One win stands between No. 2 Michigan and the national championship game. The Wolverines just need to beat No. 3 TCU Saturday, and they’ll have a chance to win their first national title since 1997.
Michigan’s last loss came in the College Football Playoff semifinals a season ago to Georgia. Since then, Jim Harbaugh’s team has steamrolled the competition, including a notable 45-23 road beatdown of No. 4 Ohio State to end the regular season.
Even with the potential to make their mark in program history, the Wolverines aren’t commenting on future possibilities.
“We’re focused on going 1-0, because you can’t go 14-0 without going 1-0,” quarterback J.J. McCarthy told the media this week. “And that’s just been our mantra that we’ve been going after every single week this whole year. And we’re just gonna stick to it.”
That mentality doesn’t make for flashy quotes, but Michigan hopes those will come after two more wins. Michigan faces TCU on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET Saturday. The winner will play in the national championship game on Jan. 9.
The betting line
Michigan is a 7.5-point favorite to defeat the Horned Frogs at most sportsbooks, including BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, FanDuel, and PointsBet. Barstool Sportsbook and BetRivers list the Wolverines as 8-point favorites over TCU.
This season, Michigan is 2-0 against the spread when either an underdog or single-digit favorite. The Wolverines defeated Ohio State as more than a touchdown underdog, and they beat Penn State 41-17 when favored by 7 points. Dating back to last season, Michigan is 4-0 ATS when favored by 7 points or fewer.
TCU has been a stellar 9-3-1 against the spread this season, including 2-1 as an underdog. The Horned Frogs are reasonably balanced, although the team’s offensive efficiency ranking (No. 12) is better than its defensive efficiency (No. 26), per ESPN metrics.
“They’re a great team,” Jim Harbaugh told the media. “No question about it. Really good at all positions.”
Michigan’s moneyline ranges from -300 to -320 at the major mobile sportsbooks, most of which have the points total for the game at 58.5.
Big stage for McCarthy
Other than Michigan’s McCarthy, the starting quarterbacks for the College Football Playoff participants — including TCU’s Max Duggan — finished in the top four of this year’s Heisman Trophy voting. Despite fewer national accolades, McCarthy is among college football’s top signal callers.
He’s 20th nationally in passing efficiency — three spots above Georgia’s Stetson Bennett — and tossed only three interceptions all year. McCarthy has 20 touchdown passes and four rushing touchdowns, including six passing scores and one on the ground over the team’s last two games.
TCU DC Joe Gillespie says TCU will have two plays to get settled in for the Michigan offense.
Says the Frogs can't afford to take a couple series or they'll look up and see they already allowed 14 points.
— S. Johnson (@StevenMJohnson_) December 27, 2022
McCarthy has a higher ceiling than former quarterback Cade McNamara, who tossed a pair of interceptions and didn’t throw a touchdown in last season’s playoff loss to Georgia. McCarthy also played in that game, leading Michigan with 131 passing yards and a touchdown.
While McCarthy might not draw as many headlines as the other three quarterbacks playing Saturday, he’s one of the most important players in the playoff. If he plays to his potential, Michigan could take the step from a playoff participant to a national champion.
Photo: Joe Rondone/USA TODAY