Michigan enters the College Football Playoff as the No. 2 seed once again this year and will face the 12-1 TCU Horned Frogs in what should be an entertaining matchup. After a month to rest up, Michigan should mostly be at full health for this game.
Here are three Wolverines to keep an eye in this one that could have a big impact.
CB Will Johnson
TCU’s offense is led by offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, the younger brother of USC head coach Lincoln Riley. They run a similar system, which is more spread out and pass-happy than just about any team Michigan has faced this year.
That passing attack is led by wide receiver Quentin Johnston, who has 903 yards receiving and five touchdowns this season. He is considered one of the top wide receiver prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft and earned First Team All-Big 12 honors for the second year in a row. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he is a big target.
Michigan’s best chance at keeping him in check will be using the length of 6-foot-2 Will Johnson, who is peaking late in the season after two interceptions in the Big Ten Championship. If the true freshman can lock up the potential first round draft pick, Michigan will have a great shot at stopping TCU’s offense. And the hype for Johnson next year will be through the roof.
WR Cornelius Johnson
The case for Cornelius Johnson in this spot is the inverse of Will Johnson’s. TCU’s best cornerback is Tre-Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, who is a three-time First Team All-Big 12 player. The thing is, he’s only 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds. He obviously has the skill and technique to overcome his physical shortcomings but Johnson’s 6-foot-3 length will be hard to stop if J.J. McCarthy can lay the ball in the correct spot.
Johnson also showed he can take the top off the defense in the Ohio State game with two long touchdown catches. TCU’s starting safety is Colorado transfer Mark Perry, who at 6-foot and 215 pounds is more of a plodder that comes up to help clean up in the box. If Johnson can get behind Perry, there will be some deep shots available.
The interior OL
TCU’s defense is predicated on “spill and kill,” which means the defensive line is taught to grab jerseys and clog up holes to keep the linebackers and safeties clean so they can get open shots at ball carriers. Their interior line is anchored by true freshman 6-foot-2, 320-pound nose tackle Damonic Williams, 6-foot-4, 275-pound Dylan Horton and 6-foot-2, 280-pound Terrell Cooper, both of whom are defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme.
Michigan’s center and two guards are the heart of the offensive line, capped off with Olu Oluwatimi’s Rimington and Outland Trophy wins a couple weeks ago. Oluwatimi, Zak Zinter and Trevor Keegan will have to win battles one-on-one to allow others to get to the second level and create seams for Michigan’s running backs. There may not be a better group in the country equipped to handle this assignment.