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CFP national championship: Washington maintains underdog status ahead of Michigan matchup

It has been a wild year in the world of college football, as the seeds of change have been planted. 

It began when the College Football Playoff announced that it would go to a 12-team format starting in 2024, ending the 10-year run of the four-team edition. Conference realignment took over the summer, as the Pac-12 disintegrated as a major conference before Deion Sanders and Colorado were headlining news for the first part of the season. 

A picture of the NCAA football national championship trophy

ESPN takes video footage of the NCAA football national championship trophy before the Tax Act Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023 in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

The Michigan sign-stealing scandal was all anyone could talk about a month before an undefeated Florida State was left out of the CFP, sparking a massive debate over who belonged in the four-team playoff. 

That is all in the past now. 

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Washington and Michigan have emerged from all the stories as undefeated teams vying for the national championship on Monday night in Houston. 

Let’s take a look at some of the betting lines for the CFP national championship as of Thursday from Caesars Sportsbook. 

Michigan Wolverines:

Money line: -190 Spread: -4.5

Michigan needed a fourth-quarter comeback and overtime to beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl, but they are now one win away from the program’s first national title since 1997. 

Jim Harbaugh went for it on fourth down at the Alabama 40-yard line late in the fourth quarter, and quarterback J.J. McCarthy rewarded Harbugh’s faith with a completion to Blake Corum that went for 27 yards. 

The Wolverines punched it in to send the game into overtime, scored on their first possession and stopped Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe on fourth down, sending Michigan players streaming onto the field in celebration.  

“I wouldn’t say the Michigan win was pretty,” Caesars Sportsbook college football lead Joey Feazel told Fox News Digital. “They had a very dominating first half, but it didn’t really reflect on the scoreboard just because of some turnovers and really bad special teams play. But they fought until the very end [and] scored quickly in overtime to get the touchdown. 

QB J.J. McCarthy celebrates winning the Rose Bowl

Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy, #9, celebrates with the winner’s trophy after the Michigan Wolverines defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in overtime of the CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2024, at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. (Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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“And then we’re able to stop them. Maybe a poor play call by Alabama, but it was enough to get it done. Taking on Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide in a playoff scenario is nothing easy to do.”

The Wolverines have been favored to win the national championship for the majority of the year, according to Caesars. 

Michigan’s defense has been their calling card all season, allowing the least amount of points per game (9.5) in the country and the second-fewest yards (239.7). 

They will face their greatest challenge of the year against a Washington offense that gets the ball downfield and forces defenses to pay sideline to sideline. 

Washington Huskies 

Money line: +158 Spread: +4.5

The Huskies find themselves in the CFP final for the first time and are looking to complete a magical season. 

Washington enters the national championship with a record of 14-0 and sporting the top passing offense in the country (350.0 passing yards per game). 

The Huskies dominated Texas in the second half of the Sugar Bowl before allowing the Longhorns to make it a game in the final minutes. 

“Really a dominating performance on offense throughout that whole game against a pretty talented Texas defense [that] was impressive,” Feazel told Fox News Digital. “[It] got close at the end, but that’s fun to see. [It] could have gone the other way but [it’s] just like it’s been for Washington all year long. [They’ve] been in close games, able to get it done.” 

Michael Penix Jr celebrates

Michael Penix Jr., #9 of the Washington Huskies, celebrates after a 37-31 victory against the Texas Longhorns in the CFP Semifinal Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on Jan. 1, 2024 in New Orleans. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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Washington’s last 10 games of the season have been decided by 10 points or fewer. 

“Before the game, we had this matchup look-ahead at 7 [points],” Feazel said of the spread. “Given the circumstances with how good Washington played, it kind of drifted down. 

“Despite only winning by six, it was still, we thought, a dominating performance with Washington playing a very good Texas team,” Feazel continued. 

The Huskies were the underdogs in their last two games against Oregon and Texas. 

Total points: Over/under 55.5

The over/under is set at 55.5 total points, according to Caesars Sportsbook, despite the Huskies scoring the 10th-most points per game in the country (37.6). 

The dominance of the Michigan defense is playing a very large role here after holding Alabama to just 288 total yards in the semifinals. 

“The strength of this Michigan team, the strength that it’s been all year long, is that defense and being able to stop a lot of power offenses,” Feazel told Fox News Digital. “We saw Penn State [and] Ohio State not be able to do much. There hasn’t really been anybody that’s been able to do much against this Michigan defense.”

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“We saw last year another dominating defense with Georgia. Their offense was able to put up a bunch of points, but TCU really couldn’t do much against a dominating defense,” Feazel added. “And that’s really what this total is reflecting is the respect for Michigan’s defense, especially against a highly talented offense like Washington.”

Michigan and Washington play for the national championship on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET at NRG Stadium, which is the home of the Houston Texans.

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