The bowl page is fully up-to-date. It hasn’t been a great year for me, but I did get the playoff picks right. Let’s see if I get the last one.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Monday, January 8
4:30: Michigan vs. Washington (College Football Playoff National Championship @ Houston, TX; ESPN): I have put off this preview for a bit. I think Michigan will win. That said, I keep going back and forth on why. The obvious reasons are that their line play should win the day. Then I remember that there’s a few teams in recent memory, like say 2019 LSU or 2021 Alabama, that won titles based entirely on superior, elite level quarterback play. Suffice it to say, if there’s a team that’s going to do that tonight, it’s the team that has Micheal Penix Jr. at quarterback. The throws I saw him back in the Sugar Bowl were literally next level. That said, while this Washington team is undefeated there were some games where Penix looked very, very mortal. Then again, Michigan was able to skate through a lot of the season, but was that because they were that superior or because the schedule was easy? I’m still not sure. So here we are. Despite the lines, the figures, the facts, I think this will be a fascinating game. On the eve where college football figures to change forever, I think it’s very, very cool the teams involved are from Michigan and Washington. Let’s enjoy what will almost certainly be a moment in history.
SP+ line: Michigan -8.5
Vegas line: Michigan -5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: These teams have met a total of thirteen times. The first was a 50-0 Michigan win in 1953, and that’s more or less how the other three early meetings in 1954, 1969, and 1970 went. The next two meetings would be in Rose Bowls: Washington notched their first win in the series in the 1977-78 Rose Bowl, 27-20. Three years later they met once again in Pasadena, where Michigan won 23-6. Jim Harbaugh was on the Michigan teams that played and lost to Washington in 1983 and 1984. He started the latter game and didn’t play well, going 17 for 37 passing with three interceptions in the 20-11 loss. The teams met in consecutive Rose Bowls in the 1991 and 1992 seasons, which was also the last time both of these teams were among the best in the sport. In the 1991-92 game, Washington came into the game ranked 2nd in the AP Poll and 1st in the Coaches Poll, which Michigan was 4th and 3rd (respectively). Even with Heisman winner Desmond Howard, the Wolverines lost 34-14 and Washington remained 1st in the Coaches Poll. With Miami’s 22-0 win over Nebraska, this sealed a split national title for the second season in a row. The next season, Elvis Grbac and the 7th ranked Wolverines got a touchdown in the 4th quarter to pull ahead and defeat Mark Brunell and the Huskies 38-31. Since then, the two have only met in the regular season. Washington’s last came game via 23-18 win in 2001. A year later, the return visit to Ann Arbor saw the home team win 31-29. Finally, they met two seasons ago in Ann Arbor and Michigan won 31-10. (Presumably, the return visit to Seattle was nullified by Washington joining the Big Ten.) Overall, Michigan has an 8-5 series lead.
Last bowl game: Michigan advanced to this game with a 27-20 overtime defeat of Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Washington hung on to beat Texas 37-31 in the Sugar Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe, and Molly McGrath