2024 College Football Playoff National Championship preview
🏈 The setup
The NCAA Division I (DI) Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) — the cream of the college football crop — includes 133 teams across 10 DI conferences. For the last decade (including this season), only four squads have advanced to the CFP.
After battling through 12 regular-season games, as well as conference championships, the 13-member CFP committee (which notably includes just one woman) selected the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines, No. 2 Washington Huskies, No. 3 Texas Longhorns, and No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide based on factors like team records, strength of schedule, and, controversially, player injuries.
- After what was arguably the best CFP semis ever (more on those New Year’s Day tilts in a minute), Michigan and Washington are the last squads standing, both hoping to finish their seasons undefeated.
🐺 No. 1 Michigan Wolverines
The season: Try to find “dominance” on a map, and you’ll likely land in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The three-peat Big Ten champs never trailed in the second half of a regular season game all year.
- The Wolverines’ biggest flex? Besting archnemesis No. 7 Ohio State for the third year in a row.
The semifinal: Chaos was the name of the Rose Bowl game. Yes, Michigan muffed a punt, snap and field goal, but those mistakes didn’t cost them the game thanks to QB J.J. McCarthy’s calm precision and their defense’s dominance: The Wolverine’s sacked No. 4 Alabama’s QB six times en route to the 27–20 overtime dub, their first CFP win ever.
The headliner: Head coach (HC) Jim Harbaugh infamously dominated this season’s headlines. Harbaugh (and his staff) faced multiple NCAA violation investigations which kept the HC suspended for half of Michigan’s 12 regular-season games.
- Still, Harbaugh led his squad to its winningest season in school history, and as a result, he could bag the most lucrative college football contract ever…if he stays in school.
Keys to success: Defense, defense, and more defense. Washington’s offense is no joke, but if the Wolverines continue shaking up the backfield, expect a maize and blue title — especially if their history-making, lucky-charm running back Blake Corum scores, too.
🐾 No. 2 Washington Huskies
Where Michigan’s all about physicality and grinding out downs, No. 2 Washington dazzles with astonishing precision and breathtaking passing plays. The last-ever Pac-12 champs have one of the most entertaining (and dangerous) offenses in the game — and not just because of their Katniss Everdeen cosplay.
The season: The Huskies’ undefeated season wasn’t always pretty. They had their fair share of close calls, like a near-disaster against Arizona State in October and a dogfight at Oregon State in November. But they proved they can show up when it counts, beating rival No. 8 Oregon twice on the biggest stages.
The semifinal: Washington’s 37–31 Sugar Bowl win over No. 3 Texas was somehow even wilder than the Rose Bowl. The Huskies looked to be en route to a comfortable win up until the game’s last minute, where the Longhorns comeback came up just short on the final play due to some stellar Washington coverage. Too close for comfort.
The headliner: The aforementioned Michael Penix Jr. was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and the QB is out to prove he should’ve won it. He’s one of the game’s most explosive signal-callers and is supported by a cast of all-star wide receivers.
Keys to success: Grit’s the name of the game. The Huskies will have to match Michigan’s muscle on the line of scrimmage to neutralize the Wolverines’ formidable pass rush and to let Penix cook. Time to prove they have that Dawg in ’em.
📺 How to tune in
It all goes down tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The game will air live on ESPN in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
- Will Michigan finally
stealseal the deal, or will Washington give the Pac-12 a bittersweet finale? Only one way to find out.
- No matter who takes the title, the Big Ten will come out on top — both Michigan and Washington will compete in the expanded conference next year, with a rematch already scheduled for October.