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Michigan football has one last, big obstacle to face in Washington pass offense

HOUSTON — No matter the drama, no matter the adversity, Michigan football doesn’t flinch.

Jim Harbaugh suspended the first three games of the season? Three dominant wins. J.J. McCarthy has an off-game in Week 3? The team bounces back and dominates anyway. The Connor Stalions saga overtakes not only the Wolverines but becomes the dominant story in college football? Michigan continues winning by huge margins. Jim Harbaugh is suspended again on a flight to Penn State, and McCarthy is injured midgame? The Wolverines would just run 30-plus straight times aginst the toughest opponent seen to date. Chris Partridge is fired a week later for obstructing the NCAA investigation into Stalions, all while McCarthy is even more banged up? And Maryland takes the maize and blue to the brink? The defense steps up and makes timely plays. An interim coach is on the sideline for Ohio State? Doesn’t matter, same result as the last two years. A sloppy game against Alabama where the Tide have all the late momentum? That’s a Rose Bowl win.

No matter what’s been thrown at these Wolverines, they’ve persevered. They’ve won all their games and now have the toughest test yet against the only remaining undefeated team in Washington in Monday’s national championship game.

So, what’s the secret? As defensive pass game coordinator Steve Clinkscale puts it, there’s been one goal: win the national championship. And nothing was going to keep this team from reaching its goal this year.

“I like to say we’re all excited, but this is the game we’ve been prepared for,” Clinkscale said. “We left last season saying this is where we want to be. All those other games in between, those were stepping stones, but this is where we wanted to be.

“We’re here, and now we have to execute and do our job and manage the moment. Don’t take it in too much, like get overwhelmed. Understand we have to go out there and execute against the best team we’re going to face all year.”

The big obstacle now is a Washington team that’s the best in the country in passing the ball. The good news for Michigan is that it has the best pass defense in the country to go up against it.

Clinkscale is concerned, as anyone would be, but as he sees it, his players have the skills, the knowledge, and the ability to cover any pass Michael Penix Jr. throws at them. But it’s still the most daunting challenge that the maize and blue will have all season long — despite the long list of obstacles thrown in their way.

“I think understanding the game plan. We have very smart players,” Clinkscale said. “I think, first, we talk about their receivers. I think you guys have to go backwards a little bit. Their offensive line is extremely good. They do a great job of pass protecting. They move well. Their left tackle is one of the best we’ve seen all year. They do a great job even in the run game.

“The receivers do a great job of setting up the run game with the perimeter blocking and cracks and all that stuff they do, just building off of that. Again, the quarterback, his timing and knowing where to go with the ball is what makes them great. He knows where to go.

“You see him sometimes. He’ll throw the ball, feel pressure, kind of turn his body. Won’t even see the ball all the way thrown, and it’s complete because he knows where the guys are going to be.

“Their chemistry together is the biggest challenge for us. It’s not just going to be one group on that offense. It’s going to be the entire offense.”

There are obstacles on the way to anything meaningful. Washington is the last obstacle to a national championship. The game is set to kick off at NRG Stadium at 7:30 p.m. EST.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire