National Championship Preview: Michigan Offense vs. Washington Defense

National Championship Preview: Michigan Offense vs. Washington Defense

January 6, 2024
Bralen Trice (#8, image via 247 Sports)

Michigan is #62 in rushing offense (159.5 yards/game) and #72 in yards per carry (4.25). They’re tied for #4 in rushing touchdowns (36) with Air Force, a team that only attempted 105 passes for the entire season. Blake Corum has rushed 237 times for 1,111 yards and 25 touchdowns, and he is now the leading touchdown scorer in Michigan history with 59 total scores. Donovan Edwards (113 carries, 393 yards, 3 TD) is second on the team in rushing but has struggled mightily, while RB Kalel Mullings (33 carries, 201 yards, 1 TD) and QB J.J. McCarthy (60 carries, 171 yards, 3 TD) are also threats on the ground. The offensive line performed well last week against Alabama despite having to RG Zak Zinter with Karsen Barnhart and inserting RT Trente Jones. Washington’s defense is #43 in yards allowed per game (137.1) and #86 in yards allowed per carry (4.4). Against top-10 ranked teams, the Huskies have allowed 88 carries for 508 yards (5.77 yards/carry) and 6 touchdowns. The leading tackler is fifth year senior SS Dominique Hampton (6’3″, 220 lbs.) with 99 stops, followed by fifth year senior MLB Edefan Ulofoshio (6’1″, 236) with 90 tackles and backup WLB Carson Bruener (6’2″, 226), the son of former Washington and NFL tight end Mark Bruener, with 80 stops. They’re #119 in tackles for loss per game (4.43), led by redshirt junior EDGE Bralen Trice (6’4″, 274) with 11.5 and Ulofoshio with 8.0. They also have a mammoth nose tackle in 6’6″, 327 lb. fifth year senior Ulumoo Ale, who has 16 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss this year as a space-eater.

Advantage: Michigan. Good teams have had solid success against Oregon, and even though Texas and Oregon have statistically better rushing attacks than Michigan, the Wolverines should present issues for the Huskies up front.

Michigan’s pass offense ranks #73 nationally (218.9 yards/game), #14 in yards per attempt (9.0), and #5 in passing efficiency. McCarthy started off last week’s Rose Bowl with an ugly interception on the first play – that was luckily overturned due to the Alabama player having his foot out of bounds – but otherwise, he played a solid game after a few lackluster performances. Overall, he has completed 73.2% of his passes for 9.1 yards/attempt, 22 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. There’s a cluster of receivers at the top of the receiving list, all with 42-45 receptions: WR Roman Wilson (45 catches, 735 yards, 12 TD), TE Colston Loveland (42, 585, 4), and WR Cornelius Johnson (44, 579, 1). The Wolverines are #29 in sacks allowed per game (1.36) and gave up just 1 to a very good Crimson Tide pass rush last week. Meanwhile, Washington is #123 in passing defense (267.1 yards allowed/game), #32 in passing efficiency defense, and tied for #22 in yards allowed per attempt (6.6). They have allowed six 300+ yards passing games this season, including to 3-9 Stanford and 5-7 Washington State. (By comparison, the most passing yards Michigan has allowed was 271 against Ohio State.) Washington is #116 in sacks per game (1.5), but Trice has 6 in his last seven games after having just 1 in his first seven contests. Second on the team is fifth year senior Zion Tupuola-Fetui (6’4″, 254) with 3.5. The Huskes are tied for #17 in interceptions per game (1.14), led by redshirt junior Husky (that’s their nickel hybrid) Mishael Powell (3 INT, 99 yards, 1 TD at 6’1″, 210) and CB Jabbar Muhammad (5’10”, 183) with 3 INT for 53 yards.

Advantage: Michigan. Having watched a lot of Oregon and Texas against Washington, the Huskies’ defensive backs had a difficult time tackling – which also should help in Michigan’s run game – and they were also bailed out by some ugly, untimely drops by the Longhorns. As long as Michigan can avoid self-inflicted issues with drops, they should be able to find some success and get some yards after the catch.

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