KFord Ratings Model Prediction: Michigan Vs. Washington College Football National Championship
Odds are available across sports betting sites as we prepare for the final game of the 2023 college football season. The National Championship Game between No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston is finally upon us. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Wolverines are favorites on the spread, with the Huskies to win the natty. Want a Washington vs. Michigan prediction?
Below, I’ll break down all the data from my KFord ratings when each team has the ball, the case for each team to win the national title, and my model’s prediction for who wins and by how much.
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One Will Make History
The winner of this game will join 2022 Georgia, 2019 LSU, and 2018 Clemson as the only 15-0 National Champions of the College Football Playoff era. Michigan is seeking its first national championship since 1997 and its first outright title since 1948. Washington is seeking the program’s first outright national championship, having shared the title in 1991 with Miami (FL).
Michigan Defense vs. Washington Offense
This matchup is strength versus strength. In the preseason, I projected the Michigan defense to be the third-best defensive unit in the country, and it delivered, never falling lower than third in my unit rankings. This is the No. 1 defense in the country, per my numbers, and the Wolverines have held the top spot on the defensive side of the ball since Week 10. Similarly, the Washington offense was always going to be the strength of this Kalen DeBoer team, and I projected them to be the seventh-best offensive unit in the country in the preseason. The Husky offense has only improved since then, maintaining a top-5 ranking since Week 2, and they rank No. 5 on offense entering this game.
Per my power ratings, this will be the season’s biggest test for both units. Strictly using the unit rankings would suggest that Michigan might have an ever-so-slight advantage. But with the way college football is played now, elite offense beats elite defense more times than not. So, I give a slight edge to Washington here.
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Michigan Offense vs. Washington Defense
The other side of the ball might be the strength versus strength, but this is the matchup that intrigues me more, and that’s because there is more uncertainty. My personal Washington vs. Michigan prediction is the game will be won or lost on this side of the ball.
The Michigan offense entered the semifinal against Alabama ranked No. 7. But after an uncharacteristically poor performance, the Wolverines are down to No. 9 in my offensive unit rankings, the worst this unit has been since Week 5. If this offense has the same performance against Washington as it did against Alabama, the Huskies should win the game.
I projected the Washington defense as No. 50 in the preseason. And while this unit has been better than projected all season, the Huskies have been around No. 40 in the defensive unit rankings for the final third of the season. On paper, this is by far the worst unit in the game. But this has been the worst unit in Washington’s past two games, and they’ve risen to the occasion both times. If the pass rush can get to McCarthy, this matchup can be much closer than the No. 9 versus No. 40 unit rankings suggest.
The Case for Each Team to Win
Michigan is my No. 1 power-rated team overall. The Wolverines have occupied the top spot since Week 8. Not only is it the best team of the 2023 college football season, but this is the best-power-rated Michigan team of all-time, per my historical power ratings. The Wolverines really don’t have a weakness, and they have the highest floor of any team in college football.
We came pretty close to seeing that floor against Alabama in the semifinal, and Michigan still found a way to win the game. If Michigan plays their game and doesn’t beat themselves over 60 minutes (or more), the Wolverines are more likely than not going to have been the better football team on both sides of the ball and should be national champions for the first time since 1997.
Washington is ranked No. 11 in my power ratings, two spots better than pre-semifinal, and the Huskies’ best ranking in my power ratings since Week 8. Some teams simply defy the model, though, and Washington just might be one of those teams. I had the Huskies with less than a 50% pregame win expectancy in four games this year:
- 48% vs Oregon in Week 7
- 49% at USC in Week 10
- 28% vs Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game
- 35% vs Texas in the CFP semifinal
Washington won each of those games. The Huskies are 8-0 in one-possession games and have won 10 straight by 10 points or fewer. Washington has done this over and over. All it takes is one more performance of doing just enough to win and the Huskies can be national champions for the first time since 1991.
KFORD MODEL’s Washington vs. Michigan Prediction
Both of these teams have that “something special” feeling about them. So which one will finish off the perfectly special season? My model’s Washington vs. Michigan prediction is projecting the Wolverines to win by 9.5, which equates to a 75% win expectancy for the Wolverines. I think Michigan covers the Vegas spread, but not mine, and wins by somewhere around a touchdown.
Thank you to everyone who read my work this season. I really enjoy the opportunity to write about college football, and it wouldn’t be possible without you. THANK YOU!
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