Washington vs Michigan Free Pick and Prediction [1/8/2024]

Washington (14-0) vs Michigan (14-0)
When: Monday, January 8th 2024
Where: NRG Stadium,
Houston, TX

Time: 7:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: Michigan -4/55

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The 10th and final four-team College Football Playoff Championship game takes place this Monday night at NRG Stadium in Houston. The 14-0 Washington Huskies meet the 14-0 Michigan Wolverines for the title before the playoffs expand to 12 teams next year. This is the first time since 2014 that the SEC will not be in the title game, and that conference had won four straight national titles and six of nine overall.

The Big Ten, which is expanding big time next season, is making its third appearance in the title game and the first two were Ohio State (1-1). It’s the second appearance for the Pac-12 with Oregon losing to the Buckeyes following that 2014 campaign in the first CFP. Pac-12 football ceases to exist after this game before their big mergers elsewhere. The Wolverines come in as 4.5-point favorite in this one with a total of 56.5.

These teams met recently during the 2021 regular season with Michigan winning 31-10 in Ann Arbor. With Washington, Oregon, USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten next season, more of these matchups will take place. In fact, the Huskies and Wolverines will play again on Oct. 5 in Seattle. Blake Corum had 171 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the 2021 game, but not many key players are still left for either team.

Recent Trends
Under is 19-7 in Washington’s last 26 games as an underdog.
Wolverines are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 vs. Pac-12.
Wolverines are 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
Over is 8-2 in Michigan’s last 10 games in January.

Washington hasn’t won a national championship since sharing one in 1991 with Miami (Fla.). The Huskies are currently on a national-best 21-game winning streak, and along with Michigan, are the only FBS conference champions to win a bowl game this season. The offense is very explosive under quarterback Michael Penix Jr., running back Dillon Johnson and three terrific wideouts in Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan. The Huskies lead the nation with 350.0 passing yards per game.

This is head coach Kalen DeBoer’s second season and he’s 10-0 vs. AP-ranked teams and 5-0 vs. teams ranked in the Top 10. Penix is third all-time in Washington history in passing yardage (9,289) and touchdown passes (66) despite playing in just 27 games after transferring from Indiana. Penix carved up Michigan’s defense for 342 yards and three touchdowns in Indiana’s 38-21 win in 2020. The Huskies’ last 10 games have all been decided by 10 or fewer points.

Michigan’s offense isn’t as explosive as Washington’s but they do run the ball well behind Corum and some game-managing from QB JJ McCarthy. It’s the defense that runs this Michigan team. The Wolverines allow just 150.0 passing yards per game (second in the FBS) and 0.5 pass TDs per game, tops in the nation. Michigan shut down Alabama in the semifinals, holding the Tide to 288 yards and 3-for-13 on third down.

Corum scored the decisive points on a 17-yard run in OT before the defense closed the door on fourth down to end it. Corum has set the Michigan single-season rushing touchdown record with 25 while also topping 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season (1,111).

Michigan’s defense is dominant, but they haven’t seen a passing attack like Washington’s all season. The Huskies are a team that thrives on playing and winning close games and they also love the underdog role. Washington has been a dog in three of their last four games and won them all. I can see the Huskies defense slowing the Michigan run game down and getting enough points to keep this one close, if not win.

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Pick: Washington +4.5