Michigan Wolverines defeat Washington Huskies to win CFP National Championship title: Highlights

Goodbye college football 2023-24, see you in August

And that’s a wrap on college football for this historic season.

Kickoff times have not been set yet, but the likely first game of the 2024-25 campaign will be a Week 0 contest between Florida State and Georgia Tech in Dublin on Aug. 24.

A title-game rematch, with all sorts of new faces, will be a Big Ten game as Michigan visits Washington on Oct. 5 in Seattle.

The next CFP final is set for Jan. 20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Coach reminds 14-1 Huskies to be proud of themselves

Washington coach Kalen DeBoer faced a locker room of tearful players and implored them to take pride in their magical season.

DeBoer said he reminded them the 14-1 Huskies were 4-8 as recently as 2021.

“They’ve made a city proud, they made a fan base proud, they made alumni proud and most of all they showed what they’re made of,” he told ESPN. “The sun does come up tomorrow and these memories that we have, the journey we’ve been on, is special.”

Corum, Johnson named MVPs

Michigan running back Blake Corum and defensive back Will Johnson were named offensive and defensive MVPs, respectively, as the final punctuation on the Wolverine’s definitive 34-13 title game victory.

Corum surprisingly started the game playing second fiddle to Donovan Edwards, but the first-team All-American handled the work down the stretch. Corum scored twice and finished with 134 rushing yards. The senior running back scored a touchdown in each of Michigan’s 15 games this season.

Johnson was part of a Wolverine secondary that held Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to just 255 passing yards. Johnson grabbed one of the two interceptions Penix threw on the night, coming just as the momentum seemingly had turned to Washington to start the third quarter.

Reminder: There’ll be no FSU-style snubs in the future

This is the final year of the four-team CFP, as next season’s tournament will expand to 12 schools and possibly avoid controversies like last month’s snub of then-undefeated Florida State.

FSU became the first undefeated major team left out of the CFP, as the Seminoles were bypassed for undefeated Michigan and Washington and then one-loss Alabama and Texas.

Some of the objections out of Tallahassee were silenced after Georgia, which lost the SEC title game to Alabama, crushed the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl.

In the midst of Michigan’s celebration, ESPN turned its cameras to Michael Penix Jr. walking down off the field.

Clutching his side and slightly limping, Penix clearly suffered the impact of playing under the brightest lights on the largest stage.

Harried and hurried all night, and seemingly unable to connect with his receivers when it mattered most, Penix ends the season having led his team to 14 wins, a Pac-12 title, a Sugar Bowl victory. Pennix entered his name among the most proficient quarterbacks in college football history.

Good warmup game for the main event at NRG Stadium: Saturday’s playoff matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans!

Jim Harbaugh speaks

“I’m so proud of our team,” the coach told ESPN. “15-0, took on all comers and (we’re) the last one standing. Champions.” 

Joining the ranks of three of the last four CFP title game champions and… the 1897 Penn Quakers, Michigan becomes just the fifth team to finish a top-division college football season with 15 wins and zero losses. Recent CFP stalwarts Georgia, LSU and Clemson are also among the ranks of 15-0 teams.

The 2023-24 Wolverines are also the 64th undefeated college football national champion.

Hail to the victors, Michigan is the national champion

At 10:11 p.m. CST, the Michigan Wolverines were crowned champs.

Michigan adds to its notable national title, victory count

Exactly how many national titles a college or university can claim is a point of serious contention — and has been since basically the advent of collective collegiate football.

Michigan, depending on who you ask, has just claimed its 10th or 12th national title. The NCAA and the university disagree on titles in 1932 and 1947, during which Michigan was undefeated, and the university claims it won the national championship in both years. Both the NCAA and Michigan agree this will be its first national title since 1997.

Somewhat less controversial is Michigan’s place as the winningest program in FBS football history. Michigan is the only program in history with more than 1,000 wins — and this is win 1,004.

Michael Penix Jr. leaves the college field for the final time

The great college career of Heisman finalist Michael Penix Jr. has likely come to an end.

The ferocious Michigan pass rush limited Penix to 27-of-51 passing for 255 yards, a TD and two picks.

Not in the stat sheet were the rushed throws and times on the ground even if he wasn’t sacked.

Sometimes, it feels like a team just needs to hang around long enough to find that breakthrough.

That’s what it felt like tonight for Washington. After a tough start, their defense stiffened, and their offense started to find a flow. The Huskies had times down 7 where they were driving to tie it.

They never quite found that breakthrough. Michigan bookended the game with dominance.

That should do it: Michigan 33, Washington 13

Michigan with another rushing touchdown. That should just about put it out of reach for Washington.

Blake Corum pushes in from 1 yard out, and it’s over.

And the extra point makes it 34-13

A fourth-and-13 toss from Michael Penix Jr. was picked off by Mike Sainristil who returned it 81 yards, seemingly ending Washington’s last real hope to get back into it.

Washington is driving, but the clock is running.

5:11, 5:10, 5:09…

Michigan 27, Washington 13

This could be it.

Blake Corum’s 12-yard scoring run extended the Wolverines’ lead to two touchdowns — and with Michigan’s defense smothering Washington, this might be too much for the Huskies to overcome with 7:09 left.

Corum has scored 26 TDs this season, at least one in every game.

Michigan struggled in the second half last week, too

No, fans aren’t seeing double. In the Rose Bowl last week, Michigan wavered in the second half as well, allowing 10 points from Alabama before answering with a saving-grace touchdown that sent the game into overtime.

They aren’t looking to come back from behind this time, but it’s still not an ideal position for the Maize and Blue, who at one point was leading by 14 points tonight.

Jinx! There’s another score for the Wolverines, marking their first touchdown since the first quarter.

In a game where field position has been important (especially in the second half), Washington punter Jack McCallister has had an exceptional night, turning the field a number of times.

McCallister has five punts for an average of 48 yards per boot so far, good enough to keep Michigan on its heels deep in its own territory at the start of most its drives.

Despite giving up 365 yards (278 on the ground) in a little more than three quarters, Washington’s defense has been making tough plays to keep the Huskies close.

Michigan is just 1-for-9 on third downs and 0-for-1 on fourth.

Washington’s defense at one point in this game looked like it might not be in the same class as Michigan’s offense.

Michigan’s last six drives: punt, punt, field goal (off a short field after an interception), punt, turnover on downs, punt.

NRG Stadium announced attendance for tonight’s CFP title game: 72,808. That’s 180 more than the announced attendance at last year’s title game, where Georgia blew out TCU 65-7 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

Regardless of outcome, the winning QB will be a ‘Florida Man’

Both quarterbacks are representing Florida today in one way or other — Michael Penix Jr. grew up in Tampa and attended Tampa Bay Tech, while J.J. McCarthy transferred to IMG Academy near Sarasota in high school.

Penix had an easy third-down-converting throw to Will Nixon — who dropped it.

How many more possessions can the Huskies get with hopes to tie?

Nerves might be showing up. There’s a big drop by Michigan.

Washington just hasn’t found those big plays. Everything on offense has felt like a grind.

It hasn’t helped that Penix has missed a few big throws.

Three quarters in the books: Michigan 20, Washington 13

The Huskies are trailing in so many statistical categories, but it’s still just a one -score game — and Washington has the ball.

Michigan has out-gained Washington 360-220, and Washington has given up the game’s only turnover.

Yet, Michael Penix Jr. and company are just one big play from trying it up.

The end of the third quarter has arrived. With just 15 minutes to go, Michigan and Washington have had the ball almost the same amount of time so far: 22:37 for Washington and 22:23 for Michigan.

Michigan doesn’t score but does its D a solid.

The Wolverines were forced to punt but at least it’s close to midfield and not from their own 9, thanks to that J.J. McCarthy scramble.

Washington takes over at its own 11 with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.

Big third-down conversion. QB J.J. McCarthy scrambles for 22 yards and avoids a punt from the shadows of Michigan’s goal posts.

Even if Michigan has to punt on this drive, that’s a huge play.

Washington’s defense has been coming together, but there are only so many times the Huskies can give the ball back to front-running Michigan.

The Wolverines take possession, leading 20-13, with 5:10 left in the third quarter. A good punt pins them inside their own 10-yard line.

As we approach the end of the third quarter, Washington has committed just two penalties, a sharp departure from the Huskies’ regular season, which ranked them among the worst in the nation for both penalty yards (999) and penalties assessed (107).

Classic jinx, as Washington commits a false start.

A healthy dose of ZZ Top coming from the ESPN broadcast is making this native Houstonian happy.

Michigan still without a conversion on third down

Despite rolling up 319 yards in 2 1/2 quarters, the Wolverines are not getting it down on third down.

They’re 0-for-6 in that key metric.

Washington has the ball with a chance to tie.

It’s the kind of thing that makes every sports fan nervous: Your team is playing well, but they’re not winning by much.

Michigan is playing well, but up by only a touchdown.

Washington cuts Michigan lead to 7

Huskies kicker Grady Gross connected from 45 yards out, and Washington cut Michigan’s lead to 20-13.

On third-and-8, Michigan’s big pass rush forced Michael Penix Jr. into 4-yard throw when he appeared to have a receiver open deep.

He’s back. Washington QB Penix is on the field after limping off following an interception on the last drive.

Washington dodges a bullet, surrenders FG: Michigan 20, Washington 10

Michigan cashes in the first turnover of the game with a James Turner field goal from 38 yards out as the Wolverines extend their lead to 10.

But the Huskies are saying “phew,” after giving up the ball at their own 32.

A momentum-stalling interception from Michael Penix might have also included a worrying injury to the star Washington quarterback. Penix clutched his right ankle immediately after the play and limped off the field.

Penix is being attended to by Washington staff on the sideline. Replays showed one of his offensive linemen accidentally stepping on his leg as he threw the ball.

Turnover! Will Johnson’s juggling pick of a Michael Penix Jr. pass sets up Michigan at the Washington 32 yard line.

That’s the first tunover of the game, and it’s a big one.

What was someone saying about momentum?

Game on. Michigan’s kickoff goes through the back of the end zone.

Michigan-Washington rematch already on the calendar

The frenzy of college football conference realignment over the last 18 months also makes this rare title game matchup a future more regular and in-conference showdown.

Washington and Michigan are slated to meet again in less than 10 months at Husky Stadium in Seattle as part of the expanded Big Ten conference on Oct. 5.

Oregon, UCLA and USC will be joining the Huskies in the move to Big Ten next August. All four of these schools will, of course, also have to figure out how to contend with teams like Penn State, Iowa and The Ohio State University. 

Heisman winner Tim Tebow shared his thoughts on the first half of the college football championship game via X.

Will this be Harbaugh’s final game at Michigan?

Another Harbaugh storyline, for good measure: There’s a non-zero chance that Monday is his final game as Wolverines head coach, NBC Sports reports. Rumors of a potential second NFL stint have swirled around Harbaugh and the Michigan program for weeks. He recently hired a new agent, Don Yee, with strong NFL ties and has tactically navigated around questions about his future.

If tonight is indeed Harbaugh’s final game at Michigan, a national championship would be quite the way to go out. Washington has other plans.

Surprised to see college athletes in tonight’s ads? Welcome to the NIL era

If you’re surprised to see some of tonight’s stars in ads, that’s understandable: Until just a few years ago, college athletes weren’t allowed to make money through endorsements.

Now, thanks to what’s known as NIL (name-image-likeness) deals, players can sign lucrative endorsement deals. Some are already making millions.

College athletics are still figuring it all out. NCAA President Charlie Baker has called for the federal government to step in to normalize rules and even proposed a new system that would allow schools to pay players in order to address resource disparities between schools.

Michigan looked ready for the spotlight from the coin flip, while Washington needed time to adjust to Michigan’s fast start. As has often been the case, however, things change quickly in title games, and Michael Penix and the Huskies quieted the nerves, closed the gap to just a touchdown and have the ball coming their way to start the second half.

Washington has been in tight games all season, going to the wire with a bevy of Pac-12 opponents and winning each of its last five games by a single score or less.

Michigan has the edge in nearly every statistical category and will look to take advantage of its Big Ten pedigree for hard-won matchups when it matters the most.

The Huskies have to be happy, down just 17-10 on the scoreboard with a stat sheet dominated by Michigan.

The Wolverines have the edge in total yards, 290-160, having run all over the Huskies with 209 yards on the ground.

But with the Huskies and star QB Michael Penix Jt. getting the ball to start the third quarter, it feels like Washington has the momentum.

Washington trailing at half for just the third time this season

For the third time in its thus-far undefeated season, Washington heads to the locker room losing at the half.

As you might expect, the Huskies were able to make up its previous deficits against Arizona State (down 7-3 at half) and Utah (down 28-24). But the 7-point halftime deficit is its largest of the season.

Michigan’s running attack dominated early, but credit to Washington for hanging in.

It was 17-3 at one point with Michigan driving late in the second quarter. Washington has to feel OK about going into the half at 17-10 and getting the ball first.

Touchdown Huskies! Michigan 17, Washington 10

And it’s a game again: Washington punches it into the end zone as Michael Penix Jr. calmly found Jalen McMillian on fourth-and-goal from the 3.

The Huskies get the ball back to start the third quarter; has momentum swung to Washington?

Here comes Washington. After the stop, they’re stringing together positive plays as they look to close the gap before the end of the half.

And a big flag on third-and-long gives Washington a first down inside the 20. First penalty on Michigan tonight.

Michigan looked to be punting on fourth-and-3, changed its mind and failed to convert.

J.K. McCarthy’s pass, intended for Roman Wilson, was broken up by Edefuan Ulofoshio.

Michigan was 2-2 on fourth downs against Alabama.

Alex Orji’s 13-yard burst put Michigan’s rushing total to 201 yards — and we’re just 10 minutes into the second quarter.

Harbaugh family reunion in real time

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh got a visit from a familiar face in the second quarter — his brother and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.

John has the week off after his Ravens clinched a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs, so had more than enough time to come watch his brother attempt to win a college football national championship.

The two Harbaugh brothers had previously been on opposite sidelines of a title game — Super Bowl XLVII, where John’s Ravens topped the then Jim-coached 49ers, 34-31.

Tackle Time

The Huskies have struggled to move the ball downfield tonight — Michigan’s defense has held them to just a field goal so far in the first half.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington
Dillon Johnson #7 of the Washington Huskies is tackled by Junior Colson #25 and Josh Wallace #12 of the Michigan Wolverines in the first half during the 2024 CFP National Championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston tonight.Logan Riely / Getty Images

I’m not saying Michigan should just run the ball every play … but I’m saying they could.

Negative plays — penalties and sacks — are making it tough for Washington to find any offensive rhythm.

Washington forces its first three-and-out.

And after the Huskies turned the ball over on downs near midfield, this could be big. Another Michigan touchdown would have been crushing.

Michigan offensive line making its case as best in the country

Michigan has made moving Washington’s defensive line out of the way for its rushing attack look easy so far tonight — Wolverine running backs are averaging 16.4 yards per carry so far. That’s four times more efficient than the Wolverines were against Alabama during the Rose Bowl.

Perhaps the increase in offensive line oomph can be attributed to some end-of-season hardware that was handed out before the college football playoff even began. Washington was awarded 2023’s Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s top offensive line — an award the Michigan offensive line had claimed each of the prior two seasons.

Proving the voters wrong in real time might be among the many points Michigan is trying to make here in the first half of the title game.

Washington gambles and loses. The Huskies fail on fourth-and-7 as Michael Penix Jr. misses a wide open Rome Odunza deep down field.

Penix is definitely not in his rhythm yet — looked like he wanted more out of the play before it was even completed.

If Washington comes up one score short, this will be the painful memory.

From the Dept. of Stating the Obvious: Big drive for Washington here. Even a field goal would help and give its defense a breather.

Wolverines add field goal, take 17-3 lead

Michigan’s James Turner connected on a 31-yard field goal, but the Huskies must feel good about keeping the Wolverines out of the end zone.

Washington cornerback Jabbar Muhammad came through with the key pass breakup on third-and-4.

Penix, McCarthy vying for NFL draft stock boost

With the eyes of the football world turned toward NRG Stadium this evening and the NFL playoff picture (and draft lottery positions) confirmed yesterday, many NFL front offices might be eyeing the quarterbacks at the helm of the Huskies’ and Wolverines’ offensive attacks.

Here are some notable mock drafts and their respective feelings on where the two quarterbacks might be drafted:

USA Today: McCarthy No. 13 to Las Vegas Raiders / Penix not in first round

CBS Sports: McCarthy not in first round / Penix No. 8 to Atlanta Falcons

Sports Illustrated: McCarthy not in first round / Penix No. 8 to Atlanta Falcons

Pro Football Focus: McCarthy not in first round / Penix No. 8 to Atlanta Falcons

Pro Football Network: McCarthy No. 20 to Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Penix No. 11 to Minnesota Vikings

Michigan dominates first quarter

The numbers are stark: Michigan has out gained Washington 229-72, mostly on the ground.

It’s Michigan 14, Washington 3. Plenty of game left.

Michigan running and not stopping: 59 yards for Blake Corum. The Wolverines are running wild.

This game feels like it could get out of hand… and quickly.

Michigan gets a stop. The momentum is entirely behind Big Blue right now.

Donovan Edwards does it again, this time sprinting to the house from 46 yards out.

It doesn’t get any more efficient or explosive than two carries for 87 yards and two TDs.

100% untouched, plus decisive cuts

Michigan committed only two penalties in its Rose Bowl victory over Alabama on New Year’s Day. Competing against the more open offensive attack of Washington under the bright lights of the national title game might’ve shaken some other teams. But Michigan has yet to commit a penalty here tonight.

Michigan 7, Washington 3

Washington responds with a 25-yard chip shot from Brady Gross, who just sneaked it inside the right post.

While Washington inches closer, Michigan has to be pleased to keep the Huskies out of the end zone.

Washington running back Dillon Johnson, who promised to play in the title game despite battling lower body injuries sustained in Washington’s semifinal victory over Texas, has already been in and out of this game in the first quarter.

Johnson was pulled out of the game after his first rushing attempt and attended to by the Washington staff only to return to the game and take attempts during the Huskies first red zone possession.

Washington has already spent two timeouts, the latest on a third-and-goal play.

Commercial break before a big opportunity for the Huskies.

Left is right for Penix

In his already unusual sixth season of college football, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, threw for more than 4,600 yards for a second consecutive season and led his Huskies to a berth in the national title game.

But another, more unusual and notable mark is within Penix’s sights during tonight’s title game: a spot among the top three lefty passers in FBS college football history.

Penix enters tonight’s game with 13,486 career passing yards, good enough for 18th all-time among quarterbacks, but fourth all-time among lefty quarterbacks.

With 442 or more yards, Penix would move into sole possession of the third spot on that list past former Eastern Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers. The top two, all but out of reach for Penix, are current Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel (14,865 yards) and former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore (14,667 yards), who the current offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Twice in 2023, Penix crossed the mark needed to move up on the list and had 430 yards passing against Texas in Washington’s 37-30 Sugar Bowl victory on New Year’s Day.

Freshman Tybo Rogers looked to be caught short on a third down reception before breaking free to make the line to gain.

If the Huskies answer with a score on this drive, this will have been a key play.

Missed tackles!

Washington’s path to the title game

The Huskies’ season was filled with big moments and even bigger wins, as they defeated Pac-12 rivals Oregon twice in the regular season. They also ended the season undefeated.

Their quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., is poised to be a first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, which ultimately went to LSU’s quarterback, Jayden Daniels.

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. arrives before the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game between Washington and Michigan Monday in Houston today.Godofredo A. Vasquez / AP

Penix threw for 4,648 yards this season.

Washington’s head coach, Kalen DeBoer, was named coach of the year by The Associated Press, which credited him with leading his team to an undefeated season that will culminate in the Championship Game.

The season came to a head in the Sugar Bowl against the Texas Longhorns, in which the Huskies never trailed, leading them on a straight path to Houston.

Coming into the CFP title game, Michigan had outscored opponents 123-33 in the first quarter this season.

The Wolverine’s 84-yard opening touchdown drive capped by a 41-yard rush from junior Donovan Edwards only continues a trend of quick starts that has helped Blue stay undefeated this season.

Wolverines touchdown!

Michigan took at 7-0 lead on a dominating opening drive capped by Donovan Edwards’ 41-yard dash.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington
Donovan Edwards #7 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates with J.J. McCarthy #9 after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter.Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

The Wolverines rolled up five first downs in their 84-yard march.

How Michigan got here

The Wolverines went undefeated in the regular season, peaking on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day in their annual matchup against Ohio State, which they won 30-24.

But their season was marred with controversy with coach Jim Harbaugh missing six games, three for a coaching violation and three for the organization’s involvement in an apparent sign-stealing scandal.

The first violation was for breaking recruiting rules during the NCAA pandemic pause. While the NCAA did not impose a penalty on Harbaugh, the school proactively had him sit out from coaching duties for the first three weeks of the season.

He was also absent for the regular season’s final three games after an investigation revealed a staffer allegedly participated in sign-stealing. While Harbaugh maintained he was not involved, the Big Ten imposed the penalty — which some say was issued prematurely, as the NCAA has yet to wrap up its investigation.

Washington wins the toss and defers.

That means Michigan will start with the ball this half, and Washington will have the ball to start the second half.

The picks are in: ESPN’s crew likes Michigan, mostly

ESPN’s “College Gameday” crew has made their picks.

Joey Galloway: Michigan

Pat McAfee: Washington

Desmond Howard: Michigan

Lee Corso: Michigan

Michigan is the favorite, according to sportsbooks

Michigan is favored by 5 points over the Huskies, according to most sportsbooks.

Sports betting has boomed in recent years, with 38 states and Washington, D.C., having legalized some form of it.

On the call tonight, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

ESPN’s broadcast of tonight’s game will have Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit teaming up to call their 10th straight championship game.

Holly Rowe will be on the Michigan sideline, and Molly McGrath on Washington’s. Former Big Ten referee Bill Lemonnier will serves as the rules analyst.

Huskies, Wolverines, wolves, oh my!

At first glance it might appear that Michigan and Washington share similarly branded mascots. However, not only do wolverines share more of their heritage with weasels than wolves and dogs, but some, including the Washington Department of Natural Resources, would like to call out another potential misconception:

Indeed, the state of Washington is home to a wolverine population in its Cascade Mountain Range that is also a candidate for listing as an endangered species.

Michigan has in the past tried to bring wolverines to Ann Arbor, bringing two from the Detroit Zoo to Michigan Stadium on game days in 1927, only to find that the ferocious and surprisingly large wolverines weren’t exactly friendly.

Other wolverines have called Michigan and the university home since then, but the last documented wolverine sighting in the “Wolverine State” was in 2004.

Fantasia to perform the national anthem; marching bands will entertain at the half

Before the title games kicks off, Grammy winner Fantasia, who starred in “The Color Purple,” will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Her performance will follow that of members of the Theatre Under the Stars Musical Theatre Academy Ensemble, who will sing “America the Beautiful.”

After both, William Stokes, a 12th grader from Deer Park, Texas, will perform both “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” in American Sign Language.

The Washington band performs before the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game tonight.
The Washington band performs before the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game tonight.Godofredo A. Vasquez / AP
2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington
A Michigan Wolverines drum major performs.Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

At halftime, in keeping with college football tradition, both the Michigan and Washington marching bands will perform.

Michigan’s Benny officially out for game

While the lengthy gap between the end of college football’s regular season and title games has been kind to injury reports throughout the sport’s history, Michigan is feeling the impact of having to play a semifinal game before tonight’s game.

Michigan defensive tackle Rayshaun Benny, a junior who had been named Michigan’s co-defensive player of the week three times in 2023, is officially out. Benny was injured in the first quarter of Michigan’s 27-20 semifinal win over Alabama and was seen on the sidelines before kickoff in crutches and a cast.

Little doubt who Gov. Whitmer’s rooting for

The Huskies flag is flying over the Washington State Capitol

The Washington Huskies’ purple and gold flag has been flying over the state’s Capitol building in Olympia since 9 a.m.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee helps raise the University of Washington flag
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee helps raise the University of Washington flag before the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game between Washington and Michigan on the first day of the legislative session at the Washington state Capitol on Monday.Lindsey Wasson / AP

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation Friday that the flag would be raised over the city first thing this morning.

Michigan, Washington not entirely unfamiliar Championship Game foes

Despite being first-time CFP Championship combatants, the Wolverines and Huskies do have some shared recent history — encounters that span two very different games.

Washington and Michigan squared off early in the 2021 season during non-conference play. Michigan star running back Blake Corum paced the Wolverines to a lopsided 31-10 victory in Ann Arbor, running for three touchdowns and 171 yards against a Washington team that barely resembles the 2023 squad.

Perhaps more interestingly, in the midst of the late-starting, pandemic-shortened 2020 college football season, current Washington quarterback Michael Penix faced off against this same Michigan team — as the leader of Indiana’s resurgent Big Ten campaign. Penix, Jr. showed the penchant for game-changing plays he’d come to be known for by passing for three touchdowns and 342 yards in the Hoosiers’ 38-21 victory. Penix later transferred to Washington after 17 starts at Indiana and finished second in this season’s Heisman Trophy balloting.

Tornado watch in effect as fans file into NRG Stadium

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for Houston and Harris counties in Texas for tonight, and less than two hours before kickoff, that weather is beginning to complicate things a bit for fans at the CFP title game.

Users on X have shared video of fans rushing to get into NRG Stadium, tonight’s venue for the CFP title game, as skies darkened around the stadium.

This game hasn’t gone to the dogs, but Dubs would like it to

Big Blue feeling the love on way to the big game

1 team will eat like a champion tonight

Michigan running back Blake Corum leaned hard into food metaphors to explain his team’s appetite for victory.

“We’re ready to eat our last meal,” he told reporters recently. “We’re all hungry. We’re not full at all. We’re staving.”

Corum added that the Wolverines will not rest on the glory of their thrilling OT win over Alabama.

“Last week’s game was cool, last week’s game was fun and we can talk about that,” he said. “But we have to stick at the task at hand right now and focus on the job that we have to finish.”

Michigan running back Blake Corum
Michigan running back Blake Corum reacts after an overtime win over Alabama at the Rose Bowl CFP NCAA semifinal college football game on Jan. 1, 2024.Kyusung Gong / AP

Title game in Houston features two teams from the North

Tonight’s title game — featuring teams from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Seattle —breaks up what’s been a decidedly Southern affair for years.

After the first CFP title game in 2015, when Ohio State beat Oregon, the only schools to participate in the next five championship contests were Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and LSU.

Alabama downed Ohio State in 2021 before Georgia beat the Crimson Tide and TCU in, 2022 and 2023, before tonight’s Michigan-Washington matchup.

Elite units: Washington’s offense vs. Michigan’s defense

Michigan comes into tonight’s game with the nation’s best defense and will face a similarly elite unit on the other side of the ball.

The Wolverines have surrendered just 243.1 yards per game, tops in the FBS. Michigan’s stout defensive line played a key role in the team’s Rose Bowl win over Alabama.

Led by Heisman Trophy finalist Michael Penix Jr., Washington rolls into Houston with the nation’s No. 10 offense, averaging 473.6 yards a game.

A first CFP final appearance for both teams

Both Michigan and Washington are making debut appearances in the championship game in the playoff era. Michigan has made it to the semifinals the last two seasons.

The two teams have each earned national championships in years past but not since the Bowl Championship Series was formed in 1998, ushering in the era of an NCAA top-division football championship game.

It would also be the Pac-12’s first — and only — national championship win in the CFP era if the Huskies prevail. Either way, next season, the Big Ten will claim this season’s reigning champ, as Washington is set to switch conferences with the Pac-12’s collapse.

How to watch the College Football Playoff National Championship

The No. 1 Michigan Wolverines will face off against the No. 2 Washington Huskies in tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship, a first appearance in the title game for both teams.

The game starts at 7:30 p.m. ET at NRG Stadium in Houston. You can watch on ESPN or the ESPN app.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington
NRG Stadium in Houston today.Aaron J. Thornton / Getty Images