Washington’s elite offense, Michigan’s dominant defense collide in CFP championship game
HOUSTON Nobody has scored more than 24 points against Michigan in 14 games this season and only three teams reached 20.
Washington produced 37.6 points per game this year and torched the likes of quality defenses belonging to Oregon, Texas and Utah.
The Wolverines defense held opponents to an even 150 yards through the air, the second-best figure nationally.
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies notched 350 a game, the most in the country.
Both sides were at their best in their respective College Football Playoff games, dominating when they were on the field.
In Monday nights national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston, when Michigans top-ranked scoring defense faces Washingtons No. 1 passing offense, something has to give.
4Michael Penix Jr. will face Michigan’s top-ranked scoring defense in the CFP title game Monday. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con4Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. passes the ball during a practice session before the College Football Playoff national championship game against the Michigan Wolverines at NRG Stadium. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConIt will be elite defense against elite offense.
Future NFL players against future NFL players.
The superior side may well determine the champion, if Michigan wins its first title since 1997 or Washington completes a stunning year with a championship nobody couldve seen coming outside of its fans.
Jim Harbaugh finally has resilient Michigan at ‘big-boy table’ with ultimate goal in reach
That whole defense, theyre good. I feel like theyre very well-coached and they have a lot of good players. And we do, too, obviously, said Penix, who beat Michigan in 2020 when he was at Indiana. For me, Im always going to believe in my guys and believe that my guys are going to be able to get the job done, no matter who were facing.
It will answer the age-old question: What wins, an explosive offense or stifling defense.
Its hard to find weaknesses with either Michigans defense or Washingtons offense.
The Wolverines had 39 sacks this season, tied for the 10th most in the country.
Ten different players had at least two sacks.
They produced 25 takeaways, despite star cornerback Will Johnson missing parts of four games.
Alabama and Ohio State couldnt solve this defense.
Theyre a really good team, and theyre going to bring the heat, Washington offensive lineman Troy Fautanu, a likely first-round pick in April, said. We have to make sure were ready.
4Washington offensive lineman Troy Fautanu blocks for running back Dillon Johnson who takes a handoff from quarterback Michael Penix Jr. APWashingtons offensive line, the Joe Moore Award winners given to the best unit in the country, allowed just 11 sacks.
Penix, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, had a brilliant year, amassing 4,648 yards through the air and 35 touchdowns while completing 66.7 percent of his passes, and has an elite trio of receivers to choose from in Rome Odunze, JaLynn Polk and Jalen McMillan.
But the Huskies are not one-dimensional.
Dillon Johnson ran for 1,162 yards and 16 scores.
They have elite skill, Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said. Their whole receiving corps is really, really good. They have draft choices all over the field at the skill positions and on the offensive line and at quarterback and at running back. This is a little bit more of a matchup game where its an elite quarterback that can get the ball to his guys and is not afraid of throwing in tight windows, is not afraid to give his guys chances in one-on-ones. We expect the ball to be thrown downfield and look forward to the challenge of trying to defend that.
4Michigan’s defense held opponents to the second-fewest passing yards per game this season. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConIt is an intriguing matchup, between two undefeated teams who are not familiar with this stage.
Michigan hasnt won it all in more than 25 years.
Washingtons last title came in 1991.
Both teams had to sweat to get to this point, particularly the Huskies, who have eight victories by a single score.
The Wolverines had a bulls-eye on their backs since mid-October, when the sign-stealing scandal broke and coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended for the final three games of the regular season.
They survived without him and rallied past Alabama in the Rose Bowl.
Now both teams are one win away from glory.
And their greatest strengths Michigans lights-out defense, Washingtons robust offense will be asked to carry them one last time.
Come Monday, Penix said, I guess well see who had the better side.
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