Michigan started the season at #2 in the preseason poll. Even with returning starter JJ McCarthy at QB, this rank seemed too high to me.
However, Michigan has answered two critical questions this season:
- WR Roman Wilson has emerged as a number one option, as he has gained 2.69 yards per route run despite nursing an injury late in the season.
- The defense has improved from last season, as they rank 15th in my adjusted success rate and 8th in my adjusted yards per play.
The improvement of the defense is more impressive considering the personnel on this team. Last season, Michigan had players like DT Mazi Smith and CB DJ Turner get drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
On this team, players like S Rod Moore and DT Kris Jenkins will get drafted but most likely in later rounds. Michigan has become an elite defense by team effort, and DC Jesse Minter deserves a ton of credit.
In contrast, Washington will bring high level stars into this game. WR Rome Odunze is an almost certain 1st round pick and possibly the best receiver in college football.
WR Jalen McMillan missed the middle part of the season, but he might be as good as Odunze. Here are their per game averages in 2023 for full games:
- Odunze: 9.4 targets per game, 110.9 yards per game, 14 games.
- McMillan: 8.4 targets per game, 104.8 yards per game, 5 games.
In addition, NFL teams will certainly give QB Michael Penix a chance if not draft him in the 1st round.
Washington’s defense has been their weaker unit, as they rank 35th in my adjusted success rate. They are much worse against the run (101st in my adjusted success rate) than the pass (13th).
In the semi-final playoff game, Texas had a 69.2% rushing success rate compared to the 42.5% college football average against Washington. Michigan should be able to run the ball with RB Blake Corum, as they feature the 24th best ground game by my adjusted rushing success rate.
However, Michigan might struggle against the NFL talent that Washington will feature on offense. Michigan’s pass defense ranks 7th in both passing success rate and yards per pass attempt, slightly better than Texas. They will look to suppress the explosive plays to Odunze and McMillan.
My best numbers like Michigan by 3.3 points, and a market with Michigan -4.5 seems fair for this title game on Monday night.
Here is a sample of NFL predictions available to members of The Power Rank.
Detroit will beat Minnesota by 4.7 points at home. This prediction uses the adjusted passing metrics for Nick Mullens, as he has been NFL average by success rate. However, the Detroit offense should put up points against a bad defense with two cornerbacks listed as questionable.
Green Bay will beat Chicago by 3.2 points at home. With wins in four of the past five games, Chicago coach Matt Eberflus has probably done enough to save his job. Then the discussion turns to whether Chicago takes a QB with the top overall pick.
Houston will beat Indianapolis by 1.4 points on the road. The winner makes the playoffs. The markets started by favoring Indianapolis but now have Houston -1.5.
Smarter sports betting in less than 5 minutes
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