The Michigan Wolverines battle the Washington Huskies tonight in Houston for the National Championship. It is the first time in the CFP final for both teams, and the Wolverines are looking for their first national title since 1997.
The Wolverines beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl last Monday for their first ever playoff win and moved to 14-0 for the first time in program history. They are now just one win away from the ultimate goal, but what do they need to do to get the win?
Here is our last three keys to the victory of the season.
1. Pressure Michael Penix Jr.
Penix Jr. was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and put together a great year. He threw for 4,648 yards and 35 touchdowns to help lead the Huskies to an undefeated record. He was especially good in the Sugar Bowl against Texas, as he threw for 430 yards with two touchdowns.
He has a great arm and is extremely accurate. He has a lot of trust in his wide receivers, especially Rome Odunze. Penix has no problem throwing balls up and relying on his receivers to come down with it.
He can do this because he has plenty of time in the pocket. The Wolverines need to make his life uncomfortable and pressure him. They did a great job of that against Jalen Milroe and the Crimson Tide and they will need to do the same tonight.
The Huskies’ offensive line is much better than the Crimson Tide’s, so it isn’t going to be as easy, but the Wolverines have done a great job all year getting to the quarterback. If they can move Penix around and not let him have a clean pocket, that’d go a long way toward winning.
2. Maintain Drives
This is one of the same keys as the Rose Bowl. The best way to contain Penix is to keep him off the field. Michigan likes to have long-sustaining drive and have its boa constrictor attitude.
The Wolverines will need to do it again against the Huskies. The Huskies’ defense has given up 28 or more points in five of their last seven games, and the Wolverines should be able to move the ball on them.
3. Clean up special teams
The Wolverines were a mess on special teams against the Crimson Tide and it almost cost them. They muffed two punts — losing one — had a bad snap on their second extra point, and missed a field goal.
The Wolverines have only turned the ball over eight times this year and they need to continue to avoid those on Monday. But more importantly, they need to be sharp on special teams. Get the points when they are presented, and avoid a huge mistake that sets up the Huskies in a great spot.