The University of Michigan Wolverines are once again on top of the college football world after dominating the University of Washington Huskies 34-13 to win the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night in Houston.
Led by a dominant rushing attack that racked up a staggering 303 yards on the ground, Michigan captured its first national title since the 1997 season, when they split the championship with Nebraska. This marks the Wolverines’ 10th claimed national championship in program history.
The maize and blue struck early and often, jumping out to a 17-3 first quarter lead behind two quick touchdowns from running back Donovan Edwards. Edwards, who battled injuries all season long, broke loose for 104 yards on just six carries. His scores of 53 and 12 yards in the opening quarter set the tone for Michigan’s physically imposing run game.
Star running back Blake Corum added 134 yards and two second half touchdowns to pace the Wolverines’ rushing onslaught. Corum found the end zone on runs of 12 and 7 yards in the decisive fourth quarter, putting the game out of reach for Washington.
As a team, Michigan averaged 7.2 yards per carry in the dominant performance. The 303 team rushing yards were not only more than Washington’s total offensive output of 301 yards, but set a new record for rushing yards by a national champion in the BCS/CFP era dating back to 1998.
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy did just enough through the air, compiling 140 passing yards on efficient 12-19 passing. While certainly not eye-popping numbers, it continued McCarthy’s steady hand guiding the Michigan offense all season long. Dating back to last year when he took over QB1 duties, McCarthy finishes his Wolverines career with a remarkable 27-1 record as a starter.
On the other side, Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix Jr. struggled to find any rhythm against the suffocating Michigan defense. Penix was picked off twice, including a back-breaking 81-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Mike Sainristil to put the game away with just over three minutes remaining.
Prior to that game-sealing pick, Penix had marched the Huskies into Michigan territory looking to cut the lead to a one-possession game before the Wolverines defense held firm. It was a microcosm of the night for Washington’s high-flying offense, which entered the game averaging nearly 400 yards per game through the air.
The composed and battle-tested Michigan defense rose to the occasion time and time again, confusing Penix with disguised coverages and generating key stops. Penix finished just 27-51 passing for 255 yards, easily his worst statistical output of the season.
The win caps off a storybook three-year run for Michigan under head coach Jim Harbaugh. After struggling to beat arch-rival Ohio State across his first six seasons in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh has now reeled off three consecutive wins over the Buckeyes. That includes conference championship game victories in each of the past two seasons before breaking through to claim the ultimate prize on Monday night.
This storybook season almost never happened, however, as scandals and suspensions surrounding Harbaugh threatened to derail Michigan’s championship run. Harbaugh was forced to sit out the first three games of the season due to allegations of NCAA violations. Later in the year, the Big Ten suspended Harbaugh for another three games over accusations that the program illegally obtained opponents’ signals.
Despite the distractions, the Wolverines never wavered. They won all six games that Harbaugh missed and capped off the season by hoisting the CFP National Championship trophy that had eluded the program for over two decades. The triumph reinforces Harbaugh’s status as the ultimate “Michigan Man” within the storied program’s lore.
For Washington, the loss snapped a 21-game winning streak that spanned two seasons under head coach Kalen DeBoer. The Huskies were appearing in just their second-ever CFP after winning a thrilling Pac-12 Championship game over rival Oregon.
The journey doesn’t get any easier next season for Washington, as they are set to join the Big Ten along with fellow West coast programs USC and UCLA. The Huskies will host their newly crowned nemesis Michigan on October 5, 2024 in Seattle, in what is sure to be a hotly anticipated early-season showdown.
With the creation of the 12-team CFP format beginning in 2024, just making the exclusive playoff field will require a gauntlet of challenging games. Monday’s showdown offered a glimpse of the week-to-week grind that will become a reality in the expanded playoff.
For the victorious Wolverines, the future is bright even amidst the imminent departures of standouts like McCarthy, Corum and several others. Harbaugh has rebuilt Michigan into an annual Big Ten and national title contender once again after years of mediocrity.
Relying on a formula of dominating line play, a lethal rushing attack and a swaggering defense, Harbaugh’s Michigan squad capped 2022 with a definitive performance befitting champions. Their demolition of Washington ushered college football into its new era while proving the maize and blue have regained their rightful place among the sport’s elite.