Huskies vs. Crimson Tide
Date and Time: Saturday, December 31, 2016, 3 p.m. ET
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
Peach Bowl Odds at BookMaker.eu: Alabama -14, O/U 54
Washington vs. Alabama TV Coverage: ESPN
When Washington Has the Ball…
Running the ball is nigh impossible on Alabama. The Crimson Tide have what is unequivocally the best defensive line in the country, and the second-team linemen would start for almost any other team in college football. Jonathan Allen is being looked at as a potential No. 1 overall pick and he is going to be impossible to block. With him leading the way, this defense is allowing opponents to run for just 63.8 yards per game, the lowest amount in the country.
That means Washington is going to have to beat Alabama through the air. Jake Browning has put together an impressive season as the Huskies’ quarterback, but showed that he is a different quarterback under pressure in the USC and Colorado games. Both the Trojans and the Buffaloes were able to put pressure on him and he was wildly inaccurate as a result, completing less than 50 percent of his passes in both of those games.
Don’t be surprised if Chris Petersen has added more than the usual amount of wrinkles with this much time off. Under Saban, the teams that have had the best chance against Alabama are the teams that run spread offenses with mobile quarterbacks, not the pro style that Washington runs.
When Alabama Has the Ball…
There are some questions about how smoothly Alabama’s offense is going to run with Lane Kiffin on his way out the door. Since coming to Tuscaloosa, Kiffin has provided a spark of creativity to the Crimson Tide and although he and Saban fought often, there is no question that his ingenuity was needed to spice things up.
Kiffin’s play calling unleashed the potential of Jalen Hurts. Hurts topped the 100-yard mark four times on the ground in SEC play and Kiffin won’t be afraid to run him against the Huskies. Washington hasn’t faced a dual-threat quarterback like this, especially one with an offensive line as good as the one Alabama has.
If the Huskies have any shot at pulling off the upset, they have got to keep Hurts in the pocket and stop Bama’s ground game. That’s easier said than done though. Washington is allowing opponents to run for 3.46 yards per carry and that’s despite playing a relatively soft schedule. The Huskies were torched on the ground by Utah earlier in the season and you can bet that Saban is going to find out exactly how the Utes did it.
The X Factor
It’s going to be a steep hill to climb for Washington to hang in there with Alabama, but if the Huskies do it, special teams will have to come into play. Washington has scored four return touchdowns this season and Alabama has had a little trouble in both kick and punt coverage. The Crimson Tide have given up 12.1 yards per punt return and 21.6 yards per kick return and this is an area that Washington can exploit with speedsters like John Ross and Dante Pettis.
As always, turnovers are going to play a massive part in this battle and Washington cannot commit them. That means Browning will have to play as mistake free as possible, even if it means eating the ball and taking sacks at times. He has shown the tendency to turn the ball over when he is under duress but that can’t happen against a juggernaut like Alabama.