What national analysts are saying about Alabama-Washington
With nearly a month of buildup for today’s College Football Playoff semifinals, so much has been written and said about the four teams. Here are a few takes, specifically regarding Alabama vs. Washington in the Peach Bowl, from some national college football analysts:
1. Washington has to take on No. 1 Alabama and the many doubters, so says Dan Wolken, USA Today’s national college football reporter. Most of those doubters reside in Las Vegas, which installed the Crimson Tide as a two-touchdown favorite to advance to the national championship game on Jan. 9. That spread feels a little too high. So with that in mind, we see Bama winning somewhere in the 31-23 range.
2. Kirk Herbstreit says Clemson has the best chance to beat Alabama. With all due respect to the ESPN analyst, who shared his opinion earlier this month, we respectfully disagree. We concur with Nick Saban’s assessment that Deshaun Watson is the best player in college football. But compared to last season, the Clemson QB’s numbers are down across the board in 2016, and had N.C. State made a late field goal, the Tigers would not even be in this Playoff. Heck, their one loss this season was at home to Pitt, which just lost to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl.
As a matter of fact, we don’t see Clemson beating Ohio State tonight. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will win by a field goal and will face Alabama for all the marbles, and the Crimson Tide will avenge its loss to Ohio State in the CFP two years ago.
3. Stewart Mandel believes that Washington beating Alabama would be the biggest BCS/CFP upset ever. That’s what the Fox Sports college football writer wrote earlier this week. He mentions Boise State’s 43-42 upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 regular season in that category, but the Broncos were only 7.5-point underdogs in that matchup. We consider Utah’s 31-17 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 regular season to be even bigger. After all, the Utes — who were getting 10 points — took a 21-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back. Coincidentally, the 14-point loss in that game matches Oklahoma’s 45-31 victory over Bama three seasons ago for Alabama’s worst bowl loss during the Saban era. In case you were wondering, the Crimson Tide was favored by 17.5 points against the Sooners.
4. In Alabama and Washington’s Peach Bowl matchup, it’s all about the QBs. While we sort of agree with Andy Staples, who writes for Sports Illustrated, we think each team’s respective defenses will have more of a say. Yes, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and Washington’s Jake Browning are having terrific seasons and are major reasons why their teams have reached the CFP, the Crimson Tide has a major edge because of its defense’s uncanny ability to score touchdowns.
In fact, Alabama has scored 10 defensive touchdowns this season. To put that number in perspective, it’s just 10 fewer TDs than Connecticut — the worst offensive squad in the FBS — scored this season. The Tide scored four more touchdowns on special teams. Washington coach Chris Petersen has had to game plan for an Alabama team that has averaged more than one non-offensive touchdown a game this season. Good luck with that.
5. Jordan Schultz has 3 reasons Washington Will Beat Heavily Favored Alabama. The Huffington Post sports columnist makes some legitimate points regarding the Huskies’ chances, giving Browning the edge over Hurts at QB while citing the fact that Washington leads the FBS in turnover margin and is capable of making big plays to beat a team like the Tide.
It’s true that Saban has had a couple of bowl stinkers during his time in Tuscaloosa. And like Saban, Petersen has had ample time to prepare for this game. But Alabama hasn’t lost since falling at home to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, 2015, and Saban has so many notable goals within reach — a 15-0 season, his sixth national title, a chance to beat Meyer, among others — that we don’t see him or his team taking their eyes off the prize. Anything other than another national championship for Alabama would be a stunning development.