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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt Hustler 2024 College Football Playoff Roundtable

Can the No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide prove they belong in the College Football Playoff? Why did eight Vanderbilt staffers pick Michigan to win the National Championship?
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Barrie Barto
Vanderbilt’s mascot supporting the Commodores, as photographed on Nov. 25, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

The final rendition of the four-team College Football Playoff will feature a team from the SEC (Alabama), Big Ten (Michigan), Big12 (Texas) and Pac-12 (Washington). Both semifinal games will be played on New Year’s Day. The No. 1 Michigan Wolverines and the No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide will clash in the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Ca.) at 4 p.m. CST. Then, the No. 2 Texas Longhorns will play the No. 3 Washington Huskies in the Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, La.) at 7:45 p.m. CST.

The winner of the Rose Bowl and the winner of the Sugar Bowl will face off in the National Championship on Jan. 8 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Before the College Football Playoff gets underway, The Hustler Sports staff predicted who will come out on top.

Andrew Wilf, Sports Editor

I predict Michigan to get over the hump and make it past the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff for the first time in three seasons. I believe the Wolverines will beat the Nick Saban-led Alabama Crimson Tide by a touchdown in the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines will be playing for Jim Harbough, who suffered a three-game suspension earlier in the season. In the Sugar Bowl, Texas will take advantage of its strong defense and handle Michael Penix and the Washington offense. The Longhorns allow their opponents a 25.90% conversion rate allowed on third downs, which is good for the lowest rate in the country. In the Championship, Michigan will trounce Texas and hoist the National Championship trophy for the first time since 1997.

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington 

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 3 Texas

Frankie Sheehy, Deputy Sports Editor

I keep hearing defenders of Alabama being in the playoff say that the Crimson Tide are obviously a better team than FSU. Obvious how? I’m least sure about Texas and Washington, and I’d caution against dismissing an undefeated PAC-12 champion with such a dangerous offense. Michigan’s had close encounters, scandals and emphatic wins. The Wolverines seem like the surest thing, and this might finally be the year they get their hands on the trophy.

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington 

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 3 Texas

Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor

It’s always difficult to pick against Saban and Alabama, especially after an impressive win over then-No. 1 Georgia, but this may finally be Michigan’s year. The Wolverines have been impressive in all three phases and have an extremely impressive résumé after dominating the Big Ten all season. On the other side of the bracket, I expect Penix Jr. and Washington to come out over Texas, showing why they were undefeated in arguably the best conference in college football this year. Unfortunately for the Huskies, I think their luck runs out in the National Championship as Harbaugh finally gets his crown jewel.

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Washington over No. 3 Texas

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 2 Washington

Aiden Rutman, Deputy Sports Editor

I give Washington a slight edge over Texas because the Huskies have faced a much more difficult schedule, yet still emerged 13-0. I like an experienced Michigan team — one that’s been here before — to take down the less-experienced Alabama. For that same reason, I think Michigan will defeat Washington and claim its first national championship in the CFP era. The Wolverines will prove that they learned from the past two season’s disappointing endings and hoist the trophy.  

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Washington over No. 3 Texas

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 2 Washington

Sam Curtis, Sports Copy Editor

I’ll pat myself on the back for going perfect on these predictions last year, so here’s my bid for back-to-back perfect brackets: Two high-powered offenses (Washington averages 37.7 PPG to Texas’s 36.5) go head-to-head in a rematch of last year’s Alamo Bowl in which the Huskies bested the Longhorns 27-20. This year, I have Quinn Ewers leading Texas to a revenge victory. On the other side of the bracket is the winner of the whole CFP—whether it’s Michigan or Alabama that comes out victorious. But ultimately, I think Michigan takes down the Tide and is crowned national champions for the first time since 1997.

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 3 Texas

Jonah Barbin, Assistant Sports Specialist

The Rose Bowl will be a clash of two historic defenses. Although Michigan might be the ever-so-slightly more complete team, this game will come down to either quarterback making big plays down the stretch. Count on Jalen Milroe to be that guy. The Sugar Bowl is a game you do not want to miss and Washington is being slept on yet again, but this high-octane offense will give Texas all they can handle. I’m still riding with the Longhorns in a barnburner, as their plethora of offensive weapons will carry them through. In a 2009 National Championship rematch, Saban will beat out his former offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, in a game that will come down to a single possession.

Rose Bowl: No. 5 Alabama over No. 1 Michigan

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 5 Alabama over No. 3 Texas 

Jayce Pollard, Assistant Sports Specialist

While I’ve said all season that Michigan is the best team in the country, their run-oriented, defensive-minded style of play in big games doesn’t inspire confidence that they’ll handle Alabama comfortably. I’ll still take the Wolverines to win the game, but I expect Milroe to hit a couple of big shots that keep the game close heading into the fourth quarter. The Sugar Bowl will almost certainly be the more high-scoring game; but, with the strength of the Texas defensive line and the declining production of Penix, I expect most of those points to be put up by the Longhorns. That puts Michigan and Texas in the national title, where I’ll take the upside of Ewers over a Wolverine offense that will default to running the ball on a stiff defensive front. Texas is back.

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama 

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 3 Texas over No. 1 Michigan

David Hernandez, Staff Writer

As high-powered as Washington’s offense is, their defense presents a glaring issue against a Longhorns team that just seems more complete on both sides of the football. It’ll be a close shootout, but a late showing from the dangerous defensive line for Texas swings the contest in their favor. That same formula may lead to a National Championship for the Longhorns, as they’ll face red-hot Alabama, who would have been just too much for a Michigan group that hasn’t played a team of that dominant caliber all year. However, Texas already has Alabama’s number and in a rematch it’s hard not to have faith in Ewers and the Longhorns again.

Rose Bowl: No. 5 Alabama over No. 1 Michigan

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 3 Texas over No. 5 Alabama

Henry Oelhafen, Staff Writer

Despite a loss to Texas early this season, Jalen Milroe and the Crimson Tide are playing their best football at the right time. While Michigan is a solid team with two good wins against Ohio State and Penn State, Alabama just beat the defending National Champions. In the Sugar Bowl, I see Texas handling Washington. After Texas destroyed Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game, Ewers will beat this Washington secondary. While I picked the lower seed for all three games, I think every matchup will be close. In the end, Alabama is going to beat out a future SEC foe to win it all.

Rose Bowl: No. 5 Alabama over No. 1 Michigan

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 5 Alabama over No. 3 Texas 

Grace Hall, Staff Writer

In the Rose Bowl, the Crimson Tide will come out on top of Michigan, who, under Harbaugh, is only 1-6 in bowl games, with very similarly composed, if not even more talented, teams. I believe Texas will continue their impressive season and come out top of their matchup against Washington, and we will see a Texas vs. Alabama rematch. Overall, I think Alabama will win the National Championship due to a few factors, including their SEC Championship and thrilling victory in the Iron Bowl, paired with the fact that they are seeking to prove they belong in the playoff.

Rose Bowl: No. 5 Alabama over No. 1 Michigan

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 5 Alabama over No. 3 Texas 

Adam Burns, Staff Writer

The Rose Bowl is going to be an absolute classic. The Tide’s new-look offense is going to have its hands full with an outstanding Michigan defensive unit, while Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are going to feast on the Tide’s susceptible run defense. The Sugar Bowl should be getting as much attention as the Rose Bowl, as it’s a matchup of two surprising, yet dominant juggernauts. This shootout is going to come down to the final drive, but the telepathic connection of Penix to Rome Odunze will be enough for the Huskies to prevail. Michigan will be the heavy favorite in the National Championship game, but “The Natty” will come down to the 4th quarter. However, in crunch time, Michigan will slow down Penix and Co. just enough, and the deadly duo of Corum and Edwards will take over.

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Washington over No. 3 Texas 

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 2 Washington

Connor Campbell, Staff Writer

If you were to ask me before this season who the national champion would be—the fate of the universe on the line or the Martians have the death beam pointed at Earth if they don’t win: I want Georgia. Give it up to Georgia for the single most disappointing loss of the college football season, paving the way for the entire mess that was the CFP selection. Now, I don’t really know what to do. I’m throwing up prayers with this prediction and hoping I hit. And no matter what, I’m rooting for Washington. They’re my winners at heart.

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 3 Texas

Rachael Perrotta, Editor-In-Chief

Michigan will definitely defeat the Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl, as it remains unclear why Alabama was even invited to the game. The Sugar Bowl will be a tighter game I think. As much as I want to root for the newcomer in Washington, I expect Texas to barely overcome the Huskies. 

Michigan has been pretty definitive in its wins and play this season, rarely having close calls with unranked teams like Washington and Texas. I predict the Wolverines will defeat in the Longhorns in the National Championship without much trouble, ending with a final score of 42-31. 

Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan over No. 5 Alabama

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas over No. 2 Washington

National Championship: No. 1 Michigan over No. 3 Texas

Noah Weitzel, Deputy Opinion Editor

There would be no New Year’s present as pleasant to the committee than watching Alabama beat the #1 team in the country Michigan and send the Florida State fans spiraling. Picking against them, regardless of whether I believe in Milroe, is not an option thanks to Saban’s track record in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Penix Jr. has confidently led the undefeated Huskies in a conference known for cannibalizing itself in big games. The Maxwell Award winner will top Texas (who, sorry, is still not back) and lead Washington past the Tide in Houston. What a welcome to the Big 10 that will be.

Rose Bowl: No. 5 Alabama over No. 1 Michigan

Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Washington over No. 3 Texas

National Championship: No. 2 Washington over No. 5 Alabama

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About the Contributors
Barrie Barto
Barrie Barto, Editor-in-Chief
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with neuroscience and communication of science & technology minors in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. When she's not strolling around campus with her camera, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
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