The 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship is set. No. 1 Michigan will square off with No. 2 Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8. It’s a battle of future Big Ten opponents as the Wolverines seek to win their first national title since 1997 and the Huskies look to win their first since 1991 as well as the Pac-12’s first since 2004 in the conference’s final season.
Michigan got here thanks a thrilling 27-20 overtime win taking down No. 4 Alabama in the Rose Bowl semifinal. The Wolverines stuffed Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe at the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal to clinch the win after running back Blake Corum kicked off OT for Michigan with a 17-yard touchdown run. The win marked the program’s first-ever CFP victory after an 0-2 start the last two seasons, and it brought the Wolverines to 14 wins in a single season for the first time in school history. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy led the Wolverines with four touchdowns passing.
Washington reached the national title game after taking down No. 3 Texas in stunning fashion, 37-31, in the Sugar Bowl. The Huskies closed as a 3.5-point underdog against the Big 12 champions, but their offensive attack proved too potent for the Longhorns to handle. Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Dillon Johnson added a pair of scores on the ground. The victory continued Washington’s meteoric rise under second-year coach Kalen DeBoer, who is now 25-2 since arriving from Fresno State. This after the Huskies struggled to a 4-8 mark in 2021.
Let’s take a look at where each team stands ahead of the CFP National Championship before our CBS Sports college football experts provide their first-look picks for the game.
No. 1 Michigan (14-0), Rose Bowl champion
Michigan has been knocking on the door of greatness for three seasons but wasn’t able to break through in a playoff game until Monday night’s win over Alabama. The Wolverines’ strength is their defense, which put its nastiness on display again in the Rose Bowl by limiting Bama to a season-low 288 yards. The Wolverines sacked Tide QB Jalen Milroe six times — four in the first half — and came up with the game-winning stop on the last play of the contest. That performance was emblematic of the dominance displayed all season by a unit that entered the CFP ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense.
The Wolverines have some bite offensively, too. Though they have rarely needed to mash the gas, McCarthy is one of college football’s most reliable passers, and Corum has surpassed 3,500 yards rushing over the past three seasons. Corum leads the country with 25 touchdowns rushing, a Michigan single-season record. Amid a sign-stealing scandal that embroiled the program and led to a three-game suspension for coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan simply kept marching this season, never allowing more than 24 points in a game and rarely trailing on its way to the top spot in the CFP Rankings.
No. 2 Washington (14-0), Sugar Bowl champion
Washington is proving to be a team of destiny as the Huskies have won five straight one-possession games, including their narrow in over Texas in the semifinals. It all starts with Penix, a Heisman Trophy finalist in his sixth and final collegiate season. The left-handed gunslinger arrived at Washington in tandem with DeBoer after the two worked together during Penix’s time at Indiana. The relationship was fruitful then for the Hoosiers and has proven to be even more so for Washington, which boasts an elite trio of receivers in Rome Odunze, Ja’lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan.
While the Huskies’ No. 1 passing offense is their calling card, they came up with clutch stops time after time throughout the season to secure the program’s second-ever CFP appearance and first CFP victory. Washington can also run the football, as Johnson surpassed 1,100 yards rushing this season after transferring from Mississippi State. However, his status is in question for the CFP National Championship after he was injured late in the fourth quarter against Texas and carted from the field after the game.
Michigan vs. Washington early pick, predictions
No. 1 Michigan opens as a 4.5-point favorite over No. 2 Washington in Houston, per the SportsLine concensus.