Michigan vs Washington: 5 key battles to look out for in the CFP national championship ft. J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr. 

Michigan v Michigan State
JJ McCarthy with head coach Jim Harbaugh

The College Football Playoff national championship game will feature the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines against the second-ranked Washington Huskies. The overall matchup will be determined through the smaller matchups. From the coaches, the pass rush and the quarterbacks to the kicking game, any phase could influence the outcome.

The key matchups come down to Michigan’s best against Washington’s best. This game will also be a national stage for all players to show off their talent for the upcoming NFL draft. Of course, the most important motivation is to win the game.

Michigan vs. Washington: Key matchups in the championship game

#1, John Harbaugh vs. Kalen DeBoer

The coaching battle between Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Washington’s Kalen DeBoer will be monumental as well as philosophical.

Harbaugh represents a player's coach as well as a true head coach. Harbaugh manages his coaching staff, and makes the final say on game decisions to control the pace of the game.

DeBoer represents a newer style of coordinator-coach. DeBoer calls the offensive plays and works closely on the offensive side of the ball to generate scoring. Of course, he still manages his defensive coaching staff, but this style of coaching will be put to the test against Harbaugh's well-built, physical Michigan team.

#2, Michigan’s running backs vs. Washington’s linebackers

Michigan running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards's performances in the national championship game will be game-breakers. Blake Corum is a solid all-around running back who is difficult to tackle. Edwards is an excellent change-of-pace back and has a natural affinity for catching passes out of the backfield.

These two backs will make Washington’s linebackers, Edefuan Ulofoshio, Alphonzo Tuputala and Mishael Powell, engage at the line of scrimmage, while also running sideline to sideline. The Huskies' linebacking corps needs to recognize plays designed for Michigan’s running backs and either beat them with coverage or clever blitzes.

Also Read: "A quarterback who will dice you up" - Michigan DB Mike Sainristil is wary of the threat Michael Penix Jr. poses ahead of the national title game

#3, J.J McCarthy vs. Washington’s defensive backs

Michigan’s quarterback J.J. McCarthy has excellent decision-making. His natural talent allows him to make big throws, but the throws are much more successful when the timing and decisions all line up. Washington’s defensive backs will try to blanket Michigan’s wide receivers so that McCarthy only has small windows of opportunity.

This will be a big task, and the Huskies defensive backs will also have to look out for McCarthy taking off for a run, as he will pull it down if no one is open.

#4, Michael Penix Jr. vs Michigan’s pass rush

Washington’s quarterback Michael Penix Jr will have to be wary of a fierce pass rush for the Michigan Wolverines. Penix is much more comfortable with a clean pocket, so he had time to wind up his touch pass to his dynamic wide receivers. Michigan's Jaylen Harrell and Derrick Moore will look to disrupt this through blitzing and just straight bull rushes.

#5, Washington’s Rome Odunze vs. Michigan's Will Johnson

This will be a stellar matchup between two NFL first-round talents.

Odunze is coming off a regular season with 87 receptions, 13 touchdowns and over 1,500 yards. Odunze was able to post 125 yards in the semifinal round against the Texas Longhorns.

Meanwhile, it will most likely be Michigan's Will Johnson covering Odunze. Michigan’s secondary is the second best in the nation at pass defense. Johnson missed time with injuries this season but locked down Alabama’s passing game in the semifinal round.

Also Read: Washington vs. Michigan Prediction, Odds and Picks - Jan. 8 | National Championship

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