The College Football Playoff National Championship will feature a showdown between the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies, set to take place in Houston on January 8 for the title game. In the semifinals on Monday, the No. 1 Michigan secured a narrow victory in overtime, prevailing 27-20 against the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, the No. 2 Washington emerged triumphant in the Sugar Bowl, defeating the No. 3 Texas Longhorns with a scoreline of 37-31.
Michigan rallies to down Alabama
In a hard-fought contest, Michigan and Alabama found themselves deadlocked at 20-20 after regulation, pushing the game referred to as “the Granddaddy of Them All” into overtime for only the second time in its illustrious history.
Following a touchdown by Michigan running back Blake Corum that put his team in the lead, the Wolverines’ defense halted Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe on fourth down at the 3-yard line, securing their spot in the national championship game on January 8 in Houston.
Michigan, the first college football program to achieve 1,000 all-time wins this season, aims for its first national championship since 1997, when they shared the title with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. While the NCAA recognizes Michigan with nine football championships, the university claims 11.
This marks the Wolverines’ third consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff, but in the last two years, they fell short of advancing past the semifinal stage. A national title for Michigan would conclude a memorable season, albeit one marked by controversy.
At the beginning of the season, head coach Jim Harbaugh faced a three-game suspension, a self-imposed penalty by Michigan’s athletics department due to NCAA recruiting violations. With an ongoing NCAA investigation into the matter, there is the potential for additional penalties.
In October, a second investigation was initiated for alleged sign-stealing, resulting in the suspension and subsequent resignation of Michigan football analyst Connor Stalions, and the firing of linebackers coach Chris Partridge.
While Harbaugh denies any knowledge of a sign-stealing scheme, he accepted a three-game suspension, bringing his total games away from Michigan’s sideline to six. A national championship would add a triumphant note to a season overshadowed by these controversies.
Both ongoing NCAA investigations into Michigan continue to unfold.
On Monday, Michigan (14-0) was guided, as it has been throughout the season, by quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who delivered three touchdown passes against Alabama. McCarthy, a potential first-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft, completed 17 of 27 passes.
Contributing to the Wolverines’ success, Corum not only scored the first touchdown but also played a pivotal role in a crucial 75-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, forcing the game into overtime. The Wolverines’ defense proved formidable, sacking Alabama’s quarterback, Milroe, five times in the first half and a total of six times.
In the overtime period, Corum continued his offensive heroics, and the defense sealed the victory by preventing Milroe from finding an opening as he ran into the middle of the line.
The Crimson Tide concluded their season with a 12-2 record.
Washington downs Texas
Washington maintained a lead throughout the first half, seizing control on three separate occasions. However, Texas responded to every scoring effort, resulting in both teams being deadlocked at 21-21 as they entered halftime.
Guided by the nation’s top passer, quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the Huskies secured a critical 13 unanswered points in the second half. They successfully fended off a late rally from the Longhorns, ultimately sealing a nail-biting victory at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In the closing moments of the fourth quarter, trailing by six points, Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers orchestrated an offensive drive into the red zone. However, his fourth-and-11 pass attempt fell incomplete on the game’s final play.
Heisman Trophy finalist Penix Jr. showcased his prowess by completing 29 of 38 pass attempts, accumulating 430 passing yards and two touchdown passes. His impressive passing yards rank as the second-highest in a College Football Playoff semifinal, trailing only Joe Burrow’s 493 yards in 2019.
Similar to Michigan, the Washington Huskies entered the semifinals boasting a flawless 13-0 record, with much of their success attributed to Penix Jr. Confident ahead of the Sugar Bowl, Penix expressed his belief in the team’s offensive line, downplaying concerns about the opponent’s defensive line.
Looking ahead, the Huskies are set to face the Michigan Wolverines in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 8 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Washington, poised to depart the Pac-12 Conference after the season, aims to secure its first national championship title since 1991, when they shared the title with the Miami Hurricanes. While the NCAA credits Washington with one national football championship, the Huskies claim two.