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National Championship Picks, Predictions NCAAF Experts Debate the Michigan vs Washington Spread
Updated:2024-05-01 00:27    Views:120
Michigan vs. Washington OddsMonday, Jan. 87:30 p.m. ETESPNMichigan OddsSpreadTotalMoneyline-5-11056-110o / -110u-205Washington OddsSpreadTotalMoneyline+5-11056-110o / -110u+170Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.Michigan Argument

Tanner McGrath: Washington is flashy.

Michael Penix Jr. is an elite quarterback. Rome Odunze and Co. comprise the best receiver room in the country. The Huskies sliced and diced secondaries through the air all the way to a National Championship appearance.

But the Huskies haven’t played a team as physically imposing as the Michigan Wolverines.

You watched Michigan overwhelm Alabama in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines generated 12 Havoc plays (18%, 89th percentile) to Alabama’s five (8%, 38th percentile), 11 tackles for loss to five and six sacks to one.

Michigan generated 1.66 Line Yards per carry while holding Bama to .99.

You’ll see this played out in the run game.

Washington can’t stop the run. The Huskies rank 119th in EPA per Rush allowed and 129th in Rush Success Rate Allowed behind a defensive line that ranks 132nd in Line Yards, 128th in Stuff Rate and 96th in Power Success Rate Allowed.

They’ve allowed over 135 rush yards per game at 4.4 yards per carry this year, giving up over 110 rush yards to all but two opponents this season and bottoming out with 204 allowed to Oregon.

Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards comprise arguably the best running back duo in the country. They’re both fully healthy and showed it in overtime against Alabama.

Blake Corum is so SMOOTH with it 👀

— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) January 5, 2024

They will carve up the Huskies' miserable front seven, and that’s what Michigan wants to do in this game.

The Wolverines should have no issue creating sustained, rush-heavy drives that drain the clock, end in scores and keep the ball out of Penix’s hands.

On the other side of the ball, Washington is a good pass-blocking team, usually giving Penix time in the pocket to let his explosive downfield routes develop.

But Washington hasn’t faced a pass rush like Michigan’s yet. The Wolverines rank eighth in total pressures and second in pressure rate — second only to Penn State because, well, Big Ten football is tougher than Pac-12 football.

And Penix is not immune to pressure. His adjusted completion percentage drops 17% from a clean pocket into a pressured pocket. He’s thrown five touchdowns but three picks on 137 pressured dropbacks.

And I’m unsure if the Washington wide receivers will generate explosives against Michigan’s secondary. The Wolverines rank first nationally in PFF coverage grades and third in EPA per Pass Allowed. In the semifinal, they held Jalen Milroe — arguably the nation’s best deep-ball thrower — to zero explosive passing plays.

Milroe completed 35 throws 20 or more yards downfield for 26 big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays this season. And Michigan’s secondary completely shut him down.

This is college football. It’s the National Championship game. The tougher, more physical team will beat the finesse, West Coast offense with a useless front seven.

I’m betting the Wolverines do it convincingly.

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Michigan vs. Washington Picks, Predictions: Our Best Bets for the National Championship Spread & Over/Under (Jan. 8)Read nowWashington Argument

Mike Ianniello: Everybody knows Michigan wants to win this game in the trenches.

It's built to win at the line of scrimmage. Watching the Rose Bowl, it was clear that the Wolverines’ defensive line was going to be able to push Alabama around all game, and that's just what they did.

They won’t be able to do that against Washington. The Huskies won the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line unit in college football. An elite Texas defensive front couldn't generate a single hit on Michael Penix Jr. in the Sugar Bowl.

Michigan generates the majority of its pressure from the outside with edge rushers Josaiah Stewart and Jaylen Harrell. They will face their toughest test against the Huskies’ tackles. In 1,138 combined passing snaps between tackles Roger Rosengarten and Troy Fautanu, they have allowed a grand total of four hits on the quarterback all season.

In total, the starting five has allowed just eight quarterback hits all season. Even if Michigan does get into the backfield, Penix is one of the best in the country at remaining upright. Only 8.0% of all pressures on Penix has turned into a sack. Only seven starting quarterbacks had a lower rate than Penix, and none had more passing attempts than the Huskies' starter.

That leads me to the difference in this game: Penix. He's the best quarterback this Michigan defense has faced by a mile. Penix leads the nation with 4,652 yards and 35 touchdowns with an ADOT of 10.9 yards.

Penix has three elite receivers who will soon be playing on Sundays. Rome Odunze is the best wide receiver in the country and was robbed of the Biletnikoff Award. He's joined by studs Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan to form arguably the best receiver group in the nation.

Running back Dillon Johnson was injured late in the Sugar Bowl but X-rays came back negative, and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said Johnson is expected to play. This group helped the Huskies finish fourth in the country in Success Rate.

As good as this Michigan defense has been, it hasn't been tested by a high-powered offense all season. Even with the lackluster schedule, the Wolverines rank 42nd at defending passing explosiveness, their biggest weakness.

No team in the country has more passing plays of 10-plus yards than Washington. The Huskies also rank second in passing plays of 20- and 30-plus yards.

Penix has 40 big-time throws on the year, the most of any player. For comparison, J.J. McCarthy has just 19.

The Michigan defense is great. It has an elite front seven and a terrific secondary. But Washington is capable of beating that. The Huskies have the best offensive line in the country to protect Penix and a quarterback who's nearly impossible to bring to the ground.

When Penix gets the ball out, the Washington receivers are elite at making catches in traffic. Odunze has the most contested catches in the country. I don’t care how good your cornerbacks are; there's not much you can do to stop a guy with a 74% contested catch rate.

This will be the biggest test Michigan’s defense has faced all season, and I expect Washington to move the ball and put up points. And when it does, Michigan won't have the horsepower and offense to keep up.

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McGrath: Washington has created all sorts of explosive plays, but as mentioned, Michigan hasn’t allowed many.

The Wolverines rank third nationally in 10-yard passing plays allowed (79) and 20-yard passing plays allowed (23). Again, they held Jalen Milroe to zero explosive passing plays. I’m betting they hold up against Penix

And while you talked all about the Washington offensive line, that’s only half the battle of the trenches.

The Washington defensive line is a sieve, and not just against the run. Among the 68 Power 5 teams, the Huskies rank 42nd in pressure rate.

Look, McCarthy may not have as many explosive passing plays, but he’s been near perfect in a clean pocket with 9.0 yards per attempt, 14 touchdowns and one interception, and he leads a Michigan offense that ranks second nationally in Pass Success Rate.

Michigan wins by staying on schedule, whether running the ball or letting J.J. cook. The Wolverines rank 16th nationally in Standard Downs Success Rate and ninth in Standard Downs Rate.

The Huskies rank 113th in Standard Downs Success Rate Allowed.

The Huskies won’t stop the run. They won’t pressure McCarthy. And they will let the Wolverines walk down the field by losing at the point of attack.

At the end of the day, Michigan has a shot against Penix and Washington’s offensive line. The Huskies have zero shot at stopping McCarthy, Corum, Edwards and Co.

And that’s what my whole handicap comes down to. Michigan might score on every possession against a lame-duck Huskies front, but I doubt Washington will replicate that feat against the ferocious Wolverine front.

Bet Michigan -4.5.

Pick: Michigan -4.5Bet the Wolverines Instantly at FanDuel with QuickSlip!Washington Rebuttal

Ianniello: The Washington defense is severely underrated, and most of its metrics are a bit misleading and don’t paint the entire picture.

Game flow played a large part in the yardage Washington allowed. Teams were able to move the ball on this Huskies defense as they attempted to claw back into games and keep up with this high-powered Washington offense.

During conference play, Washington allowed less than 400 total yards in six games. The Huskies won those games by an average of five points, and all six were a one-score game. In the four games in which they allowed more than 400 total yards, they won by an average of 12.3 points, and just one was within a score.

Washington struggles against the run; there's no denying that. Corum should have a monster game on the ground, but he's not the explosive back he was before the injury. Corum has gone over 100 yards just twice this season, and one was against Bowling Green.

Corum averaged just 4.7 yards per carry, the lowest mark since his freshman season.

Edwards is also not close to the same player. He has managed just 393 yards all season, a measly 3.5 yards per carry. Corum is elite at finding the end zone and is almost guaranteed to score in this game, but these two are not as good as they once were.

If Michigan is going to win this game, McCarthy will need to have the best game of his career.

McCarthy has been inconsistent for much of his career, looking terrific at some points and like a glorified game manager at others. He has 19 big-time throws with 11 turnover-worthy plays this season.

The Huskies defense dealt with injuries for much of the season but is finally healthy, and I believe it's underrated in this matchup. Bralen Trice is an elite edge rusher, generating 77 pressures this season. He racked up seven pressures and two sacks against a strong Texas offensive line.

Cornerback Jabbar Muhammad is the team’s best cover man, allowing just two touchdowns all season and coming up with a key pass break in the end zone to win the game against Texas. The Huskies also have a strong pair of safeties in Dominique Hampton and Mishael Powell.

Washington might rank 105th in Success Rate on defense as teams picked up yards trying to keep up with the Huskies offense, but it ranks 16th in the country at preventing big plays. This unit keeps everything in front of it.

Ultimately, this is a game between two undefeated teams that are very evenly matched. Despite the difference in style, they are both elite at what they do. Michigan has the edge on defense, and Washington has the edge on offense.

Washington has been an underdog three other times this season against Oregon State, Oregon and Texas — three teams that play a very similar style to Michigan. All three teams are great in the trenches and want to lean on their running game and a strong defense. Washington beat all three of them.

Just like we saw last week, I expect this game to be very close and likely come down to the final possession. I will happily take over a field goal with the Huskies.

Don’t be surprised if Kalen DeBoer, Penix and this exciting Washington team pulls off the upset.

Bet Washington +4.5.

Pick: Washington +4.5Bet the Huskies Instantly at FanDuel with QuickSlip!Action PRO Upsell ImageThe betting tools used by the prosBest bets & signals for every gameProjections from proven prosProfitable betting system picksTRY FOR FREE