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College Football Playoff National Championship review: Michigan runs over Washington to cap perfect season

The 2023 College Football season is now in the books – and the Michigan Wolverines beat the Washington Huskies to win the College Football Playoff National Championship and finish the season 15-0.

Michigan capped off its perfect season in style on Monday night by beating Washington 34-13 in the final of the College Football Playoff at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

It punctuated what was a wild season for the Wolverines, headlined in part by head coach Jim Harbaugh being suspended for the final three games of the regular season. 

Even without its head coach, UM took care of arch rival Ohio State to earn a place in the Big Ten title game – where it blew out Iowa. 

On-field adversity struck in the Rose Bowl, as Michigan found itself trailing Alabama by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter only to come back and prevail in overtime.

The Wolverines pulled away after a close first three quarters to win the school's first National Championship in 26 years. They were the better team from start to finish against the Huskies, who were also 14-0 heading into Monday’s showdown.

Missed opportunities headline first half

Michigan had to be content with a 17-10 halftime lead, but it also had to wonder how the advantage wasn’t bigger given its statistical dominance. 

Washington also rued missed opportunities that would have left the game tied or put the Huskies in the lead, but at the same time Kalen DeBoer's team was surely willing to accept a one-possession deficit considering the rushing discrepancy.

The Wolverines rushed for 209 yards in the first half compared to the Huskies’ 32. As such, Washington was lucky to go into the locker room trailing by just seven points. 

However, the Huskies would have had seven more if quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and wide receiver Rome Odunze had connected on a Michigan busted coverage that left Odunze streaking toward the endzone completely wide open.

Second-half sloppiness hurts Huskies

Michigan did eventually put the game away, but it took a while. 

Harbaugh’s team – the offense, more specifically – gave Washington opportunity after opportunity to tie the game in the second half. The Huskies had five offensive possessions while trailing by seven in the second half. 

Not once in those possessions could Penix and company put any points on the scoreboard - a rare occurrence for one of College Football's best offenses.

Finally, a Washington defense that had really put the clamps down after allowing touchdowns on Michigan’s first two drives once again buckled under the pressure of the Wolverines’ superior physicality. 

Running back Blake Corum scored touchdowns on Michigan's final two possessions, the second of which was set up by an 81-yard interception return by cornerback Mike Sainristil.

Michigan's strengths shine on biggest stage

Corum finished with 134 yards on 21 carries, and hiss two TDs gave him 27 for the season. Donovan Edwards also scored twice and ran for 104 yards on only six attempts.

As good as those numbers look, it was – to the surprise of no one – Michigan's defense that really won the game. 

Penix completed just 27 of 51 passes for 255 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked only once but constantly found himself under pressure and on the ground, Washington ran for just 46 yards as a team on 20 carries.

College football National Championship odds for 2024

Although the college football season is now behind us, it’s never too early to start looking ahead toward the following season.

Georgia, which was the two-time defending champion before getting left out of the College Football Playoff on the heels of its SEC Championship loss, is a +400 favorite. 

Michigan is +1000 to repeat, and Washington is +5000 to go one better and win it all next year.

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