10 Bold Predictions for Round 1 of the CFP (Peach, Fiesta bowl games)
All year long, we’ve brought you bold predictions. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always a little out there. And why stop now? Let’s look at the two biggest games of the year so far, and give you some guesses at what we think you’ll see. Here are 10 bold predictions for the Peach and Fiesta bowl games– the semifinal round of the CFP.
1. Jalen Hurts Washington.
The Huskies aren’t the best pass defense around — having allowed 230+ passing yards in four of their last five games. They also are vulnerable at times on the ground, having surrendered 213+ rushing yards in three games, and allowing over 300 rushing yards to Arizona. So how can they even think about shutting down Jalen Hurts? They can’t.
2. Washington will be rendered one-dimensional.
What do we know about the Huskies’ ground attack? Well, it looks good on paper, racking up 5.5 yards per carry and with running back Myles Gaskin surpassing 1,300 yards. But let’s review how each school did against USC. UW rushed for 0.6 yards per carry with a long run of 11 yards. Bama rushed for 5.3 yards per carry with a 73-yard long play. Sure, it’s one game. But a gap like that isn’t a coincidence.
3. Washington QB Browning will make some plays.
Bama fans don’t want to hear this, but their biggest weakness is still defending the true drop-back passer. Ole Miss simply had Bama’s number over the last few seasons, and Chad Kelly is probably the closest thing to Washington quarterback Jake Browning (above) that the Tide has seen. That said, Browning will go up and down the field at times, but Bama will close him down when it matters.
4. Bama will have a non-offensive touchdown.
Maybe it’s a pick six. Maybe it’s a sack-and-strip. Maybe it’s a punt return. Or a field goal block. The Tide will hurt you in many ways. You just can’t guess which. Neither can the Huskies. But they’ll surrender a non-offensive score.
5. Petersen will try some aggressive stuff, but Bama will be prepared.
Chris Petersen is one of a handful of coaches who has the gravitas to go to battle with Nick Saban. His hook-and-ladder, statue of liberty genius from BCS Bowl games past is well known. We have no doubt that given the preparation time for the Peach Bowl, he will have some good stuff drawn up. Reverse passes, on-side kicks, fake punts, it’ll all be available for Petersen, and he’ll go to some of it. But Bama didn’t get here without being the best prepared team in the country, and those who gamble against Saban don’t fare quite as well as those who gamble against, say, Bob Stoops.
6. Bama sets a CFP scoring margin record.
The most lopsided CFP game yet was the 2014 Rose Bowl, in which Oregon won by 39 points. Alabama will win by more. This is a statement game for the Tide, and the statement is that Clemson or OSU need not even bother showing up.
7. Clemson will bring some heat on J.T. Barrett, making the defensive difference.
The Ohio State offensive line is usually beyond reproach, but this season’s team has had some struggles in pass protection. Enter Clemson, which has racked up about 50% more sacks on the year than the Buckeyes. JT Barrett will go down early and often.
8. Ohio State will dig themselves an early hole.
Ohio State has lacked mental discipline throughout the season. Ironically, so has Clemson. Both teams have had an incredible penchant for playing down to the competition. But State has had a few more weeks of being told how they’ll rematch with Bama, and they’ll come out lazy and make some crucial early mistakes.
9. Watson is the best player in this game, and will be the Fiesta Bowl MVP.
Because he didn’t make as much noise as he did last season, people forget that Deshaun Watson is the second best player in college football. In fact, as a pure passer, he’s clearly better than Lamar Jackson. State gave up gobs of passing yards to some pretty average QBs this year. They’ll give up 300+ to Watson and probably another 50 or so on the ground.
10. Clemson upsets Ohio State, setting up a rematch.
After a season in which down was up, up was down, and sideways was backward, we end back where we started — with Alabama and Clemson. Ohio State will make a late rally, and Clemson will have to hold on but will pick up a 6-point win, which will leave them as still about a dozen-point underdog for the title, after Bama wins by 42.