Final prediction: Michigan football vs. Washington in national championship game

HOUSTON — The matches are set. The rosters are set. The game plans are set. Now, it’s all about going out and executing.

The national championship game is Monday evening at NRG Stadium, and the Michigan football team and Washington Huskies are the only undefeated squads in the country. The winner goes home a champion. The loser was oh-so-close and suddenly has a one in the loss column.

Now that we’re nearly to game day, Wolverines Wire’s Isaiah Hole and Owen Pustell share their thoughts on the game as well as update their final score predictions.

Owen Pustell

The biggest question of the game is how Michigan will deal with Washington’s high-octane passing offense. The Huskies average 350 passing yards a game and have had more games over 400 air yards than under 300. The trio of Michael Penix Jr., Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk is probably the most talented in the nation, and their abilities are only heightened by the presence of a Joe Moore award-winning offensive line. The task is daunting, but isn’t anything Michigan hasn’t beaten in the past. Washington’s offense is reminiscent of the Ohio State teams in 2021 and 2022 that passed for 349 and 394 yards, respectively, and lost by multiple possessions each time. Can Michigan have a similar defensive performance? I think it can, but it will take high-level execution from just about every member of the defense.

While I think Washington’s offense and Michigan’s defense are pretty evenly matched, the advantage on the other side of the ball favors Michigan. Washington’s passing defense is among the worst in the country and its rushing defense is far from dominant. The Wolverines have shown they can win games on the ground or through the air, so I do not anticipate any issues moving the ball or scoring for Michigan. I predict Michigan will lean on Blake Corum and the inside to run to control the clock and keep Washington from getting into a rhythm on offense. The Wolverines will take some shots in the air, but most of the offense will be focused on grinding out yards up the middle.

The biggest X factor in the game will be Michigan’s ability to simply play a clean game. The Wolverines may have beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl, but the victory was far from smooth. In fact, both of Michigan’s previous semi-final losses were also due, at least in part, to uncharacteristic mistakes. Washington can score quickly and score in bunches. If Michigan gives it extra possessions with special teams goofs and silly interceptions, Washington can quickly make it a two or three-possession game.

Of course, I have Michigan as my winner. The Wolverines can dominate time of possession with the run game and take advantage of Washington’s weak pass defense when needed. I expect it to be close well into the third quarter, but Michigan should pull away late. If Washington can force two or more turnovers, then it has a chance to win or take it into overtime, but otherwise Michigan has the right matchups to win the game.

Three bold predictions

  • No Washington receiver hits 100 yards.

  • Blake Corum rushes for a season-high yardage total.

  • Michigan breaks the CFP championship record for team sacks (5).

Final score prediction

Michigan 34, Washington 24

Isaiah Hole

Everyone is talking about the matchup between the Michigan secondary against Michael Penix and the pass game — and rightfully so. But, last week against Alabama, the topic was the defense slowing Jalen Milroe. No one took a second to think about any other aspects of the game, all which ended up playing key roles.

For Michigan, it’s not just about ball control, which many believe will be the Wolverines’ plan against the potent Husky defense to keep the offense off the field. With Washington boasting the No. 123 pass defense along with the No. 97 overall defense, there’s a chance Michigan actually airs it out a little, while still maintaining the run game. The UW defense is the type the maize and blue score a lot on and it’s statistically the second-worst that Michigan has seen all year (behind just UNLV). Just above Washington in total defense are Indiana (Michigan scored 52) and Michigan State (49), while Purdue (41), and Minnesota (52) are a fair bit ahead of the Huskies in yards per game surrendered. The Michigan offense has a good chance to put up a lot of points in this one and very well could go toe-to-toe with UW.

Styles make fights, and while it will be a challenge for the Michigan defense to slow or stall this formidable Washington attack, the defense was built specifically to stop passing offenses such as these. UW will score points and make big plays, it will be all about limiting those plays. In our eyes, Michigan has just too much firepower in all three phases. So long as it plays a clean game, it should be a championship in Ann Arbor.

But that’s a big if given the stakes and circumstances.

Three bold predictions

  • J.J. McCarthy throws for over 250 yards and 3 touchdowns

  • Michael Penix throws for 300 yards, but Michigan holds Washington to 4 field goals and two touchdowns

  • Michigan is plus-two in turnovers

Final score prediction

Michigan 45, Washington 26

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire