Despite all the uncertainty that comes with betting college football’s postseason these days, I managed to wrangle an 8-6 record with these picks during bowl season, hitting both of my wagers for the College Football Playoff semifinals. I’m 38-28 for the season, which I will gladly take. Let’s end strong with a couple of bets on Monday night’s CFP championship game between Michigan and Washington.
All times Eastern. All spreads and totals taken Monday morning from DraftKings Sportsbook.
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College Football Playoff championship
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 2 Washington
Point spread: Michigan -4.5
Michigan’s overtime win over Alabama in the Rose Bowl may have been close on the scoreboard, but it wasn’t such a ballgame when you dive into the box score. The Wolverines averaged 1.5 yards per play more than the Crimson Tide, a sizable number in a one-game sample size. Take away Alabama’s eight-play touchdown drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters, one in which it averaged 6.9 yards per play, and the Crimson Tide averaged only four yards per play for the game. Alabama fumbled the ball five times but lost only one of them, which is extreme good luck. The Wolverines also were fortunate in that regard, losing only one of three fumbles, but Alabama converted its one recovery (Semaj Morgan’s first-quarter muffed punt) into a short touchdown drive.
What I’m trying to say is the Michigan-Alabama game was deceptively close, the point spread for the CFP championship would be larger had the scoreboard reflected the Wolverines’ superiority, and the Wolverines are simply a better all-around team than Washington.
Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and his trio of elite wide receivers shredded Texas’s defense in the Sugar Bowl, with Penix averaging 11 yards per attempt and throwing two touchdown passes. But as one anonymous coach who has faced either Michigan or Washington told the Athletic’s Bruce Feldman last week, “Michigan’s defense is basically just Texas with better [defensive backs].” The Huskies lead the nation in passing plays of at least 10 yards (189) and rank second behind LSU in passing plays of at least 20 yards (77), but it’s going to be more difficult for them to gain chunks of yardage through the air against the Wolverines than it was against the Longhorns. Michigan has given up only 79 passing plays of at least 10 yards (No. 6 nationally) and only 23 of at least 20 yards (No. 3). Texas ranks No. 116 and No. 108, respectively, in those categories.
On offense, the Wolverines run the ball an almost excessive amount: 59.1 percent of the time, which ranks No. 17 in the nation. And that seems unlikely to change against a Washington defense that ranks 125th in rushing success rate allowed and 86th in yards allowed per rushing attempt (4.4). Texas averaged 6.43 yards per carry against the Huskies, Washington’s second-worst performance in that statistic all season, but the Longhorns decided to more or less abandon the run after three quarters: In the fourth, they ran the ball only six times — compared with 23 pass attempts — as they struggled to dig out of a 13-point deficit. Michigan will lean on running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards early and often to stay on schedule, not only because they should be able to move the ball but also because it’ll keep Penix and those receivers off the field.
Favorites in the CFP championship game have covered the spread in the past four seasons, all by at least 12 points. And while asking Michigan to beat Washington by double digits might be a tough ask, I think the Wolverines can lean on the Huskies enough to cover this number, with Corum having a big night.