Washington Huskies (12-1 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS)
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl – CFP Semifinal
Date/Time: Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 3PM EST
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: WAS +14.5/ALA -14.5
Over/Under Total: 54
The Washington Huskies take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on December 31 in the Peach Bowl, which is also the College Football Playoff Semifinal. This pits the champions of the Pac-12 in the once-beaten Washington Huskies against the top-rated and unbeaten defending champion Crimson Tide. It should be one heck of a game. The Tide last played on the 3rd with a 54-16 win over Florida in the SEC title game. Washington last played a day earlier on the 2nd, also scoring a dominant win in their conference title game with a 41-10 win over Colorado. Who can get the cover at the Georgia Dome?
These teams have been operating independent of each other for the most part. Granted, Alabama beat a USC team that beat Washington and 'Bama beat them 52-6. But that was a completely different USC team and other than that game, there isn't much connection between these two teams. Washington is an out-of-context matchup for Alabama. While Alabama had more of the national spotlight as a dominant and unbeaten defending champion, Washington thrived in a pretty tough and deep conference. And without trying to quantify which conference was better from top-to-bottom this season, Washington being able to navigate its way through the conference schedule with just one loss is awfully impressive. And in doing so, they beat Stanford, Oregon, Utah, Cal, Washington State, and Colorado by a combined 194 points.
Washington finished the season in strong fashion. It looked like they were going to settle into a late-season lull after they looked so ragged against the Trojans at home. But in their last three games, they crushed Arizona State, Washington State, and Colorado by a combined score of 130-45, covering the last two spreads by a total of 43.5 points. Only three teams have scored more points than the Huskies this season at an average of 44.5 points a game. Leading the way is quarterback Jake Browning, who threw for 3280 yards and a eye-popping 42 touchdowns. He has shown guts and ability this season in spades and looks to shine on the big stage.
Browning leads a vast array of offensive weaponry. Myles Gaskin is one of the best in the conference, with 1339 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lavon Coleman has added a lot to the Huskies' ground-game with 836 yards and some big performances of late. Through the air, Browning has a lot of good options—receivers with good size and varying skills. Receiver John Ross has 19 touchdowns and 1122 yards through the air, having scored aerially, on the ground, and on returns. Dante Pettis is also a threat on returns while adding 14 scores through the air. Chico McGlaster is a viable high-speed option, as well.
The Washington defense ended its season in fine form, capped off with a splendid showing against the Pac-12 South champion Colorado Buffaloes, holding a good balanced offense to just 10 points. While the pre-game attention will be on Alabama's high-profile defense, which is the best in the nation, Washington's is tremendous, as well. They allowed an average of just 17.2 points per game, a stunningly-low total against the offenses they played. They have balance against the run and the pass. Getting after quarterbacks are go-getters like Psalm Wooching, Joe Mathis, and Vita Veas. They did suffer a setback with a foot injury to Mathis, which will cause him to miss this game. In the secondary, there aren't many who can match the playmaking ability of Budda Baker. They will have their work cut out for them in this matchup, however.
Alabama has things go almost entirely their own way this season. Could that hurt them as they get into a part of the year where they might need to show the need to battle? Maybe. But in their only test of the season, they rose to the occasion to come from way off the pace to beat Ole Miss, back when the Rebels were super-dangerous. And it's pretty backwards to take a team that is crushing everybody and take them to task for not being battle-tested. Six times this season, they held their opponent to 6 or less points. Only two teams the whole season surpassed 16 points of scoring. That's pretty amazing. Out of 128 teams in the FBS, they rank first in total defense, rushing defense, and points allowed with a miniscule 11.8 points per game.
Jalen Hurts leads the 'Bama offense behind center and has developed into a nifty dual threat in his first year as a starter. He has thrown 21 touchdowns this season, while running for 12 more on 841 yards rushing. The ground-game is deep for the Tide, with Damien Harris leading the way with 983 yards on 7.4 yards per run. With Joshua Jacobs and Bo Scarsborough both over 500 yards, they can get you in any number of ways on the ground. Aerially, Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart (questionable) are Hurts' top two weapons. But others can jump up and some might remember how huge tight end OJ Howard was late last season with everything on the line. While known for their dominant defense, the offense is a big part of the 40+ points the Tide averages per game this season. And with the defense scoring and four special teams returns for TDS, the offense gets some help from time to time.
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The Alabama defense is packed with guys who we'll see on Sundays not too long from now. They're not only the best defense in the nation; they are also the most complete and dangerous. There are no weaknesses on this "D," with all facets boasting top-notch play. And with ten touchdowns off of turnovers, they have often outscored opposing offenses this season singlehandedly. This should be one of, if not their toughest tests of the season, with Washington's offense very strong and peaking.
This is not an easy one. Even with the point spread of better than 14 points, a potential Washington backer has to feel leery against this 'Bama team, whose defense is one for the ages. Then again, is Alabama good enough where you can reasonably forecast them pounding the best from the west? While a good case can be made for Washington, it's just hard to picture them hanging in there late. I see the Tide pulling away late for the win and cover.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Alabama Crimson Tide minus 14.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Washington vs. Alabama game from the comfort of your own home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!