Get ready for an epic showdown at this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship! It’s going to be a battle of the titans as Washington from the Pac-12 goes head to head with Michigan, the top team from the Big Ten.
- Game: College Football Playoff National Championship
- Date: Monday, Jan. 8 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- Location: NRG Stadium — Houston, Texas
- TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Washington vs. Michigan: The Coaching Battle
Kalen DeBoer has made a name for himself as a winner. In his two years as head coach at Washington, he has only lost two games and has led his team to victories over Oregon and Texas. Prior to his time at Washington, DeBoer was successful at every level, including winning three NAIA championships at Sioux Falls and leading the Fresno State Bulldogs to bowl games every year during his tenure as head coach.
The strength of the Washington offense lies in its versatility. With a combination of Air Raid principles and NFL-style schemes, the Huskies have the ability to throw the ball all over the field and run the ball when necessary. Running back Dillon Johnson has been a key player, especially late in games when the Huskies need to close out victories. DeBoer’s aggressive play-calling has also been a factor, as he has been known to go for it on fourth down and opt to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.
On the other side, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has been under pressure to deliver a National Championship to the Wolverines. While he has been successful in the past, leading the team to 10 wins in his first season and reaching the College Football Playoff in 2018, he has yet to win the big one. The Wolverines’ strength lies in their physicality, as they have one of the most dominant offensive lines in the country and a powerful running game led by Hassan Haskins.
Harbaugh’s coaching strategy is focused on limiting mistakes and playing disciplined football. The Wolverines have a strong defense that has allowed them to win close games and close out victories. Special teams have also been a factor, as they have consistently put the Wolverines in good field position and provided key points in close games.
Grading the QB battle in Washington vs. Michigan
Michael Penix Jr. has been nothing short of impressive this season. Leading the Huskies to an undefeated record, Penix has thrown for an incredible 4,648 yards and 35 touchdowns. His accuracy and arm strength make Washington’s offense deadly, and his performance this season earned him a spot as a Heisman Trophy finalist. While some critics may say he lacks consistency, it is hard to argue against his ability to make plays when it counts.
On the other hand, Cade McNamara has a different but equally impressive story. McNamara is known for his toughness and ability to lead the Wolverines through tough situations, notably leading a comeback against Penn State earlier this season. Despite not having stats that match Penix’s, McNamara has still been effective for the Wolverines, throwing for 2,431 yards and 19 touchdowns. While he may not have had as many shining moments as Penix, McNamara is certainly capable of leading his team to victory.
Comparing Penix and McNamara side by side, it’s clear that Penix has put up more impressive numbers. However, McNamara’s leadership is certainly a valuable asset, and his ability to handle pressure situations should not be overlooked. In terms of arm strength and accuracy, Penix has the edge, but McNamara’s athleticism and mobility give him an advantage in terms of extending plays and getting out of the pocket. Ultimately, it comes down to what each team needs from their quarterback, and both Penix and McNamara have shown that they are capable of filling those needs.
When Washington has the ball
The biggest weapon in Washington’s offense is their quarterback, Michael Penix Jr. Penix has demonstrated his ability to beat teams horizontally as well as vertically, with an average of 9.22 yards per attempt this year. His ability to throw with touch in the downfield passing game creates explosive plays for Washington, like this early big gain against Texas on New Year’s Day. Washington’s primary target is Jalen McMillan, who leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. But they have a deep and talented group of receivers, including Terrell Bynum and Rome Odunze, who can all contribute to the Huskies’ success in the passing game.
However, the Huskies are not one-dimensional. They also have a talented running back in Sean McGrew, who has rushed for over 500 yards this season and averages 5.4 yards per carry. Washington’s offensive line is solid as well, providing protection for Penix and opening up running lanes for McGrew.
Michigan’s defense will have their work cut out for them when it comes to stopping Washington’s offense. The Wolverines have been strong against the run this season, ranking 8th in the nation. But they haven’t faced an offense as versatile as Washington’s yet. The key for Michigan’s defense will be to put pressure on Penix and disrupt his timing with his receivers. If they can shut down the passing game early on, they’ll force Washington to rely on the run, where Michigan is strongest.
One area where Michigan may have an advantage is turnovers. They have forced 23 turnovers this season, which is tied for 10th in the nation. If they can force a turnover or two against Washington, it could swing the momentum in their favor.