National Championship Game: Roundtable Preview

By The Touchdown Writers

This is it folks. There have been 909 games featuring FBS programs in the 2023 CFB season. Only one more remains – and it’s the biggest of them all…

Monday sees Michigan take on Washington in Houston for the right to hoist the National Championship trophy. The only two unbeaten teams remaining in College Football (after bowl games), it is a fitting end to one of the most dramatic years in recent memory. Can Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines finally deliver a Natty to Ann Arbor? Will the Huskies finish their fairytale run with tickertape or tears? The writers of The Touchdown gather round the table to give their thoughts ahead of the final act of a thrilling season:

Michigan vs Washington: Which Program Has Had The Most Impressive Season?

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Lee Wakefield: “I think both have been unbelievable but given my history I’ve got to lean towards Washington. It’s the final year of the Pac-12 as we know it and UW didn’t get eaten by the conference that loves to eat itself – That takes some doing.”

Rory-Joe Daniels: “In terms of brutish, bludgeoning of lesser opponents, Michigan. But, in reality what Kalen De Boer has done to turn this Washington program back around has been sensational. Beating Oregon twice was something many didn’t believe possible; the Huskies have made a habit of proving doubters wrong.”

George Somerville: “Washington! Beating Oregon twice along with victories over Utah and Texas, not forgetting an Apple Cup win makes for a great season up there in Seattle. Michigan’s schedule is meh except for the signature wins over the Buckeyes and Bama.”

Will Bateman: “After a big win against rivals Ohio State, a Big Ten Championship and now a place in the College Football Championship, I think the Wolverines have had the most impressive year; after a season largely defined by potentially the biggest scandal in college football history, Michigan, to their credit, have kept their eyes on the prize and buoyed by this Michigan vs. The World mentality, they’ve overcome barriers on and off the field to find themselves back in the big game.”

Simon Carroll: “It’s easy to say Washington – what they have achieved in the Pacific Northwest is nothing short of incredible. But give me the team that have negotiated half the season without their head coach on the sideline. The Wolverines have feasted on adversity in 2023, and look all the better for it.”

Harbaugh vs DeBoer: Which Head Coach Gives Their Team The Edge?

Lee Wakefield: “Harbaugh is a college football titan. He’s been there, he’s done it, he’s not yet won it but could this be the year? Harbaugh has been successful everywhere he’s been and after two CFP semi-final losses the past two years, he and his players will want this one badly.”

Rory-Joe Daniels: “I will lean Harbaugh. The accusations, the suspensions, the NFL rumours. This feels like Harbaugh’s last act for the Wolverines. The last chance to stick two fingers up to the NCAA as he walks out the door.”

George Somerville: “Harbaugh; no doubt. He is the reason that the Wolverines have fought so hard this season. There has been a real siege mentality in Ann Arbor this season all because of Harbaugh.”

Will Bateman: “With nine seasons at the Wolverines helm, alongside some valuable NFL time that included a Superbowl appearance, Jim Harbaugh surely has the big-game experience and canniness to make the difference here. This is nothing against Kalen DeBoer of course, a brilliant Head Coach who has overseen some great things at Washington; but the Wolverines are by far the toughest test for this Huskies team so it’ll be interesting to see if and how they can adapt on the big stage.”

Simon Carroll: “I disagree with the consensus here. Sure, Harbaugh has built a monster in Ann Arbor. But Kalen DeBoer has created a dynamic offense in less than two full seasons – this team scored more than 31 points just once the year before he arrived. And he’s a proven winner too, with an INSANE 104-11 record as a head coach (25-2 at UW). The BOAR is the new GOAT.”

Keys To Victory: Washington

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Lee Wakefield: “Don’t let Michigan control the game by controlling the clock. UW has to get after J.J McCarthy and make him uncomfortable in the pocket and stop Michigan’s ground game from allowing them to control the game.”

Rory-Joe Daniels: “Turnovers. We know what Washington can do on offense, but Michigan will look to control the game clock. Stealing a couple of possessions to allow Penix to get a foothold could be the x-factor.”

George Somerville: “Penix and co have to outfox (out-husky?) the Michigan defense, which as we saw in the Rose Bowl, Alabama could not easily do.”

Will Bateman: “It’s a fairly simple one really, give Michael Penix Jr the ball and the time he needs. With an abundance of talent in the receiving corps, Penix Jr. showed against Texas that he has the arm, accuracy and mentality to complete big plays but he needs time in the pocket – and Michigan will not give him that. Michigan’s Defensive Line sacked Jalen Milroe six times during their Rose Bowl win; not the easiest feat against a duel-threat quarterback, but the Wolverines’ front seven will be coming to play.”

Simon Carroll: “Michael Penix will be up against a front seven like nothing he’s seen in the Pac-12. If he can do a better job of escaping the interior pressure than Jalen Milroe did last week – and get the ball into his playmaker’s hands quickly – the Huskies can keep the scoreboard ticking and control the narrative of this contest.”

Keys To Victory: Michigan

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Lee Wakefield: “Lock down UW’s wide receivers as best as they can. Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk both have well over 1,000 yards apiece this year and can cause major damage to Michigan. The Wolverines DBs might be hanging on for dear life, but it’s imperative that they do hang on.”

Rory-Joe Daniels: “Run the ball and limit the time Washington’s all-star offense has to rack up scores.”

George Somerville: “Defense wins Championships. Blue-D stopped Bama and have to do the same against the Huskies. If they do, Michigan wins.”

Will Bateman: “As mentioned, the Wolverines defense have been key to their success all season. While they have the ability to grind out the results, there is little flashy about Michigan’s 72nd ranked offense; their real strength lies in forcing mistakes, where they rank best in the country in turnover margin – from these turnovers they have then scored 112 points, also the best in the nation. Penix Jr. has thrown nine interceptions this season, and you better believe that the Wolverines coverage is going to be tight as a drum.”

Simon Carroll: “Michigan need to head into this game with the same plan that Texas did, but execute for all four quarters. Control the clock, run the ball, and avoid a shootout – you won’t totally stop this Washington offense, but you can reduce it’s opportunities.”

NFL Draft Prospect To Watch:

Lee Wakefield – Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington: “By far the most impactful defender that the Huskies have, from a splash plays point of view. Trice has 7 sacks and a forced fumble on the year. Not only can he get after the quarterback, which will be imperative in this game, Trice is also a very solid run defender with great strength at the point of attack. Trice will need to be on song, along with the rest of the Washington front seven in order to control the Michigan ground attack.”

Rory-Joe Daniels – Mike Sainristal, CB, Michigan: “Mike Sainristal is the heartbeat of this Michigan defense. He epitomises the Wolverines, an underrated recruit who has blossomed into one of the best slot corners in the country.”

George Somerville – Jim Harbaugh, HC, Michigan: “I’m certain that Harbaugh signs off from college football after this game to move back to the NFL – probably to the Chargers or maybe Washington Commanders. Hardly a prospect given his previous spells as a player and head coach, but he will join the ranks of players moving to the NFL next season!”

Will Bateman – Rome Odunze, WR, Washington: “At 6”3 and 215 pounds, Huskies WR Odunze is a physical specimen who can certainly shift, but his real skill and appeal lies in his contested catch ability. With the sheer strength to outmuscle most defensive backs, and in-game intelligence for navigating play in traffic, the Nevada native has 87 receptions for over 1,500 yards this season – with 13 touchdowns. He’s a sure-fire first rounder come draft pickin’ time.”

Simon Carroll – Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington: “Washington is LOADED with NFL talent, but if you want an under-the-radar name that could gatecrash the first round, look no further than Troy Fautanu. Starting at left tackle the last 27 games in Seattle, Fautanu might have a lack of length to play outside at the next level. But his power and grit make him the perfect ‘phone booth’ operator who will be a decade plus starter at guard in the pro’s.”


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Lee Wakefield – Michigan 38-30 Washington: “Michigan has been the best team in college football this year and I think Harbaugh and his players are going to will this one over the line, no matter what – before Harbaugh rides off into the sunset and (hopefully, from my point of view) becomes the Head Coach of the Chargers.”

Rory-Joe Daniels – Michigan 31-28 Washington: “I think Michigan have more big-game experience and the players on defense to come up with big plays to finally limit what Penix can do. The fact Dillon Johnson is unlikely to be 100% is also a major factor.”

George Somerville – Michigan 31-24 Washington (OT): “Washington have the fire power on offense to win this game, but Michigan showed just how physical a team they are against Alabama. This physicality outmuscles the Huskies and gives Jim Harbaugh his National Championship before heading to the NFL.”

Will Bateman – Michigan 34-27 Washington: “As much as I would love to see the Huskies take The Natty, I just think this Michigan team have the weaponry, mentality and defensive capabilities to win this one. With the experience of grinding down their opponents and grinding out wins, I think the Wolverines will cap off four successive seasons of playoff football with their first National Championship since 1997.”

Simon Carroll – Michigan 31-30 Washington: “Michigan have the best defensive line in football, and shown they can consistently get after the QB. That will slow down Penix, but not stop him – The Huskies are too high powered for this to be one-way traffic. A more well-rounded team, The Wolverines ride Blake Corum to a narrow victory.”

Mock Draft


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