CFB National Championship: Player Matchups - Part 1
It’s that time of year again. The National Championship has arrived, and who could think of a better conclusion than two undefeated teams going head-to-head for the big prize.
As part of our build-up to the game, we will look at the key matchups on both sides of the ball. First, let’s look at Michigan’s offense, led by JJ McCarthy (who will feature in our QB special on Sunday) when they go up against Washington’s defense.
Blake Corum v Edefuan Ulofoshio
It was fitting that Blake Corum got the overtime score that took Michigan to the National Championship. His jinking, darting style, matched with the power that comes from a thick upper body, was on full display—a reminder of why some draftniks had him pegged as a potential Day 1 selection.
The Michigan offense is built around running the ball. They need to keep the high-octane Huskies’ offense off the field, so running the ball and taking time off the clock is key to the game plan. The Wolverines have multiple backs. Donovan Edwards, for one, will play a significant role, but Corum is the star. If Michigan win, don’t be surprised if he is MVP.
Washington’s linebacker duo of Edefuan Ulofoshio and Alphonzo Tuputala will be tasked with slowing that run game down. They come off the back of a difficult week where Texas was able to run the ball consistently well without breaking off too many home runs.
Ulofoshio has enjoyed a successful year in the heart of the defense. He is second on the Huskies tackling list with 90, including 8 for loss. His ability to get in the backfield and put Michigan behind on downs is vital to putting the onus on McCarthy and keeping the ball out of Corum’s hands.
LaDarius Henderson v Bralen Trice
You couldn’t ask for two more differing performances in the playoff semi-finals than these two players. While Henderson held up initially while Michigan leaned on the running game, it fell to pieces against Alabama’s pass rush. He ended up with a pass-blocking grade of 17.1. That included conceding five pressures. While there were no sacks, that was more by virtue of the speed at which McCarthy got the ball out and his ability to shift away from the oncoming threat.
If the game needs McCarthy to take control, Henderson must be able to hold up against one of the nation’s best pass rushers.
During their battle on Monday, Bralen Trice was a constant thorn in Texas’ side. He contributed seven pressures, two sacks and a forced fumble. Every time you looked up Trice was in the backfield wreaking havoc.
It was a slow start this year for the edge rusher, but he has turned up at the right time of the season and is making a big difference. If this Washington secondary can cover the main Wolverines threats on the outside, Trice could make McCarthy’s life hell.
Colston Loveland v Dominique Hampton
This Michigan offense isn’t blessed with Washington’s level of talent. There aren’t multiple receiving threats. But Roman Wilson is a big-bodied, downfield threat, while second-year tight end Colston Loveland provides an outlet for McCarthy across the middle.
His five catches for 88 yards against Ohio State were vital, and while he hasn’t matched that production since, he could be needed if this offense has to start moving the ball through the air.
One player who jumped off the film on multiple occasions for Washington last week was safety Dominique Hampton. His 6’3, 220lb frame will have NFL scouts drooling, as will his versatility.
Hampton has lined up in the box and as a deep safety in almost equal measure. He’s a strong tackler and was targeted seven times in coverage against Texas. Five of those were against the talented JT Sanders, and Hampton performed well, earning a 71.3 coverage grade on those specific snaps. He will likely be the man tasked with stopping Loveland and it will be an intriguing battle.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com