The College Football Playoff has been one of the best parts of the season since its inception. It allows for tough matchups for prospects to compete against teams they usually wouldn’t during a conference schedule. That allows for their evaluations to become more clear as they are forced into situations they haven’t been in all year.
All four teams in the national semi-finals showed that they could produce fireworks when called upon. Washington and Michigan emerged from their tight matchups and now face off against each other. Washington and their high-powered offense will be tested against a stiff Wolverine defense.
For the Michigan offense, their offense has some questions to answer of their own. The Husky defense has shown it can be bent but not broken all year. Can they change that?
Here are five players to watch in the College Football Playoff Final.
Michael Penix Jr., Quarterback, Washington
Outside of Jayden Daniels, no other player has seen their stock rise more than Penix. The former Indiana Hoosier has defeated the Wolverines before in his career, but this isn’t close to the same team. On the flip side of that coin, though, this is a completely different offense.
Penix Jr. has the medicals he has to get cleared with by teams. Outside of that, there isn’t much holding back his draft stock. He should be in first-round conversations at this point. With a dominant showing against the stiff Wolverines defense, he could find himself climbing even higher.
Blake Corum, Running Back, Michigan
Corum could have declared last year, but he decided to return to school and help Michigan make the College Football Playoff final. He showed all year he could be the workhorse back of this team. His fellow running backs came up short this year, which brought more attention to him. Regardless, Corum overcame it all and has a chance to boost his stock one last time.
Washington allows 4.4 yards per carry, which has them ranked 41st in the nation in run defense. He averaged the same amount against Alabama in the semi-final, but it may not be enough to sustain the Michigan offense on Monday. Corum will have the play the game of his and contribute in every facet.
Ja’Lynn Polk, Wide Receiver Washington
The most explosive player on either team, regardless of offense or defense, is Polk. The former Red Raider has been a playmaker since arriving in Washington. Kalen DeBoer has utilized him perfectly in his air raid offense and gets the ball in his hands in every way imaginable.
Polk will be expected to break off a big play or two against Michigan. Look for them to do it on the first drive, even as they look to set the tone for the game. He is averaging 17 yards per touch this season; look for that to be the minimum he obtains on Monday.
J.J. McCarthy, Quarterback, Michigan
With Penix rising up draft boards, questions still linger for Michigan’s McCarthy. The Wolverine signal-caller has shown he can handle big game situations and make plays when needed. However, he has yet to really deliver a wow game, and there is no time like the present.
He has shown he won’t turn the ball over often. McCarthy has four interceptions on the year, three of which came in one game. He needs to take some chances for some big plays in this game against Washington. Their defense will allow them, as they did all year, to see what your playmakers can do for you. The NFL wants to see it, fans want to see it, last chance to make it happen.
Donovan Edwards, Running Back, Michigan
Edwards should be appearing on milk cartons across the country. After being a top running back prospect in the Summer, Edwards disappeared from the Wolverines’ offense. In 2023, it was the year of Blake Corum, but can the College Football Final be the Edwards takeover?
Edwards is likely to return to Michigan or enter the transfer portal after the year. A massive game against Washington could be enough, however, to push him to the NFL. He is a dual-threat back with size, and the NFL is going to love him. The question remains: will they love him enough after Monday to perhaps push him away from college to hone his craft at the next level?
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