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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

Horizon 2024
Thomas Murphy, Co-Webmaster & Photographer • Feb 20, 2024

Go Blue or Purple Reign?: The UCSD Guardian’s 2024 CFP National Championship Preview

Photo+courtesy+of+the+United+States+Army+Band+on+Flickr
Photo courtesy of the United States Army Band on Flickr

On Monday night, No. 1 Michigan takes on No. 2 Washington in the College Football Playoff National Championship at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Wolverines open as 4.5-point favorites, with the Huskies looking to play spoiler in a third straight game. Despite their No. 2 CFB ranking, Washington was a 9-point underdog in the Pac-12 Championship against Oregon and a 3.5-point underdog in the Sugar Bowl against Texas. Each team won its semi-final game by one score, setting the stage for a riveting finale to the college football season.

 

Washington’s high-flying offense features QB Michael Penix Jr. and WR Rome Odunze, who were finalists for the Heisman Trophy (most outstanding player) and Biletnikoff Award (most outstanding receiver), respectively. Penix Jr. led the CFB in passing yards, while Odunze finished second in receiving yards. In Washington’s 14 games this season, Odunze averaged over 110 receiving yards and caught 13 total touchdowns. Should Michigan double-team Odunze, look for the Huskies’ Jalen McMillan to have an impact game.

 

Washington’s 14–0 record is no fluke. The Huskies won the most competitive conference in college football, and Penix Jr. outplayed multiple Heisman candidates along the way. Washington compounded statement wins over Arizona, Utah, and USC, but none more impressive than their two victories over Oregon. Penix Jr. outperformed Heisman runner-up Bo Nix in both games, including a 34-31 win in the Pac-12 Championship. With Oregon at its apogee and Nix headlining Heisman talks, Washington took a sledgehammer to the Ducks’ playoff hopes. Odunze and McMillan combined for 17 catches and 233 receiving yards in the Pac-12 Championship, and Washington put the country on notice.

 

Washington had its doubters this year, but Michigan had misanthropes. Its staff’s actions away from the football field created headlines for all the wrong reasons. Ex-staffer Conor Stalions, potentially the most deplorable figure in college football, resigned after an alleged sign-stealing scheme. Consequently, the Big Ten suspended head coach Jim Harbaugh for Michigan’s final three regular season games against Penn State, Maryland, and Ohio State. 

 

Harbaugh purportedly supervised “an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage.” The Big Ten declared they could not tie Harbaugh directly to Stalions’ actions, yet suspended him regardless. Michigan won all three games in Harbaugh’s absence, with offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore at the helm.

 

Moore’s offense starts in the backfield with running back Blake Corum. In the Rose Bowl semifinal against Alabama, Corum broke Michigan’s career rushing touchdowns record with his 56th score as a Wolverine. The star running back also broke the school’s record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season earlier this year. Additionally, Corum has scored a rushing touchdown in each of Michigan’s 14 games this season, scoring twice in nine. 

 

On the defensive side of the ball, no team is better than Michigan. The Wolverines have the No. 1 ranked defense in college football, allowing an average of just 243.1 yards per game. However, Washington averages 473.6 total yards per game, and if running back Dillon Johnson suits up for Monday night’s game, Michigan may struggle to stop both the Huskies’ dual-threat offense. Johnson rushed for 256 yards and four touchdowns against USC and 152 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. 

 

Michigan must decide: Stop Odunze and the pass or Johnson and the run?

 

Finally, look for the matchup between Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson and Washington cornerback Jabbar Muhammad. Michigan looks to exploit a much-maligned Washington secondary, but Muhammad has been the silver lining to a relatively inept defense. If Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy can move the ball down the field on Washington’s defense, we are in store for a great National Championship game.

 

Will the national champion post #GoBlue or #PurpleReign? 

 

The world finds out on Monday night.

 

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About the Contributor
Wyatt Bose, Staff Writer
Wyatt is a first-year political science student, an ardent sports-watcher, an impassioned Philadelphia sports fan, and the founder of his sports blog, "The Cogent Column."
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