Michigan has done it, completing its run to the national title and cementing the first national championship for the Wolverines since 1997! After escaping the Rose Bowl with a win over Alabama, Jim Harbaugh’s squad used a hot start and saved their best for the fourth quarter in Houston.

In the end, the Wolverines dialed up a clutch finish over the final 8 minutes of the game to pull away from Washington with a 34-13 win. And while questions about the future will swirl, tonight is a scene of celebration for those in and around Ann Arbor!

Here are the key takeaways from Michigan’s CFP National Championship win:

Donovan Edwards’ electric start proves crucial

Give Blake Corum his due. Michigan’s workhorse back delivered another big-time performance and some clutch touchdowns late. However, it was Donovan Edwards who provided the game-breaking moments in Houston.

Consider for a moment the disappointing season that Edwards had in 2023. Entering Monday’s title game, he had just 393 rushing yards and was averaging less than 4 yards per carry. He only had 3 touchdowns and did not find the end zone until Oct. 14.

That was flipped on its head with Edwards’ first carry of the night going for 41 yards and opening the scoring. He followed that up with another run of 40+ yards, scoring from 46 yards out to pace Michigan to the 17-3 halftime lead.

Corum would bypass Edwards’ usage and tie his touchdown total late in the fourth, but Edwards’ impact cannot be overstated. On 6 carries, Edwards rushed for 104 yards and the 2 early scores. It was his first 100-yard game of the season, and his first overall since last year’s CFP loss to TCU when Corum was not in action.

Defense locks down on explosive passing attack

Entering the game, all eyes were on Michigan’s defense and how it would handle the high-powered Washington attack. The Huskies averaged over 37 points per game this season to go with over 470 yards of offense per game. Washington was also one of the most explosive units in the country with a host of deep passing plays throughout the season.

In a Sugar Bowl win over Texas, Michael Penix Jr. was highly efficient and delivered 430 passing yards. While Washington’s protection held up in some key moments, Penix and his receivers were unable to deliver the key moments against the Wolverine defense.

To be fair, there were some opportunities to be had. Penix missed a touchdown throw on the first drive of the game on 3rd-and-goal, and another deep connection in the fourth quarter was called back due to a holding penalty.

Even so, it wasn’t until the 6-minute mark of the fourth quarter that Penix connected with Rome Odunze for a huge 44-yard gain against the Wolverines. By that point, Michigan was up two scores with time running out against the Huskies.

Then, Mike Sainristil provided the exclamation point on the performance with a 4th-down interception and returned back inside the 10-yard line. The pick alone would have likely finished off the game, but Sainristil flipping the field and deep inside the red zone put an exclamation point on the night.

Overall, Washington produced less than 350 yards of total offense (301) while Penix finished 27-of-51 passing with 255 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions.

3rd-down struggles on both sides kept things close

Washington’s defense was blitzed by the Wolverines to start the game, but Michigan’s first two touchdowns came on drives that did not require a 3rd-down conversion. That quickly changed with the action grinding to a halt in the second quarter.

The Huskies would score a touchdown in the second quarter to keep things close. However, the offensive action across the second and third quarters was particularly a struggle for either team.

A lot of that had to do with the 3rd-down performances. Michigan started the game 0-for-6 and only managed to finish 1-for-10 in the game. On the other side of the ball, the Wolverine defense stepped up time and time again while holding Penix and the Husky offense to a 2-for-14 performance on 3rd downs.