Michigan And Washington Set The Stage For An Epic CFP National Championship Showdown
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 01: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines speaks to media during the post game press conference after the CFP Semifinal Rose Bowl Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2024 in Pasadena, California. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 27-20 in overtime. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

The following is adapted from “Crain & Co.,”  January 2, 2024. 

Jake Crain:

As the final play ended in the Alabama/Michigan game last night in overtime, Wolverine fans rejoiced at finally winning a playoff game, albeit in a fashion that definitely took some years off their lives. But make no mistake, this core in-group did not come back just to beat Ohio State again and win the Big Ten. They did not come back just to make the College Football Playoff or win a game in the College Football Playoff. They came back to win a national championship and put Michigan’s name once again at the top of the college football mountain.

But that goal is still four quarters away. So don’t celebrate yet because they are going to face a Washington team that doesn’t have the letters “SEC” on their chest, but they do have a few guys with just an “S” and Michael Penix, who does more frozen ropes in subzero, is the main one of the bunch.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 01: Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies throws a pass during the first quarter against the Texas Longhorns during the CFP Semifinal Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on January 01, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Now, this matchup stylistically is about as far away on the spectrum as it gets from one another. One team is a smash-mouth, downhill, run-game team that lives off play-action and defense. The other is a team that typically passes to run, and even though that’s the case, don’t confuse air superiority with softness. The Huskies can run it when they have to and defensively, they hit with a vengeance. We’ve seen that.

Now which side will flinch? Well, let’s break it down — because either way, it’s going to be a doozy. I’m going to bring in my former Michigan quarterback — now getting ready to finally see his team play for a national championship — David Cone.

WATCH: “Crain & Company” on DailyWire+

David, I want to break down both of these games from last night. But just from a 30,000-foot view, how rewarding was last night being a Michigan fan, with the last two years having watched the team get there, lose a game that they were really supposed to lose against a juggernaut Georgia team, and then lose a game against a TCU team, that kind of snuck up a little bit? But you got over the hump, and you did it coming back in the last four minutes of overtime.

David Cone: 

Yes, it was really incredible. I know we’re going to recap both of those semifinal games last night, but just from a personal perspective, that program believed in me coming out of high school when all I wanted to do was play college football; they gave me a shot. So to see them in this position to play for a national championship for the first time since before I was ever even affiliated with this university is incredible.

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 01: Roman Wilson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after he scores a touchdown during the second half of the CFP Semifinal Rose Bowl Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2024 in Pasadena, California. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 27-20 in overtime. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Yesterday was some of the most fun I’ve had watching football in a long time, and it wasn’t just about Michigan winning. We had an awesome playoff and we said for an entire month, Florida State, without a doubt, deserved an opportunity to be in that college football playoff, but when they put Alabama in there instead, we all knew it was going to create very compelling matchups, no matter how they ordered it. Well, that’s what we got in that Michigan/Alabama game going to overtime, then we had Washington/Texas coming down to a wire. It was awesome football to watch.

The best team of the bunch to me was Washington with the best player on the field, Michael Penix Jr. Whatever he wants to do with the football he does. I think he’s the best pure passer of the ball that I can remember in the last half-decade. I’d put Joe Burrow up there as well. But whatever he wants to do with the football, he does. I noticed this at Indiana. He had some injuries he was dealing with, he transferred to Washington, and to see the type of year they’ve had has been incredible. I had them in my college football playoff, and yet they’ve still exceeded all the expectations I had.

I think the matchup is going to be fascinating. They had a 65% drop-back percentage through the first half of the season, like you said, throwing to run the football. But then on the back half, Dillon Johnson averaged 135 yards on the ground. They had over 100 yards rushing when they played Oregon and in the conference championship again when they played Oregon. Yesterday, they beat a Texas team that really, down the stretch of the season, looked almost unbeatable.

I think two things here: one, that benefits Washington, one that benefits Michigan. For the last couple of years, what’s the hump that Michigan has had to get over? It was beating Ohio because you can’t even beat your rival. So when they finally did that two seasons ago, they exhaled — and you get drummed by Georgia. Well, last year, what was the hump you couldn’t get over? Beating Ohio on the road. You did that, you exhaled, you overlook TCU, and you got beat. That created a new hump to get over for Michigan: winning a college football playoff game. You did that yesterday.

I’m wondering, does this team exhale now and say, ”Oh, Washington, we got the easiest possible draw in the championship? We’ve already accomplished what we set out to do, which was win a college football playoff game.” Do they exhale before they finish and win a national championship?

But then, on the flip side of that, I think they already played their tight game. They played as tight as they could yesterday, which I know we’re going to break down. I don’t think you’ll see some of the same mistakes again, and if they’re able to do what their strength and their identity is, which is run the football, they’ll keep that really great quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., on the sideline — more so than Texas was able to do yesterday, who ran five plays in the third quarter.

Jake Crain:

Without a doubt. And we’re going to dive deep into what happened in those games yesterday.

* * *

To hear the rest of the conversation, listen or watch Crain & Co. on DailyWire+.

Jake Crain is co-host of “Crain & Company” the Daily Wire’s sports show hosted by former athletes and coaches Jake Crain, Blain Crain, and David Cone. You can follow him on X @JakeCrain_

David Cone is a co-host and producer of the Daily Wire’s sports show Crain & Company, as well as a contributor to Morning Wire. David is also a former quarterback for the University of Michigan. You can follow him on X @davidadamcone

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