CFP National Championship Over/Under: Expert picks, predictions for betting the Michigan-Washington total

The final matchup of the four-team CFP era pits the No. 1 ranked Michigan Wolverines (-4.5) against the No. 2 ranked Washington Huskies in a battle of undefeated heavyweights on Jan. 8 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

As the last college football game of the season, bettors will be flocking to their sportsbook apps to try to scrape across a profit, whether that be from the moneyline, point spread, total, player prop, or exotic prop markets. In this piece specifically, we’re focusing our attention on the over/under point total, a number currently set at 55.5 at BetMGM.

For novice bettors unsure of exactly what the betting total is, no worries. It’s purely the betting market’s assessment of the total points both teams are expected to combine for. A bet on OVER means you think the game will exceed that total, and conversely, an UNDER bet means you think the game will fall short of the projected total.

Ahead of Monday night’s CFP National Championship, we’re doing our due diligence in breaking down the total, discussing why the over/under sits at the number it is, and dishing out insight into whether Michigan and Washington will go OVER or UNDER the number.

Michigan-Washington CFP National Championship Over/Under: What’s the point total set at?

As of Thursday afternoon, the current over/under set at BetMGM sits at 55.5 points. With Michigan priced as 4.5-point favorites, the betting market projects Monday’s National Championship game as a 30-25.5 final in favor of Michigan.

In terms of how Monday night’s over/under stacks up against some of the past few CFP National Championships, should the total close at 55.5 points, it’ll be nearly four points lower than the average over/under (59.67 points) throughout the first nine CFP title games.

Through those nine previous title games in the CFP era, the OVER has hit in seven of nine games. The highest over/under during this stretch came in the 2020-21 matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State, with the total closing at a whopping 75.5 points in an eventual 52-24 beatdown by the Crimson Tide.

Conversely, the lowest over/under came in the 2017-18 matchup between No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama (45.5 points). Alabama’s 26-23 overtime victory helped OVER bettors narrowly cash their tickets.

Washington’s potent offense deserves respect

Washington is no stranger to high over/under point totals this season, and relatively speaking, Monday night’s over/under of 55.5 points sits as the second-lowest total of the year for Kalen DeBoer’s crew. Their lowest total closed at 49 points in UW’s Nov. 11 home win over Utah, a game that flew well over the total in a 35-28 win.

The nation’s No. 10 ranked scoring offense (37.6) enters the championship game with its average over/under closing at 62.2 points. With superstar QB Michael Penix Jr. typically receiving elite pass protection from the Joe Moore award-winning offensive line, helping him fling the pigskin all over the field, Washington has had little trouble putting points on the scoreboard.

Save for an uncharacteristic off-night in a 15-point showing against Arizona State and a weather-induced 22-point effort in Corvallis against Oregon State, UW’s offense hasn’t encountered many speed bumps.

As a result, bettors who think UW’s offensive line will hold up well in pass protection while Penix Jr.’s trio of receivers—Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, and Ja’Lynn Polk—continue to do their thing, a bet on the OVER 55.5 points looks like the right choice.

However, there’s a reason the total is set to close at an uncharacteristically low mark for a UW game, which brings us to our next point, the Wolvernies’ vaunted defense.

What about Michigan’s defense?

You probably know the old adage that styles make fights, and that saying holds true in this heavyweight battle. Although the Wolverines rank 14th in the FBS in scoring offense (36 ppg), they boast the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense (10.21 ppg), which is arguably the straw that stirs their drink.

UM’s reliable defensive front and lockdown secondary have made it virtually impossible for opposing offenses to generate consistent scoring drives over four quarters, with one final test remaining against its soon-to-be Big Ten conference foe.

Therefore, a 55.5 point over/under feels justified when seeing that Michigan ranks as the nation’s sixth-most efficient defense relative to their expected points added per play numbers (-0.134 EPA/play), excelling against the pass (fifth in dropback EPA; -0.128).

Unlike Washington, it’s not too often we see an over/under in a Michigan game sitting in the mid-50s. Monday night’s over/under is set to close as the second-highest total for a UM game this season and the highest in a matchup against a fellow power conference institution. UM’s highest over/under was back in its Sept. 9 home contest against UNLV (57.5 points), a game that went well UNDER the total in a 35-7 finish.

Will the Wolverines’ defense shut down one of the nation’s best offenses, to the delight of OVER bettors?

A correlated spread and total market?

In this game specifically, we definitely see some correlation between the spread and total markets, meaning should one team cover the spread, it will directly result in the total going OVER or UNDER, and vice versa.

When projecting Michigan’s path to victory, if the Wolverines opt to utilize tighter formations instead of heavy three-wide receiver sets as they did against Alabama, an increased emphasis on the ground game could lead to Monday’s matchup falling UNDER the total.

Behind a steady group of blockers, if UM is able to have its way against an inefficient UW run defense (ranked 99th in rush EPA), a ground-and-pound offensive game plan from Michigan might result in several lengthy drives.

If Michigan dominates the time of possession, keeping Penix Jr. and the Huskies offense on the sidelines, there’s a good chance that less than 56 total points are scored.

Conversely, a Washington win could potentially be a result of UW’s offensive line holding strong in pass protection, giving Penix Jr. plenty of clean pockets to distribute the football all over the field. UW’s receiving trio of Odunze, Polk, and McMillan produces despite a tough matchup against UM’s coverage unit, with the Huskies having little trouble generating consistent scoring drives.

That would seemingly force Michigan to employ a more pass-heavy offensive approach in a negative game script, likely leading to 56-plus total points scored.

What side is the betting public leaning toward?

According to our friends at BetMGM, bettors who’ve already laid down wagers on Monday night’s over/under think we’re in for a rather high-scoring matchup, with 70 percent of bets coming on the OVER.

Additionally, the total opened at 54.5 points and has since moved up one point, an indication that influential bettors with market influence felt the opening number was a tad short. That said, since we’re still days out from kickoff, these bet percentages figure to fluctuate closer to kickoff.

Therefore, we advise not to refrain from utilizing these percentages to influence your decision on betting the OVER or the UNDER, but taking into consideration how fellow bettors are approaching the total is never a bad thing.

Final verdict

With both Michigan and Washington playing 14 games each this year, the betting market has a strong grasp on how Monday night’s game could unfold. As a result, the current over/under of 55.5 is a sharp number, with not much true betting value existing.

That said, if you’re considering making a bet on the over/under, we suggest making your pick based on how you think the game might unfold, with some correlation between the side and total. Personally, I think Michigan’s run game has success against Washington’s 4-2-5 defense, resulting in several lengthy drives for the Wolverines.

That figures to ultimately lead to a lower-scoring game, as I’m leaning towards the UNDER 55.5 (-105).

Our pick: UNDER 55.5 (-105)

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