a bit. They try to get the quarterback off his mark. But we’ll be ready for it. We know that.

“Obviously it’s the biggest game right now mainly because it’s our next one but obviously because it’s the championship, as well, for the National Championship. I’m super excited for the opportunity, but we’re just going to continue to prepare the same way that we do each and every week.

“We know that we have what it takes to be able to come out with a W. We’ve just got to go out there, execute and do it.”

If Washington is going to execute and do it, they’ll need to be careful with Penix’s two route to throw — the deep fade ball. This season, per Sports Info Solutions, Penix has completed 20 of 43 fade balls for 411 yards, 388 air yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 100.9. Fades are generally low-percentage throws, which explains the completion rate. But outside of LSU’s Jayden Daniels, no college quarterback this season has been more devastating to opposing defenses on those deep sideline throws.

Now, Minter’s guys present potentially serious issues for Penix. Michigan’s defense has allowed just six fade completions on 17 attempts for 151 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 48.5. The Wolverines are effective against fades to a point because they’re so effective with disguise and late movement in coverage, but it’s really about how well their cornerbacks lock down to the boundary.

In Week 12, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa tried to hit receiver Shaleak Knotts on a deep fade, and cornerback Will Johnson forced Tagovailoa to have to be a bit too perfect.

So, Michigan’s defense knows who it’ll be dealing with…

…but they’re also better-prepared than most to deal with it.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire