The 2023 college football season has reached its endpoint before major changes come to the sport. 

Next season, traditional West Coast powers will frequently be playing in the Central and East Coast time zones as the Pac-12 dwindles to two teams and the first year of the 12-team playoff kicks off. 

It’s the end of an era but also an exciting time for those who love the sport as Michigan and Washington prepare to play for the national title.

The Huskies have an opportunity to depart the Pac-12 with a championship and will attempt to do so against a future Big Ten opponent. 


Fox Sports play-by-play man Tim Brando discussed how he feels a Washington national championship would be viewed in the last year of the Pac-12 as we know it, admitting that for those who grew up with West Coast football, the end of the conference is “terribly sad.”

“I think we’ll look back on it if Washington wins, as historically, we’ve closed the books on the Pac-12. If you grew up on that, I get the fact that it was sad. But if you didn’t, around the country you’re going to say, ‘So, Washington was the Pac-12 champion, won the national title, and then went to the Big Ten. Wow. And they beat who? Oh, they beat Michigan. A charter school in the Big Ten.’ That’s pretty amazing stuff when you think about it,” Brando told Fox News Digital when asked how a Pac-12 national title on the way out would be viewed. 

Brando is excited about the changes that are coming to college football, including the regular season matchups that conference realignment will create. 

“As much as I love the history of the game, I see the future as the glory days are upon us,” Brando said. “College football has never been appreciated the way, in my mind, it should have been, and now I think it has a chance to become that.” 

“I think all we’re going to be thinking about when this game ends is: ‘My God, what a finish with the best postseason we’ve ever had was this postseason,’” Brando added. “And what do we have coming in next year? So much to explore in terms of the new and improved regular season with better matchups through realignment in these college football conferences. I can’t wait to watch Arizona play in the Big 12. I can’t wait to watch Deion Sanders take Colorado into the Metroplex to play again.”


“And then in the Big Ten, we’re not just going to be waiting around for Ohio State and Michigan every year like we’ve been waiting around for Ohio State and Michigan every year. It’s going to be, ‘They’re playing who this week? Really? USC is playing where? UCLA is going to be playing where?’ The matchups in the regular season for college football for people to enjoy on television will never be better than they are this coming year.”

In order for the Huskies to leave the Pac-12 on a high note, quarterback and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy Michael Penix Jr. will need a repeat performance of the one he had against the Texas Longhorns in the semifinals.

Penix was spectacular on New Year’s Day, attacking the Texas defense down the field and completing six passes of at least 20 yards. He finished the night 29 of 38 for 430 yards and two touchdowns, adding 31 yards on the ground. 

He’s been brilliant all year, throwing for more than 4,000 yards for the second consecutive season, leading Washington to an undefeated season and its first berth in the CFP final.

It hasn’t been the smoothest of rides for Washington – winning their last 10 games by 10 points or fewer – but Brando likes the Huskies against Michigan, giving a hat tip to his broadcast partner for his prediction earlier this season.

Before the Huskies took on Stanford in Week 9, and one week after their worst offensive performance of the season against Arizona State, Fox Sports analyst Spencer Tillman told Brando of his surprising take.


“Spencer said before the game, and this was after the debacle against Arizona State, and this was just looking at film and looking at tape getting ready for the game, he said, ‘Washington is going to win the national championship,’” Brando said.

While Brando said he liked what he saw from Washington, he didn’t see the “separation” that Tillman saw.

“He was talking about what he felt Penix could do and would do,” Brando said. “Even on a horrible night, he saw things. And then he also said that their defense was a pro-defense in the sense that they match up when they’re in the red zone, and they don’t allow touchdowns. In terms of points per possession, they give up a lot of yards, but they don’t give up a lot of points [23.6 points per game]. Especially when you consider all the yards they give up.”

In discussing the matchup against Michigan, Brando pointed toward Washington’s receiving core – Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, Jalen McMillan – and the Huskies’ ability to stretch the defense.

“I just think the facts are, when you play a team like that, Washington’s always going to put pressure on your perimeter in ways that no other team does,” Brando said. “And it’s not just about the deep ball. Although the deep ball is converted more by Penix than any other quarterback. The pro scouts were talking about it in the aftermath of that game that he made 10 elite throws better than 20 yards. That’s a lot in a college football game.”

Brando believes the Michigan defense will find itself in a different type of game than the one they played in the Rose Bowl.

“And playing on turf in an indoor facility after being in Pasadena is an environmental 360 for them,” Brando said. “And I think that’s a fast track that is really going to play into the hands of the team that likes to stretch you vertically and horizontally. And I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

“Michigan played that game with Alabama in a phone booth between the hashes. And this game is going to use the width and the breadth of the field is going to be utilized by Washington. They’re going to have to defend so much more of the field in this game, and I think it’s a stark contrast in just a week’s time for them to prepare.”

Michigan and Washington play for the national championship on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET at NRG Stadium, which is the home of the Houston Texans.

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