What: Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) vs. Washington Huskies (12-1)
Rankings: Alabama is No. 1 in College Football Playoff, The Associated Press and Coaches polls. Washington is No. 4 in all three polls.
When: 2 p.m. Central time, Saturday
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
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Line: Alabama by 14
TV/radio: TV: ESPN; radio: FM-95.5
1. Been here before: No stranger to the Georgia Dome, Alabama made the 200-mile trip to Atlanta for a second time this month after beating Florida in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3. The Tide has won its past eight games in the Georgia Dome.
2. Freshman phenoms: Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts may get all the attention, but Washington has a talented true freshman of its own. Defensive back Taylor Rapp earned Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year this season after leading the Huskies with four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Hurts was named SEC Offensive Player of the year, completing 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,592 yards and 22 touchdowns with nine interceptions while rushing for 841 yards and a team-high 12 more scores on the ground.
3. Getting tricky: Washington head coach Chris Petersen was asked all week about some of the trick plays he is famous for running on offense. The head coach first started garnering attention for his creative play-calling during his time coaching at Boise State. It was there that he used a hook-and-ladder as well as a Statue of Liberty play to upset Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said his team will need to be extremely focused on their job on the field in order to prevent such plays Saturday. “The way I look at it is rather than thinking that they're trick plays, they're little unusual plays that create a tremendous amount of attention to detail and discipline for defensive players,” Saban said.
4. Running into trouble: Washington has shown some trouble dealing with dual-threat quarterbacks this season, particularly during a Sept. 24 overtime win against Arizona. During that game, the Huskies allowed Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins to account for 343 total yards and three touchdowns, including 176 yards and two scores on the ground.
Washington’s secondary vs. Alabama’s receivers: Alabama head coach Nick Saban described the Huskies’ secondary as Seahawk-like earlier in the week, referring to the Seattle Seahawks’ famous “Legion of Boom.” Washington’s defensive backs will be a tall task in more ways than one, as the Huskies average roughly 6-foot across their secondary. On the other side, Alabama will have plenty of weapons of its own, including ArDarius Stewart, who leads the team in receiving with 852 yards and eight touchdowns on 52 receptions. If Stewart is covered, Hurts can also turn to Calvin Ridley (66 receptions for 727 yards and 7 touchdowns) or tight end O.J. Howard (37 receptions for 445 yards and 2 touchdowns).
Player of the week
Jalen Hurts, quarterback, freshman, 6-foot-2, 209 pounds: Hurts handled the week leading up to the Peach Bowl as cool and composed as he’s been in each of the Tide’s 13 games this season. His ability to keep that collectiveness Saturday against one of the best defensive units he has faced will go a long way in determining Alabama’s success against Washington. Facing a similarly challenging defense in Florida earlier this month, Hurts completed 11 of 20 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. While the performance wasn’t one of standout his games, the freshman’s ability to control the ball allowed for Alabama to pull away in the game.
By the numbers
1: Alabama ranks No. 1 in the nation in total defense (247.8 yards allowed per game), rushing defense (63.38 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (11.8 points allowed per game).
21: Washington tops the nation with a plus 21 turnover margin. The Huskies have forced a nation-high 33 turnovers while only giving up 12 through 13 games.
2: Hurts is two touchdowns away from passing former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims for the school’s single-season record for total touchdowns. Hurts has 34 total touchdowns (22 passing, 12 rushing). Sims had 35 touchdowns (28 passing, 7 rushing) in 2014. Hurts has scored a touchdown in every game but one this season, failing to score against Ole Miss in Week 4.
5: Washington quarterback Jake Browning ranks No. 5 in the nation with a 176.51 quarterback rating. The sophomore was named the Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year this season and has completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 3,280 yards and 42 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Browning’s 42 touchdowns through the air rank No. 2 in the nation behind Toledo’s Logan Woodside (45).
Washington has the necessary pieces on paper to give Alabama a hard time. Leading the nation in turnover margin, the Huskies will look to continue their success by pressuring Hurts in order to force the freshman quarterback into mistakes. However, even if Washington is able to create a couple of turnovers, the Huskies are going to need a few other things to fall in place if they want to pull off the upset.
Alabama 31, Washington 16