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No. 2 Washington hungry, expected to be in Houston

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For the 28th and final time as head coach and quarterback, Kalen DeBoer and Michael Penix Jr. take the field on Monday exactly where they expected to be — with a chance to walk away national champions.

The combination of DeBoer and Penix Jr. was introduced to a wider audience on New Year’s Day with a Sugar Bowl shootout win over Texas that pushed their record in two seasons together to 25-2. They’re 9-0 against ranked teams.

“This guy was on another mission to make sure this happened,” DeBoer said of Washington reaching the championship game.

A sixth-year quarterback, Penix Jr. has 4,648 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2023. He was 29 of 38 for 430 yards and two touchdowns in the takedown of Texas.

‘The job’s not finished. It’s definitely going to take more,” said Penix Jr., the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Penix Jr. isn’t a new name for Michigan, and the Wolverines know the coach, too. DeBoer passed through Indiana as offensive coordinator in 2019. His current QB, the Indiana transfer Penix Jr., beat the Wolverines in Bloomington, Ind., in 2020, before one of his four season-ending injuries (torn ACL). He was 30 of 50 for 342 yards with three TD passes against Michigan.

“He’s a super great player,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday. “My impression of him at Indiana was the same. Big time arm talent. Tremendous presence. Sees the field really well. He’s so polished. Just an elite player.”

DeBoer doesn’t mind his offensive line being overlooked in the national narrative ahead of the game despite being recognized as the best in the country with the Joe Moore Award. Texas defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat called UW’s line “nothing special.”

DeBoer continues to credit his front five with great execution of the team’s game plan. While Penix Jr. was pressured 20 times by Texas in the Sugar Bowl, he wasn’t sacked.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Michigan’s front seven set the tone for the Rose Bowl, causing quarterback Jalen Milroe to hesitate against some looks and speed up reads and throws on others.

Wolverines sophomore defensive tackle Mason Graham, defensive MVP of the win in Pasadena, stressed Michigan wants to avoid letting Penix have time to make plays in our outside of the pocket.

“Obviously Penix is a great player. I feel like they have a great offensive scheme, just a great group of guys on the offensive side of the ball that can really make plays happen, and he’s one of the ones — he is the one — that makes their offense go. It all starts with him,” Graham said.

–Field Level Media

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