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How to Watch: Michigan vs Washington in the National Championship Game

This one is for all the marbles.

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Daniel Plocher Dan Plocher contributes to Maize n’ Brew in several areas including podcasts, game previews/recaps, and various YouTube videos.

The National Championship is here and the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines will be on the field at NRG Stadium in Houston taking on the No. 2 Washington Huskies.

ESPN Analytics has been pretty good at picking games throughout the season, and they give the Wolverines a 74.3 percent chance to beat Washington. Still, the game has to be played and the Huskies have a great team that has yet to lose this season.

Let’s break down the game with some odds from DraftKings SportsBook.

No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 2 Washington Huskies

  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Date: Monday, Jan. 8
  • TV: ESPN
  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Weather: DOME
  • DraftKings Odds: MICH -4.5, O/U: 55.5, ML: MICH -185, UW +154
  • Best Bet (28-22-2): MICH -4.5

Michigan did not play its best game against Alabama, specifically on special teams. Still, the Wolverines walked away victorious after a thrilling overtime finish. Without the mistakes, it felt like they would have won the game rather handily.

Meanwhile, Washington never trailed against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. The Longhorns made things quite interesting at the end of the game, having several shots at the end zone in the final seconds. But Michael Penix Jr. got red hot and never cooled down, completing 29-of-38 passes for 430 yards. He will be the biggest challenge at quarterback the Wolverines have seen this season.

It might be maize and blue-colored glasses, but the way these two stack up against each other seems to favor the Wolverines. Washington’s defense is ranked 44th on SP+ and has allowed 404.1 yards per game this season. That ranks 94th in total defense. They’re slightly better in the run game — 41st in the country — and part of that is because they allow 267.1 passing yards per game, which is 120th in college football.

Texas’ defense was ranked inside of the top-10 per SP+ last week before Washington pushed it to 11th after a poor performance in the Sugar Bowl. The Longhorns struggled against teams that could throw the ball all season — Kansas State took Texas to overtime when Will Howard threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns, Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel threw for 285 yards and ran for another 113 for two total touchdowns, and Houston quarterback Donovan Smith threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns in a near upset.

To be fair, Michigan has also not faced a quarterback this year with the arm that Penix has. He has a slew of weapons he can sling the ball to deep down the field. Most notably, Rome Odunze has 87 catches for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Will Johnson will have his second-toughest matchup of the season lining up opposite of him, with Marvin Harrison Jr. being the most challenging. Unlike Ohio State, Washington has a dangerous quarterback who can throw pinpoint passes to him.

This Michigan defense will be challenged against the No. 4 offense per SP+. The next highest it has faced this season is Alabama’s in the Rose Bowl, which ranked No. 11.

A huge factor for the Washington offense is going to be the health of running back Dillon Johnson. He came on late in the season, rushing for more than 100 yards three times in the last six games. The Huskies’ leading rusher scored two touchdowns against Texas before re-injuring his foot late in the fourth quarter, which has been a nagging injury for most of the year. It sounds like he is going to give it a try in the national title game — who knows how effective he will wind up being, but without him, this Washington offense would be much more one-dimensional.

When it comes down to it, I think the Wolverines are the more rounded football team. This offensive line should be able to bully Washington and move the ball consistently on the ground. I think Blake Corum could have a big day as the Wolverines sustain long drive and keep the ball out of the hands of Penix Jr. If Michigan plays its style and doesn’t make this a shootout, I think it wins the game. I’ll take the Wolverines at -4.5.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.