Michigan and Washington Prepare for the 2024 College Football Championship

Players and coaches speak in advance of the CFP Final.

Q. Can you speak to the last 24 hours and how you guys have enjoyed that moment but also pivoted toward Washington?

JIM HARBAUGH: Yeah, it was a glorious victory. Just so proud of our players and our team. The things that jump out are just how we responded in the pressure moments, in the pressure times, offense, defense, special teams, and rose to the occasion. Tremendous play during the pressure moments of the game. Yeah, happy flight home, and really focused the last 24 hours on rest for the players. I figure that’s going to be very important for this week, especially traveling back from the West Coast. Spend today, tomorrow, the next day, Friday we fly to Houston, and we’ll continue our preparations there.

Q. J.J., can you share in words how valuable Blake Corum is to this team and how happy you are for him?

Michigan QB J.J. McCARTHY: Extremely valuable. I feel like he in my eyes is the most valuable player of our team. There’s so many of them that are right up at his caliber, but especially from an offensive perspective, I feel like he’s one of the guys that makes our offense go. Just everything he’s been through, all the adversity that he’s been through, just from his upbringing to this past year, just everything about who he is and just his character, how he attacks every single day, it just rubs off on all of us. It’s just one of the most valuable players on our team if not the most.

Q. I am wondering how much if any you think your past experience playing against Michigan helps you in this game?

Washington QB MICHAEL PENIX JR.: I want to say I can’t really use anything from my past playing them because obviously I played them with a totally different team, so it was a totally different time. That was the year of COVID, as well. Nothing that happened before will carry over to what we have to prepare for come Monday. But I’m just super excited for the opportunity, and I know my guys will be ready.

Q. How important is he to your team and what you guys do on offense?

UW Coach KALEN DEBOER: Yeah, I think he’s just really established himself the second half of the season, both at running the football, which I know was everyone’s theme, just the big games he’s had and the physicality he brings. He is very much in sync with our offensive line. Trusts them a lot, they trust him, and go the extra mile to pave the way for him to get the yards he has. I think the other piece is we have other guys that do a really good job, too, but he is just a solid player all around and does a solid job of pass protection and keeping the pocket clean for Mike, smart football player, understands his responsibilities, but physically able to take on all the different types of bodies that come at him pressure-wise or just helping in protection.

Him being a first-year guy with us, he’s really the second half of the year come along as the reps have added up, and he gets more opportunities. He’s a big piece to it. I don’t think I’d be able to sell it any other way. I think everyone would see through that. We have other guys that are ready to go if he’s not able to step out there, but Dillon is I know going to do everything he can because he’s putting his heart and soul into this season, this team all year long.

Q. Obviously high praise from JJ in the postgame the other night. What impressed you most about his demeanor and his command when you guys were down a touchdown, he leads that drive to tie the game. I know he hasn’t had a ton of chances to do that because you guys are typically ahead in the second half.

Jim Harbaugh: Well, like I said, the pressure moments, I thought our team handled extremely well, as well as they can be handled. JJ, tremendous in the way he handled the pressure moments in the ballgame. I’m really proud of – there was a few guys that had a bad play in the game. JJ, first play of the game, he’s clearly throwing the ball away, and I can tell you having made a bad play in a football game, it’s like a train going through your head of – I mean, you see red. It’s like a deafening siren.

There’s a lot of guys that will hang their head and go in the tank or get that deer-in-the-headlights look, but every guy that had that happen to them in our game came back and made a phenomenal play. Kris Jenkins had a bad play early in the game; came back, dominated in his block destruction. JJ had the ball he should’ve thrown away that was a look pick – looked like it was a pick and then it was reversed. That was the first play of the game. Dropped punt, comes back and makes catches. We had a bad snap, and then that snap and hold has to be perfect and kick made or else we don’t go into overtime.

Q. Michael, in your early studies of Michigan’s defense and what Jesse Minter has done as a coordinator, what are some challenges that unit will present based on what you’ve seen so far?

MICHAEL PENIX JR.: That’s a good team over there. They’re coached up very well. But we’re going to be ready for the challenge. They mix up the picture quite a bit. They try to get the quarterback off his mark. But we’ll be ready for it. We know that. Obviously it’s the biggest game right now mainly because it’s our next one but obviously because it’s the championship, as well, for the National Championship. But I’m super excited for the opportunity, but we’re just going to continue to prepare the same way that we do each and every week. We know that we have what it takes to be able to come out with a W. We’ve just got to go out there, execute and do it.

Q. Wanted to get your thoughts on Michael Penix and what you’ve seen over the evolution of his career. Obviously you saw him way back when he was playing for Indiana, and to see him now with Washington, what are your impressions of him?

JIM HARBAUGH: Super great. Thanks for that question. He’s a super great player. My impressions of him when he played at Indiana were the same. Big-time arm talent, tremendous presence in the pocket, sees the field really well. He is so polished. Watching him and his accuracy, his decision making, timing, he has really just continued to have this tremendous presence of going through progression, feels pressure, will drop it off to a check-down. Yeah, it’s at an elite level.