Washington vs Alabama
When: 3:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 31, 2016
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL STORYLINES
1. Top-ranked Alabama begins its pursuit of its fifth national championship in 10 seasons under coach Nick Saban in the Peach Bowl when it takes on No. 4 Washington on Dec. 31 in the College Football Playoff semifinal contest. The Crimson Tide defeated Clemson in last season’s title game and have won their last 25 overall games. The Huskies have ascended quickly under third-year coach Chris Petersen and are enjoying their best season since the 1991 Don James-coached unbeaten squad shared the national championship with Miami.
2. The quarterbacks are highly productive but pack different skill sets as Washington’s Jake Browning is an efficient pro-style signal caller while Alabama’s Jalen Hurts is a multi-faceted player who runs nearly as well as he throws. Browning, a sophomore, passed for 3,280 yards and a school-record 42 touchdowns, while Hurts accounted for 34 scores (22 passing, 12 rushing) and is striving to join Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway (1985) as the only true freshmen quarterbacks to lead a team to a national title. “I’m a firm believer in age being nothing but a number,” the 18-year-old Hurts told reporters. “And I feel like if you step up to any situation and you’re able to play your game, be confident, have the poise you need to have, you’ll be alright.”
3. Both teams excel at scoring points while not on offense, particularly a Crimson Tide squad that totaled 14 non-offensive touchdowns, matching Southern Mississippi (2011) for the most in FBS since 1996. Alabama’s non-offensive touchdowns break down this way: five interception returns, five fumble returns, three punt returns and one blocked field goal. The Huskies have two superb returners in juniors Josh Ross (one kickoff return score this season, four in his career) and Dante Pettis (two punt return TDs this season, five in his career).
TV: 3 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Alabama -14.5
ABOUT WASHINGTON (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12): Browning completed 63.2 percent of his passes and Ross totaled 76 receptions for 1,122 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Huskies, who average 44.5 points per game. Sophomore running back Myles Gaskin rushed for 1,339 yards and 10 scores and junior backup Lavon Coleman owns a glitzy 7.8 average while rushing for 836 yards and seven touchdowns. The defense allows 17.2 points per game and features standout junior free safety Budda Baker (65 tackles, two interceptions) and senior outside linebacker Psalm Wooching (team-high six sacks) but remains without two of its top players in senior outside linebacker Joe Mathis (foot) and junior middle linebacker Azeem Victor (leg).
ABOUT ALABAMA (13-0, 8-0 SEC): Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen won the Nagurski Trophy as the national defensive player of the year and his standout campaign includes 8 1/2 sacks and two fumble-return touchdowns for a unit that leads the nation in scoring defense (11.8) and total defense (247.8). The defense didn’t miss a beat when it lost star senior safety Eddie Jackson to a season-ending broken leg and the list of standouts include senior outside linebackers Ryan Anderson (team-high 17 tackles for losses) and Tim Williams (15 1/2 tackles for losses) and sophomore safety Mikah Fitzpatrick (team-best five interceptions). Hurts passed for 2,592 yards and rushed for 841 and possesses two solid targets in sophomore wideout Calvin Ridley (66 receptions for 727 yards and seven touchdowns) and junior receiver ArDarius Stewart (52 for 852 and eight scores).