Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA (College Football Playoff)
Date and Time: December 31, 3 PM ET (ESPN)
Five months ago, I violated the cardinal rule of college football:
Never doubt Nick Saban.
Days after making my annual SEC predictions, I made one tiny change. I removed Alabama from the top of my SEC West projections and replaced it with LSU.
In doing that, Saban and his team did what they always do: make people look silly.
It was clear from game one that the Crimson Tide had the potential for another special season. Saban’s squad blitzed USC 52-6 in Arlington, which is even more impressive now that the Trojans finished the season ranked in the Top 10.
Alabama only had two true challenges the rest of the way, with Ole Miss and LSU both having opportunities to slay the giant. Neither could find a way to do it, and here we are yet again talking about Saban and company being the heavy favorite to win the national title.
But the Crimson Tide will start their march to another championship with an intriguing opponent.
Washington enters the College Football Playoff with only a single loss on its résumé (ironically, to USC), and capped off its season with a 41-10 thrashing of No. 8 Colorado in the Pac-12 title game.
Head coach Chris Peterson still probably doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for being among the top five coaches in all of college football, but he can obviously make a statement by leading the Huskies to a shocking win over Alabama.
Yes, most would consider the No. 4 team beating the No. 1 team shocking thanks to how dominant Saban’s team has his been all season. Plus, Vegas has made Alabama a huge favorite in this game, with the betting line starting at -14 and now up to -16 in favor of the SEC champs.
But you’re kidding yourself if you think it will be that simple. Despite the fact that Washington’s non-conference schedule left a lot to be desired, you don’t go 12-1 by accident.
Offensively, Jake Browning had a monster season at quarterback for the Huskies, throwing for 3,280 yards and 42 touchdowns. Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman were able to rack up plenty of yards on the ground. Then there was wide receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis, who combined for 31 receiving touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Washington finished 10th in the country in total defense, so there’s plenty of talent there to slow down Jalen Hurts and company.
However, it’s also important to remember what Alabama’s defense did. The Crimson Tide were simply dominant this season, and the streak of going 273 minutes without allowing a touchdown was something to behold.
Jonathan Allen and the rest of the wildly talented Alabama front seven will do everything they can to keep Browning in check. And while Browning has had plenty of success, he hasn’t seen a defense like this one. That makes preparing for what’s to come extremely difficult, even with all the extra practice time before the two teams take the field.
So, can Washington beat Alabama? Yes, it can. But only if a ton of things go right.
And as of now, there’s no reason to believe that they will. The Crimson Tide have been relentless in chasing another national title, and it would be silly to pick against them given their entire body of work this season.
I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to doubting Saban and Alabama.
Peach Bowl Prediction: Alabama 30, Washington 16
Other SEC Bowl Predictions
- Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Iowa
- TaxSlayer Bowl: Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech
- Citrus Bowl: LSU vs. Louisville
- Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Nebraska
- Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. TCU
- Belk Bowl: Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech
- Birmingham Bowl: South Carolina vs. USF
- Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Kansas State
- Independence Bowl: Vandy vs. NC State
- St. Petersburg Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Miami (OH)