Canzano: College football season -- and more --crashes to end
Michigan beats Washington 34-13 for national title.
HOUSTON — Michigan’s defense knocked Michael Penix Jr. around on Monday night. The Wolverines chased the University of Washington quarterback all over NRG Stadium, tipped his passes, intercepted him, stepped on him, and sacked him.
It was weird.
Penix Jr. finally looked ordinary.
The Wolverines won the College Football Playoff national title game 34-13. Monday marked the end of all sorts of things — the four-team playoff, the Penix Jr. era, Washington’s 21-game win streak, the college football season, and the end of the Pac-12 as your grandpa knew it.
George Kliavkoff — the Pac-12 commissioner (for now) — wore a pair of Adidas sneakers to the game. The shoes featured UW colors. Kliavkoff told me he’d have worn Oregon, Oregon State or Washington State colors on his feet if any of those schools had advanced to the national title game.
The commissioner was in the house, after all, for a post-game trophy presentation.
One that never came.
Kliavkoff should have removed the shoes, left them at midfield next to a pile of Michigan confetti, and walked off barefoot in a symbolic gesture. You know, like one of those retiring wrestlers. Because there was a finality on Monday that I’ve never before felt at the end of a football season.
Washington fans are bound to be disappointed by what transpired on the field. The Huskies got outscored, out-rushed, and outplayed. It was a lopsided loss on the scoreboard. The Huskies’ magical run crashed to an end at the hands of Jim Harbaugh on the biggest stage in college football.
Lord Alfred Tennyson once wrote: “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
It was more of a statement from Tennyson. But I’ll spin a few questions off it. Is it better to go undefeated in the regular season, win the Sugar Bowl, and wilt under the glare of the national-title lights? Or to have never made it to Houston in the first place?
What Washington accomplished in the 2023 football season was remarkable. Penix Jr. was a blast to watch. He just kept pulling rabbits out of his shoulder pads. But Kalen DeBoer’s team ran out of one-score wins in Texas on Monday. And I’m fascinated to see what happens in 2024.
That’s the mark of any form of great entertainment — it leaves you wanting more. This college football season did exactly that. I wanted more of the Pac-12 football season. I wanted more playoff games. But a couple more weeks probably wouldn’t have given us a different champion. Michigan’s title is undisputed.
DeBoer spoke with the media after the game. He congratulated Harbaugh and Michigan’s team. Then, Washington’s coach spoke about how proud he was of his team this season.
“It wasn’t what we were expecting,” he said, “… but sometimes things don’t go the way you want.”
That mantra isn’t just true in sports. It could be a bumper sticker on a car driving the highway of everyday life. UW didn’t scheme well on defense. It got overpowered at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter. The Huskies adjusted, but struggled to get going offensively.
Penix Jr. summarized the evening in two words: “It sucks.”
DeBoer said after the game that he felt the Pac-12 Conference was as difficult a conference as there was in America this season. “We had to line up and be our best every week,” he said. DeBoer said he was sad to see the conference coming to an end.
The Pac-12 got a team to the CFP title game only twice in the playoff era. Oregon made it at the end of a 2014 season (a loss to Ohio State) and Washington on Monday night (a loss to Michigan). Those two great Pac-12 teams were outscored by the Big Ten champions by 22 and 21 points respectively.
Now, the Ducks and Huskies are joining ‘em.
I’m here for it.
I’m also here to see what happens to Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Arizona State in the Big 12. And I’m here to see how long it takes Oregon State and Washington State to make the 12-team playoff. I’ll track Cal and Stanford, too.
I know the conference football programs are scattering next season, but I can’t be the only one who will rubberneck.
I thought Monday night would belong to UW. Penix Jr. and his team had that feel. They’d spent weeks breaking the hearts of ranked teams. They were poised to do the same to Michigan; that is, until the Wolverines lined up and smashed them into smithereens.
Rushing yards advantage for Michigan: 303 to 46.
Average yards per rush for the Wolverines: 8.
“They find a way to get to you,” DeBoer said.
Ain’t it the truth.
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