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U.S. College Football Playoffs: Looking Ahead to the National Championship

A quick overview of the CFP Semifinal matches and what a trip to the National Championship would mean for the winners!

Michigan Wolverines celebrating after a touchdown
Credit: Shutterstock/Ringo Chiu

The College Football Playoff Semifinals Matches took place on January 1st. Let’s look at the key matchups that changed the stakes of these games!

A Quick Preview

The University of Michigan went 13-0 in the regular season and secured the #1 seed in the college football playoffs. Their opponents were the University of Alabama who snuck in with a record of 12-1 and were the #4 seed.

The University of Washington went 13-0 and locked in the #2 seed. Only a couple of days prior, they marched into New Orleans to take the 12-1 Texas Longhorns.

Before the matches, The University of Michigan was the betting favorite to walk out of California with the win. The University of Texas was the 3rd seed and the betting favorite, despite being one seed lower.

An Experts Opinion

Before the matches began, I asked Ryan Horton for some insight on what to look out for during the games. Ryan Horton is a conditioning coach and has been a sports scientist for 20 years.

According to Ryan, “The interior of Washington’s offensive line is a bit undersized and they’ve not faced the size and athleticism that they’ll encounter against Texas.”

Texas finished the season with 32 sacks as a whole for their defensive side. Leading that charge were Ethan Burke and Byron Murphy ll, both with 5 sacks each.

Washington boasts plenty of talent up and down their roster. Their passing attack is deadly.

However, if the offensive line can’t hold up with the defensive line, that can spell trouble for Micheal Penix Jr. and the offense.

Moving onto the Michigan vs. Alabama matchup: the determining factor is Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy and his health and performance.

According to Ryan, “McCarthy and Michigan’s offense has struggled a bit down the stretch” and a big part of that was J.J. not being able to perform at the best of his ability.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

The college football playoff semifinal matches began with the Rose Bowl. And what a match it was! The game ended with a 27-20 win in overtime for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and the rest of his Wolverine squad.

Jim Harbaugh at a press conference
Jim Harbaugh at a post-game conference after the Rose Bowl Win.
Credit: YouTube/The Michigan Insider

Michigan Quarterback J.J. McCarthy had a stellar game with 221 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Of course, he was not the sole contributor to the victory. Running back Blake Corum had a huge game on the ground that set the tone and provided a consistent way of gaining yards. He had 19 carries for 83 yards and the OT touchdown to send them to the National Championship.

Yet another key contributor the the Michigan offense was wide receiver Roman Wilson. The senior led the team in receiving yards with 73 on only 4 catches, one of them for a touchdown.

While the offense was firing on all cylinders, many believe the defense won Michigan their game. The Wolverine defense showed up with 6 sacks, a forced fumble, and successfully kept Alabama Quarterback Jalen Milroe out of the endzone on the final play of overtime.

Talking about Alabama’s Jalen Milroe, he finished this game with 179 total yards––63 of them coming from his legs––and no touchdowns. Another notable player on the Alabama offense was Jase McClellan. The senior running back ran for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns in the loss to Michigan.

Washington Huskies vs. Texas Longhorns

Shortly after the Rose Bowl thriller, the All-State Sugar Bowl kicked off with another exciting game that came down to the wire.

Ultimately, the University of Washington walked out victorious over the University of Texas with a 37-31 victory.

Two players on the Washington team hugging
Micheal Pennix Jr. hugging a teammate after a win at the All-State Sugar Bowl Credit: YouTube/ ESPN College Football

All smiling faces on the sideline for the Huskies as they know they have the opportunity of a lifetime to become champions and etch their name into college football playoff history.

Leading the charge for the victory over the Longhorns was undoubtedly Quarterback Micheal Pennix Jr. with an otherworldly performance. 430 yards through the air and two touchdowns, he was a phenom.

The University of Washington’s junior running back Dillon Johnson also put up an inspiring performance with 2 touchdowns and 49 yards.

Without a doubt, the offense was the determining factor in this game as Washington had two receivers go over a hundred yards while Texas wide receiver Ja’Tavion Sanders led his team with only 75.

Speaking about the Texas offense, Quarterback Quinn Ewers didn’t go down without a fight. 318 yards and a touchdown through the air with 54 rushing yards as well.

A lot of offense was on display in New Orleans but that doesn’t mean that Washington’s defense didn’t ball out as well. They had 2 sacks and 5 tackles for loss as well as recovering two fumbles from the Texas offense.

Looking Ahead

The stage is set for Michigan and Washington to face head-to-head in the National Championship on the 8th of January 2024!

Michigan is the betting favorite with a -4.5 spread according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Both of these teams are undefeated up to this point and both are looking to continue that streak.

A national championship would mean a lot to both organizations. The last undisputed championship won by the University of Michigan was in 1948.

The stakes are higher for the University of Washington, as they have never won a national title.

This is unprecedented territory for both teams and I, for one, am excited to see who comes out on top and reigns supreme in the college football playoffs!

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