CFP National Championship Expert Pick and Prediction – January 8, 2024
CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 8, 2024 — The playoff got the right matchup in the final year of the four-team era. Michigan has been the best team all season and Washington has represented the nation’s best conference. These two will become Big Ten rivals next year, but first, they’ve got a championship to play for.
And this matchup will be a case of strength on strength. The Wolverines bring the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense to the equation, giving up just 9.5 points per game. The Huskies counter with the No. 1 offense, fresh off torching Texas for 532 yards.
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Washington’s also got the disrespect card to play, as yet again, the Huskies come in as the underdogs. For the fourth time in five games, Washington is getting points despite coming in undefeated. Against Oregon State, it was understandable, as the Beavers had dominated everyone in Corvallis for two years. Against Oregon and Texas, it made little sense, given that Washington came in undefeated against one-loss foes (and in Oregon’s case, the one loss was to Washington).
Michigan marks the hardest test all season for the Huskies. But Washington’s shown it can win with defense, as it edged both Oregon State and Washington State with rock-solid defensive efforts. They’ll need that one more time to claim the crown.
(14-0 SU, 7-6-1 ATS)
(14-0 SU, 8-5-1 ATS)
When: Monday, January 8 at 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston
Public Bets: 69% on Washington
Public Money: 71% on Washington
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of January 5th, 2024.
Washington vs. Michigan In-Season Trends
Doubting Washington has been a great way to lose money since Kalen DeBoer arrived in Seattle. As an underdog, the Huskies have gone 4-0 SU in 2023 and 5-0 SU overall with DeBoer as the man in charge. When they have failed to cover, it’s usually been because they’ve been giving large amounts of points. Out of the six failed covers this year, five of them were with Washington giving at least nine points.
When Michigan covered against Alabama, that marked the first time all year that the Wolverines covered against a non-Big Ten team. The Wolverines have mostly been a bettor’s delight since the Big Ten schedule started. They’ve gone 8-2-1 ATS since Big Ten play started, after failing to cover in their first four games of the year.
Temperature-wise, the weather wouldn’t present any issues. But damaging thunderstorms in the Houston area and strong winds mean that the roof’s going to close for this one. 71 degrees would be perfect for football, but the organizers aren’t going to chance playing in lightning and rain.
Here’s a stat that’s probably going to make Ohio State coach Ryan Day’s seat even hotter: Washington’s quarterback has beaten Michigan more recently than the Buckeyes have. Before Michael Penix arrived in Seattle, he began college as the quarterback at Indiana. The best way to sum up his time in Bloomington is this: the Hoosiers are 1-27 against the Wolverines since 1987, and the one belongs to Penix in 2020.
Penix tossed three scores that day in what most Hoosier fans consider to be his finest performance at Indiana. Nobody has stopped him all year with Washington’s weapons, and Michigan’s pass defense will have to be at its best to keep him in check.
Blake Corum has been Michigan’s bread and butter all season, and he’ll get a healthy dose of carries in this one. Washington has survived a good running game before, but the Huskies haven’t faced a back like Corum all season. How they handle the challenge will go a long way toward deciding this game.
Michigan handled Alabama in large part because the Wolverines got to Jalen Milroe six times. That’s not likely to happen against Washington. The Huskies have the best offensive line in the nation as well as perhaps the nation’s best quarterback, and the Wolverines will have a hard time laying a glove on Penix.
If Michigan can’t get through, it’s hard to see it taking control of this game. Corum will likely have an impact here, but Washington should stay a step ahead.