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No. 2 Washington craves underdog role vs. No. 1 Michigan

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The Michigan and Washington programs are familiar with one another from their meetings in the Rose Bowl.

They’re about to get a whole lot more familiar.

They already were scheduled to become conference rivals when the Huskies leave the Pac-12 to join the Wolverines in the Big Ten next season.

But they’ll meet a little earlier — in the CFP Championship Game on Jan. 8 in Houston.

No. 1 Michigan defeated No. 4 Alabama 27-20 in overtime Monday afternoon in the first national semifinal at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. A few hours later, No. 2 Washington joined the Wolverines by defeating No. 4 Texas 37-31 in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

“Our goal from the beginning of the season was to win the national championship,” said Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player after passing for 430 yards and two touchdowns. “Some people probably didn’t believe us, but we continued to believe.

“That’s the biggest reason why I came back. This is a step toward it. Now we’ve got a chance to do it.”

Michigan and Washington have met in the Rose Bowl four times — in 1978, 1981 and 1992-93 — and they have split those meetings. Overall the Wolverines lead the series 8-5.

Oddsmakers made Michigan a 4.5-point betting favorite.

“We’re always disrespected and we’re always the underdog,” Huskies edge rusher Bralen Trice said. “We’ve proven everybody wrong, and we’ll continue to do that. That’s what we do as underdogs.”

Michigan advanced in a game mostly dictated by the defenses, and Washington won in a game mostly dictated by the offenses.

But the Wolverines have shown they have enough offense to compete in a shootout if necessary, and the Huskies have shown they can slow down offenses enough to win a lower-scoring game.

J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes as Michigan cleared a hurdle against Alabama that it had been unable two clear in either of the last two seasons as the No. 2 seed.

The Wolverines lost to TCU 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl last year and to Georgia 34-11 in the Orange Bowl two years ago.

They bucked other trends as well. They hadn’t won in the Rose Bowl since the 1997 season, which was also the last time they played for (and won) a national championship.

“It’s been 26 years since Michigan won in this building, and the second-most appearance out of any college in the entire country playing in this game,” McCarthy said. “It’s just amazing the way it happened.”

Head coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended for the first three games of the season, and the school took a proactive approach to an NCAA investigation in potential violations. The coach also missed the last three games of the regular season due to an NCAA suspension for allegations of sign stealing by Michigan.

“The team was just not going to be denied,” Harbaugh said. “J.J. said it when he walked off this same podium last year in the semifinal game. He said, “We’re going to be back.” What he told me was, ‘Not only are we going to be back, we’re going to win.'”

–Field Level Media

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