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Biggest X-Factor for Michigan in National Championship vs. Washington

We go over the most important factor in a potential win for the Wolverines in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines defeated Alabama in the Rose Bowl to reach the 2024 College Football Championship Game. They will face the undefeated No. 2 Washington Huskies in Houston on Monday, January 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Who will be the difference-maker for the Wolverines in this matchup?

Michigan vs. Washington National Championship

X-Factor for Wolverines: Mike Sainristil, DB

The Michigan secondary has been quite the fearsome unit this season, allowing just 150 passing yards per game, placing them at second in the nation in pass defense. In this game, this unit will be put to the test as they go up against the most powerful passing offense in the nation (Washington averages 350 yards in the air per game).

The key to a win for Michigan will stem from their ability to limit Michael Penix’s signature long pass plays, whether through pass breakups or even interceptions. At the center of that strategy, we find Wolverines defensive back Mike Sainristil.

Sainristil leads the team in interceptions with five picks on the season. He has recorded six defended passes, two forced fumbles, and 20 solo tackles. The Michigan secondary will need to keep up — and keep up cleanly — with wide receivers Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk to limit Washington’s chances at a win. Sainristil will likely be paired off with Odunze for a showdown between two of the best players at their craft in the sport. If the DB comes out on top of this one-on-one, Michigan has a very solid chance of winning.