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08.01.2024

2024 CFP National Championship Game Preview and Picks: Huskies Hang Tight

After a season filled with storylines, the college football season will come to a close tonight after a new champion is crowned. One of the teams that dominated those storylines was the Michigan Wolverines, and after their comeback win over Alabama last week, they are one win away from a perfect season and their first national title since 1997.

The one thing standing in their way is an undefeated Washington Huskies team that has won two consecutive games despite being underdogs. With an impressive ability to play to the level of their opponent, I’ll break down why I think the Huskies are a good team to back tonight, along with my favorite prop plays for the matchup.

Game Preview

Say what you want about Jim Harbaugh and everything surrounding the scandals, but there is no denying that when his team needed to make a play or come away with a win, they did. After not scoring the entire third quarter and most of the fourth quarter, JJ McCarthy led his team down the field and scored with 1:34 remaining on the clock to tie Alabama and send last week’s game to overtime.

That drive was a good representation of why the Wolverines are 9th in the country in offensive success rate and 2nd in EPA per pass play. McCarthy won’t produce a stat line every week that jumps out, but he completed a career-high 74.2% of his passes this season and is a big reason why Michigan converts on 44.79% of their third downs.

Of course, it does help that Michigan has one of the better offensive lines in the country. The Wolverines' ability to dominate the trenches is a big reason why Blake Corum has 25 touchdowns this season and has averaged 76 yards per game over his last ten games.

Corum and the Wolverines' offense will be playing a Washington defense tonight that may not have overwhelming stats but has managed to get stops when needed. The Huskies are 99th in the country in defensive success rate, but they’ve done enough against strong opponents to allow their offense to stay in the game.

In Washington’s last two games against Oregon and Texas, they had one quarter where they held their opponent off the scoreboard, resulting in wins separated by one possession. Mind you, their defense would look much worse if Michael Penix Jr. wasn’t leading an offense that is 5th in success rate and averaging 473.6 yards per game.

Point Spread Pick

We have not seen much movement to the line for this matchup as the Wolverines are currently (-4.5) point favorites across most Michigan sports betting apps. While Michigan has been highly impressive in big games this season, I’ve backed Washington as underdogs in their last two games, and I’ll be running it back tonight.

The Huskies are 5-0 ATS in their last five games as underdogs, and for as good as the Michigan defense has been, I still think Penix Jr. can consistently move the ball downfield. Washington is third in the country in EPA per pass play, and Penix Jr. is hands down the best quarterback Michigan will face this season. Playing in the Big Ten and having a weaker nonconference schedule is a big reason why Michigan allowed just 150 passing yards per game, but now they need to deal with the trio of Ja’Lynn Polk, Rome Odunze, and Jalen McMillan.

Michigan’s defense is 124th in rush rate over expected, so they’ve dealt primarily with teams that like to keep the ball on the ground no matter the situation. Offensively, the Wolverines will likely dominate the trenches, but Washington’s defense is 16th in EPA per pass play, so if they can force JJ McCarthy to settle for his second or third read and make Blake Corum beat them, then I think Washington stays in this game.

Prop Picks

Ja’Lynn Polk Over 53.5 Receiving Yards (-114): The Huskies receiving corp is led by Rome Odunze, but Polk is the other 1,000 receiver on the team and pulled in 122 yards last week against Texas. Over his last ten games, Polk has exceeded this number in eight of them, as he is averaging 94 yards per game in that span. With all eyes on Odunze, I think Polk plays a significant factor tonight.

Roman Wilson Over 44.5 Rec. Yards (-114): One of the heroes of their win over Alabama, Wilson took four receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown in that game. Over his last ten games, Wilson has averaged 52.6 yards per game, and while he may not blow past secondaries on deep balls, he has the ability to get into open space and make plays. That YAC ability should serve him well tonight against a Huskies team that is 121st in the country in average passing yards allowed per game.

Recap

  • Washington Huskies (+4.5)(-105) on BetMGM

  • Ja’Lynn Polk Over 53.5 Rec. Yards (-114) on FanDuel

  • Roman Wilson Over 44.5 Rec. Yards (-114) on FanDuel

*odds subject to change

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