Michigan vs. Washington Prediction, Odds, Picks, Spread for 2024 College Football National Championship Game – CBS Sports

On Monday, No. 1 Michigan will face No. 2 Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston for the College Football Playoff National Championship. This will be the last time before the playoffs expand to 12 next season. The winner of this highly anticipated showdown will emerge as the FBS's last undefeated team while also taking home their school's first college football national title of the CFP or BCS era.

Michigan last won the national championship in 1997, a year before the BCS system went into effect, while Washington's last title came in 1991. This season, the Wolverines and Huskies used different styles while running the table through their respective conferences and narrowly eking out CFP semifinal victories. Michigan's poor defense combined with Washington's elite passing attack makes for a compelling final game of the 2023 season as we say goodbye to this era of college football and welcome to the 12-team CFP era amid a major conference realignment in 2024 be called.

What can you expect in Houston on Monday night? Let's break down the game and hit picks straight up and against the spread.

CFP National Championship Key: How Michigan Can Win | How Washington can win

Michigan vs. Washington: Need to know

Michael Penix Jr. the superstar: The most important player in this game is Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. The sixth-grader is 25-2 in two seasons as the Huskies' starter after a promising but injury-plagued run over four seasons at Indiana. During his time with the Hoosiers, Penix played under second-year Washington coach Kalen DeBoer, who was then serving as Indiana's offensive coordinator. The two reunited at UW in 2022 and the results were spectacular. Penix has surpassed 4,600 yards receiving in each of the last two years and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting this season. A highly accurate left-handed hitter, Penix threw another tour de force performance in the semifinals of the Sugar Bowl, lighting up Texas for a 430-yard pass. His main target is wide receiver Rome Odunze, who comes into the game with 87 receptions for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns. Fellow receivers Ja'Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan and tight end Jack Westover will also be a handful for Michigan's vaunted defense.

Michigan's nasty defense: The reputation of the Wolverines' defense precedes it for good reason. They rank No. 1 nationally in yards allowed per game (243.1). No one rushed for more than 400 yards or 24 points against Michigan, holding Alabama to just a season-low 288 yards in a 27-20 Rose Bowl win. Michigan has four players ranked in the top 75 of the 2024 CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, including three playing in the secondary. That talent on the back end of the defense makes Michigan a unique weapon to contain Washington's passing attack. The Wolverines also registered six sacks in the Rose Bowl and will face a UW offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award as the nation's best.

Dominance vs. clutch: Michigan was dominant all season, but Washington was firmly in control. The Wolverines outscored their opponents by an average of 25.8 points per game, while Washington scored just 13.5 points. They also only trailed by five games, which is the fewest teams in the country. Washington has now won 10 straight games by 10 points or fewer. Although the Huskies have been far less dominant than Michigan, they have become familiar with the difficulties that arise in close games.

Here's how to watch Michigan vs. Washington live

Game: College Football Playoff National Championship
Date: Monday, January 8th | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: NRG Stadium – Houston
TV: ESPN | Live broadcast: fuboTV (Try for free)

Michigan vs. Washington prediction, tips

SportsLine consensus odds

Spread: Michigan -4.5 | Money line: Michigan -197, Washington +163 | O/U: 56.5

David Cobb: Michigan's defense is so dominant that it's reminiscent of the 2021 Georgia unit that led the Bulldogs to their first national title since 1980. The Wolverines have not allowed any opponent to reach 400 total yards in a game this season, and no one has surpassed 24 points against them. Michigan is physical enough to get first downs in the running game with Blake Corum and wear down Washington's defense. The Huskies have been living on borrowed time with 10 straight wins by 10 points or fewer. This time they finally meet their match. Pick: Michigan -4.5 | Michigan 28, Washington 20

Dennis Dodd: These are two teams of fate. Unfortunately, the football gods will only let one winner go off the field on Monday. After watching Michigan prevail and outplay Alabama, especially in crunch time, I have to go with the Wolverines. Look for Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore to continue pounding the rock and sucking the air out of the Washington defense. On defense, I think defensive coordinator Jesse Minter's team will rattle Penix enough to make a difference. Please, Jim Harbaugh, eliminate the trick plays and instruct your punt returners not to land punts inside their 10-yard line. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Michigan 27, Washington 24

Tom Fornelli: I identified Washington as a College Football Playoff contender in September, so I've been a big Huskies fan all season. You can win this game and win a national title. But I don't think they will. I felt like Michigan was the best team in the country all season, so there's no reason to abandon that opinion now. Michigan will use the running game to dictate the pace of this game and keep Washington's offense off the field. While Penix and his receivers are incredible, Michigan's defense was designed to stop Ohio State's powerful passing attack in the Big Ten. They haven't experienced an offense like Washington's this season, but they have experienced something similar and handled it successfully. Pick: Michigan -4.5 | Michigan 31, Washington 24

Chip Patterson: The best way to defend Penix is ​​to keep him on the sidelines, and that's exactly what I think Michigan can do with a laborious but productive ground game. Washington can still score on a majority of its offensive possessions, like the Huskies did in their semifinal win over Texas, but I think there will be fewer possessions as Michigan's defense takes a step up in the contest. There's a real Last Dance feel to this Michigan team, which could (and perhaps will) have more than a dozen players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. Their reaction at the end of the Rose Bowl suggests that the 2023 Wolverines' structure is truly championship-caliber. Pick: Michigan -4.5, Under 56.5 | Michigan 31, Washington 24

Barrett Sallee: The wrong team is favored here. Washington's offense is well-suited to bring Michigan's defense into contention in a much different way than Alabama's. The offensive line is much more capable of slowing down the Wolverines' ferocious front seven and will give Penix much more time to hit his super-talented wide receivers deep downfield. Even when feeling the pressure, Penix is ​​one of the best in the business at staying out of trouble while keeping his eyes on the ground. Will this game be a track and field meet? Probably not. However, the Huskies' offense will take Michigan out of its comfort zone, pull off an upset and win the program's first national title since 1991. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 30, Michigan 27

Shehan Jeyarajah: Washington has the longest winning streak in college football, a 21-game mark with nine wins over AP top-25 teams and four wins over top-10 teams. No. 1 Michigan presents a tough physical challenge, but the Huskies will be ready. Alabama has struggled to deal with exotic alignments and misdirections, but – and this is strange to say – Washington is better coached than the Crimson Tide. The Huskies will come up with their own tricks, Penix's excellence representing the biggest mismatch in these College Football Playoffs. Washington needs to do its business in advance, but control of Texas on both sides should inspire plenty of optimism. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 31, Michigan 27

Will Backus: This game will be decided in the trenches. Michigan wiped out Alabama's offensive line while Washington stood strong, not allowing a single sack against a Texas defensive line that features two potential first-rounders in Byron Murphy and T'Vondre Sweat. It turns out that Washington's offensive line is legitimate. The Huskies also have an advantage at quarterback with Penix calling the shots and an underrated defense that should be able to get enough stops. Give me the Huskies covering and winning this game. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 35, Michigan 30

Dean Straka: Washington has a flair for the dramatic; Each of his last 10 wins have come by 10 points or fewer. Nevertheless, coach Kalen DeBoer's team always found a way to get the job done. Why should Monday be any different for a team that boasts some of the most dangerous and impressive offensive players in college football? Michigan's defense will be unlike anything the Huskies have faced this season, but Washington's offense is also functioning at a level the Wolverines have not yet reached. The latter will take the win and give the Huskies their first national title since 1991. It will be a fitting – and bittersweet – farewell for the Pac-12 before the Conference of Champions sees 10 of its 12 members depart this summer. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 34, Michigan 28

Jerry Palm: What I'm most looking forward to is the duel between Washington's offensive line and Michigan's front seven. The key for the Huskies will be giving Penix time to do his thing. Washington's defense isn't as good as the Wolverines' unit, but it plays when it matters most. If this game ends up being as close as I expect it to be, then that's Washington's responsibility. The Huskies have now won nine of their last 10 games by single digits. Michigan is a deserving favorite, but I like Washington's mojo. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 31, Michigan 28

Cameron Salerno: For the third game in a row, Washington is an underdog. The Huskies were 9.5-point underdogs in the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon last month and were again not a favorite in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Texas (+3.5). UW has passed every test before it and Michigan is the final opponent standing in the way of a fairytale ending for the program and the Pac-12. The Huskies cover the game and win it outright thanks to their explosive offense. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 31, Michigan 24

Jack Crosby: It's been incredible to watch Washington's journey through this season, and this program looks to be in good hands under coach Kalen DeBoer for the foreseeable future as it ushers in a new era in the Big Ten. Still, it's hard to ignore how dominant this Michigan team has been all season, especially in the line of scrimmage where it matters most. I expect the Wolverines to eventually wear down this Huskies team up front and prevail in the end – which will send the college football world into a frenzy as they have to recognize this Jim Harbaugh-led team as their national champions. Pick: Michigan -4.5 | Michigan 31, Washington 21

Ben Kercheval: Michigan is favored for a reason. If Penix is ​​regularly plagued by this defensive front, it's probably a guarantee. But man, Washington always finds a way. I'm not talking about TCU's magic beans from last year; The Huskies can win this thing. These were Sunday throws from Penix in the Sugar Bowl. Cornerback Elijah Jackson's game-winning PBU was a doozy. He slapped it away. This team has playmakers and routinely answers the bell in one way or another. That likely means he'll do something no one has been able to do against the Wolverines this season: score 30 points. This will be difficult, but not impossible. I originally picked Washington to win it all and I won't give up now. Why should I? It's college football. Believe in something. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 30, Michigan 28

Chris Dukes: Michigan's defense has pulled out all the stops against every opponent it has faced this year, but the Wolverines have yet to experience a passing attack in the same league as the one the Huskies will bring to Houston. The Wolverines' smash-mouth style keeps Washington off balance early, but Penix ends up turning this game into the kind of shootout that JJ McCarthy and the Michigan offense are not equipped for. Selection: Washington +4.5 | Washington 38, Michigan 31

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