A soft, out of conference schedule is the way to go for CFB teams

The Oddsmakers Were Right: Washington Falls Short in the National Championship Game

In a surprising turn of events, the underdog Washington Huskies were unable to continue their magical run in the National Championship Game. The oddsmakers accurately predicted the outcome, as the Huskies fell to Michigan in a disappointing 34-13 loss. Throughout the game, Washington’s lack of size became apparent, as they struggled to compete against Michigan’s formidable team.

Both Washington and Michigan had relatively easy paths to the championship game, with neither team facing strong out-of-conference opposition until the College Football Playoff. However, Washington did have the opportunity to play against Michigan State, which provided them with some experience against a formidable opponent.

One of the standout players for Washington throughout the 2023 college football season was quarterback Michael Penix Jr. He had proven himself against some of the best teams in the country, but Michigan’s defense proved to be too strong for him. Penix, who transferred to Washington from Indiana before the 2022 season, had never thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in a game since his move to the West Coast. However, against Michigan, he completed just 52.9 percent of his passes for 255 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Although the second interception came late in the fourth quarter and was ultimately inconsequential, Penix’s inability to lead the offense effectively in the second half was a significant shortcoming for the Huskies.

With their victory, Michigan has claimed the national championship title for the first time since 1948. Many believe that their 1997 team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, was the best in the country that year. However, a split national title with Nebraska was the result of the infamous “Flea Kicker game,” which allowed the Cornhuskers to maintain their undefeated season.

While Michigan’s dominance throughout the season cannot be disputed, it is worth noting that they were not truly tested until their rivalry game against Ohio State. Furthermore, their non-conference schedule lacked top-tier competition, consisting only of teams outside the Power 5 conferences. This was similar to defending national champion Georgia, who also had a relatively easy non-conference schedule. However, Georgia did have a crucial rivalry game against Georgia Tech to end their regular season.

The success of Michigan and Georgia in the championship race sends a message to other college football programs. It suggests that teams should prioritize a weak non-conference schedule to avoid early-season losses that could hinder their chances of making the College Football Playoff. Despite the expansion of the playoff to 12 teams next season, the top four teams will still have bye weeks, making early losses even more detrimental. With conferences like the Big Ten and SEC transforming into super conferences, these schools can only harm themselves by scheduling Power 5 non-conference games. Instead, following the example set by Michigan and Georgia, teams should opt for lesser opponents like East Carolina, UNLV, and Bowling Green to start their seasons.

While this strategy may not please fans who eagerly await the start of football season, it guarantees regular-season television revenue and minimizes the risk of early setbacks. Michigan and Georgia have shown that a weak out-of-conference schedule is the best way to set the foundation for a successful season. As college football continues to evolve, it is likely that more teams will adopt this approach in the future.

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