The biggest moment in the history of the Michigan Wolverines’ football program is nearly upon us — the College Football Playoff National Championship.
The Maize and Blue will go up against a future Big Ten opponent in the Washington Huskies for the college football crown. With an occasion this big, it requires one final Maize n Brew staff roundtable for the 2023 season.
Today, we dissect the Rose Bowl win over Bama, scout the Huskies, throw out some bold predictions and give a score prediction for the National Championship.
Well...that sure was a doozy! After facing their first fourth-quarter deficit of the season, the Wolverines rallied back to force overtime and defeat Alabama. What are a couple quick takeaways you have from the Rose Bowl?
Von: The “SEC speed” narrative is total horse bleep. Tyler Morris outran numerous Tide defenders en route to his touchdown, as did Blake Corum on his touchdown in overtime. Roman Wilson very well could have had a house call on his incredible athletic grab in the fourth quarter. All in all, Michigan proved it can hang with anybody in the country and not just a bunch of “bad/overrated Big Ten teams.”
Jake: The defense came to play. It had been stellar all year, but given the struggles in the previous two College Football Playoff games, it was under a microscope against the best offense the Wolverines faced all season. I was very impressed by the amount of pressures (10) and sacks (six), defending the deep ball, and containing Milroe for the most part. Obviously, the special teams was a huge liability and almost lost Michigan the game many times. James Turner and Tommy Doman have been solid all season, so it was unexpected to see the kicking mishaps. As for the punt returns, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see someone else back there against Washington.
Andrew: In 2021, with its back against the wall and the season on the line at Penn State, Michigan found a way to win. That win signaled the changing of the times — this was no longer the same old Michigan. Monday’s win in the Rose Bowl was the next evolution. With its back against the wall and season on the line, Michigan found a way to win. This is not the same old College Football Playoff Michigan — this is a team that has started a new chapter and still has pages to fill before the book is closed on Team 144.
Kellen: The defense played incredibly well, and while the offense struggled most of the game, it made plays when needed. I drove home to watch the game with my family and it was spectacular. I’ll always remember the Roman Wilson third-down catch, the Blake Corum overtime touchdown behind a pulling Karsen Barnhart, and blowing up Milroe on that fourth-and-goal. This team is electric.
Dan: That was the kind of football game you live for. An instant classic, and the fact Blake Corum made two of the biggest plays of the game just adds to his legacy. If he has a big game in the natty and they win it all, he may be the best Wolverine to ever play the game.
Nick: My biggest takeaway is that at this point, there’s nothing we haven’t seen this team do. For much of the season there was plenty of talk about Michigan’s weak schedule and how it would struggle once the schedule got tougher. The Wolverines were able to defeat tough opponents like Penn State and Ohio State, but still hadn’t faced a big pressure moment like they did late in the Rose Bowl. At that point, the team actually looked stronger than it had for much of the game, showing it is perfectly capable of thriving under pressure. This will be key once they go to-to-toe with another elite opponent like Washington.
Erik: Two takeaways that stand out to me is Michigan’s bend-don’t-break mentality, and playing until the clock hits zero. Michigan was able to hold Alabama to a field goal late in the fourth-quarter to keep it a one possession game. If Michigan’s defense would have folded and given up a touchdown, the game was all but over. Michigan was able to march down the field with what it knew would likely be the final possession in regulation and score a touchdown to tie the game. Even after so many mistakes and unfortunate breaks, Michigan continued to play to win and bounce back after each miscue. This team is just built different.
Let’s also talk about the resiliency of this Michigan group. We all know how bad the special teams were, but J.J. McCarthy and company were not phased time after time, drive after drive. How much confidence does this instill in you heading into the natty?
Von: I couldn’t be more confident in a team heading into a National Championship. When James Turner missed that field goal following Jalen Milroe’s fumble, I thought that was a wrap. But just when you think the game’s over, Michigan found a way to fight back, force overtime and seal the deal. Harbaugh, McCarthy, Corum and company were as poised as it gets in crunch time, which is why I am so confident heading into the natty.
Jake: I was more impressed with Blake Corum than anyone. When the defense held its own time and time again, the offense sputtered out when it couldn’t establish a run game. The only reason double throws, read options and roll-outs work is because the defense has to stay disciplined to stop the run. Once you start throwing the ball more off that, you can run the ball, too. If Michigan won in the trenches vs. Alabama, I feel confident in its ability to win the trenches against Washington.
Andrew: The only team that can stop Michigan is Michigan. Michigan’s offense was mistake-prone and sloppy for the majority of the second half, but when the team needed it, the unit averaged over 10 yards per play and found a way to carve up a Nick Saban-coached defense. If Michigan’s offense executes to its highest potential against Washington, the game will not be close.
Kellen: Admittedly I already had a lot of confidence in this team, but seeing them come up big in that high pressure moment helps that confidence grow exponentially. To quote philosopher Michael Jordan, the ceiling is the roof.
Dan: This team just never gave up. I would bet a lot of money that most fans thought the game was over after James Turner missed the field goal after Jalen Milroe’s fumble. But that final drive, and the execution they showed, will never be forgotten. Let’s hope they keep that rolling into the championship.
Nick: I gained plenty of confidence. The team truly showed when the pressure is at its highest, it can still perform. It was especially nice to see given how Michigan’s previous teams performed in the playoff. They didn’t show to be overmatched like in 2021 and they didn’t choke away the opportunity like they did in 2022. When their backs were against the wall, the Wolverines showed they were as good as advertised, now they’ll just have to keep the momentum going to finish the job.
Erik: This gives me a ton of confidence. Previous Michigan teams, and talented teams around the nation in general, would have easily folded after that many mistakes. This Michigan team never acted like it was behind the eight ball after a mistake — it just went back to work. I will eat crow on this one. I stood firm on my stance that whichever team made the most mistakes would lose the game. Both teams had miscues, but there is a pretty firm argument to be made Michigan made more mistakes and still came away victorious. If that game doesn’t prove this Michigan squad can overcome any adversity, I don’t know what will.
Michigan now turns its full attention to the Washington Huskies. The soon-to-be Big Ten program outlasted Texas, 37-31, to advance to the National Championship. What worries you the most about this team?
Von: It’s gotta be Michael Penix Jr. The dude is a baller and has overcome a lot of adversity to get into this position. He was a Heisman finalist for a reason — he can make any throw on the field and is as experienced as just about anyone in college football (other than 37-year-old Bo Nix). He and his receivers will be ready to go up against Mike Sainristil, Will Johnson and the Michigan secondary, and Jesse Minter will have to develop another stellar game plan in order to combat their pass attack.
Jake: Washington has proven it can score with ease against anyone. The Huskies have arguably the best wide receiver core in the country, and Michigan has not had to face a team with more than one dynamic weapon this season. We all know Will Johnson can lock down one guy, but it’s gonna be on Josh Wallace, Rod Moore, Makari Paige and the other defensive backs to take away the explosive pass game. Michigan has yet to play in a high-scoring shootout this season, and I worry Washington is more prepared if that is how it goes.
Andrew: The one-shot explosiveness. Teams of this design can be difficult to stifle for four quarters when they can shift the momentum with one pass.
Kellen: Michael Penix Jr. He’s the Perry Ellis/Aaron Craft of college football, as it feels like he’s been around for 27 years. He made any throw he wanted to in that Texas game. He’s easily the best quarterback Michigan has faced all season, and he’s good enough to steal this game for the Huskies.
Dan: MICHAEL PENIX JR. The dude just had the game of his life. When he is on, he is the best quarterback in college football. The weapons he has around him only helps, but man, they can move the sticks and put up a ton of points if the defense can’t slow them down.
Nick: Michael Penix is good. Like, very good. He’s been one of the best quarterbacks in college football the last two seasons and is capable of making any throw, not to mention the fact he has a great receiver corps. I think many Michigan fans might still have bad memories from that 2020 game against Indiana, where Penix carved up the defense for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Right now, Washington reminds me of the Ohio State teams from 2021 and 2022 that had elite receiver and quarterback play, so Michigan’s secondary and pass rush are going to need their best outings of the year.
Erik: Michael Penix and his receivers worry me the most. The Huskies are going to want to try to make this game a fast pace shootout like TCU did last year. Most teams Michigan has played this season play a similar style of football as the Wolverines. Washington is going to want to dictate the style of play and if Michigan can prevent that, I believe that sways the game heavily in Michigan’s favor. If the defensive line can get pressure on Penix like they did against Milroe, I like Michigan’s chances. The Wolverines have to find a way to limit his production through the air.
Give us one bold prediction for the game.
Von: Mike Sainristil scores on a pick-six, and Blake Corum puts up two rushing touchdowns. Both senior captains further cement their legacies at Michigan.
Jake: Donovan Edwards is going to get involved in this game. The Washington defense gives up just as many points as it scores, and with Corum’s big game against Alabama, I can see Sherrone Moore scheming up some big plays for Edwards to catch the Huskies off guard.
Andrew: Michigan puts up over 500 yards of offense and wins by two scores.
Kellen: Kenneth Grant has a scoop-and-score touchdown in the first quarter and whips out an end zone dance that will live forever as a meme on Michigan Twitter.
Dan: Blake Corum scores three touchdowns to cement his legacy as one of the best to ever do it for the Wolverines.
Nick: I think Blake Corum is going to go off in this game. Not only will he have the ability to do so given Washington’s porous run defense, but I think him having a big role is a prerequisite for a win. In games against strong offenses, the best way to defend them is to keep them off the field. I think that means we could see Michigan truly get back to its identity and rely on the ground game for some long, methodical drives. Also, this will be Corum’s final collegiate game, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him take on a huge workload.
Erik: I think Washington will have a hard time moving the ball on the ground and will be forced to be somewhat one-dimensional on offense. I think that helps the Michigan pass-rush gets home a couple times, making Penix a little uncomfortable in the pocket. All that said, my bold prediction is Penix throws two interceptions due to that pressure.
What is your final score prediction and why?
Von: Michigan 38, Washington 34. Get ready for another barn-burner — the Huskies are no slouch and resemble Michigan in a lot of ways. This is going to be an all-timer, folks.
Jake: Michigan 38, Washington 31. The Huskies have one of the best offenses in the country with a veteran quarterback who finds ways to score. I don’t see them being held to under 24. Nonetheless, the Huskies’ defense has not been great all season, and I do see Michigan controlling the clock, running the ball and doing just a little more to win the game.
Andrew: The Wolverines did not come this far just to come this far. Washington is an excellent team, but Michigan is one of the worst possible matchups for the Huskies. Through a ball-control, smash-mouth run game and an opportunistic secondary, Michigan is going to get ahead and stay ahead. As frustrations mount, Washington will force the issue and have glimpses of optimism, but Michigan will quickly block out the sun and suck the life out of the game.
Michigan wins, 41-27, claims its first outright National Championship since 1948, sets the Big Ten record with 15 wins in a season, and becomes only the fourth team ever to go 15-0.
Kellen: Michigan wins, 30-21, winning at the line of scrimmage, forcing a few key turnovers and running the hell out of the football to win Michigan’s first title since 1997.
Dan: Michigan 35, Washington 24. The Wolverines run the ball all over a Huskies’ defense that has struggled all season long. Michael Penix Jr. keeps Washington close until a late touchdown makes the lead insurmountable. Michigan wins the championship!
Nick: Michigan 34, Washington 27. The Huskies are gonna score its points — after all, this is going to be the best offense Michigan will have seen all year. However, I think Michigan’s defense is strong enough to limit the damage. The Wolverine offense is going to be the key. Washington’s defense is good, but it’s not at the same level of Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa or Alabama. The Wolverines will be able to run the ball like they want to and put points on the board, and I think ultimately salt the game away to bring a title back to Ann Arbor.
Erik: The Wolverines showed that despite mistakes and stalling drives, they are able to do enough to win games. This team is just too solid on both sides of the ball to let any game get away from them. Blake Corum proclaimed before the season that it was natty or bust, so I think Michigan comes out firing on all cylinders, executes much better than it did against Alabama, and wins, 34-24.