1 Samuel 17:45-46
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
Now, labeling the 12-1 conference champions out of the PAC 12 as “David” may be a little unfair of me to do, but I do think it is mildly appropriate. Come New Years Eve the new kids on the block get their opportunity to step inside the ring with the undefeated, reigning National Champions. The question is, do the two touchdown underdogs stand any sort of chance?
At first glance, absolutely not. Alabama played eight ranked-at-the-time teams this past season, and they beat them by an average margin of 24 points. While some teams do “No Shave November”, down in Tuscaloosa they do “No Touchdown November”. Not one opposing offense scored a touchdown against this Crimson Tide defense last month. This might be Nick Saban’s best team, and two more wins puts them in the conversation for best college football team of all time.
However, David did beat Goliath. And, on any given day at any given time, any college football team can beat anyone. Let’s jump in to some big keys to watch throughout this game.
The Men at the Top
A lot of you might be asking the same question: Where did Washington come from? The answer to that is simple: Chris Petersen. This guy took a Boise State team nationally known as the weirdos who play on blue turf and turned them in to New Years Day bowl game contenders every year. He is undoubtedly one of the ten best coaches in college football. I’ve always had this idea that college football is all about coaching, and if you don’t have an elite coach then you don’t have an elite program. Washington is only scratching the surface and it’s all because of Petersen.
Now, being in the “David” role isn’t something new for Petersen. He’s been a bowl game underdog before and he’s won in dramatic fashion. Maybe Petersen is the guy to take down the Tide, because he’s plenty capable of doing so.
On the other side, there’s Nick Saban. The guy who has dominated the college football landscape and built a dynasty in the Heart of Dixie. Here is where I think Alabama has history on their side: Nick Saban does not lose to pro style, pocket quarterbacks. Think about it, who has Nick Saban lost to? Guys like Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton, who can get outside the pocket and extend plays with their feet. Nick Saban doesn’t lose to quarterbacks like Jake Browning, which is something important to keep in mind.
Strength on Strength
You want to beat Alabama? Contain this defense for 60 minutes. Alabama’s front seven is without a doubt the best in the country, and maybe even the best college football has ever seen. However, good news if you’re Washington. The Huskies defense has a +21 turnover margin on the year, the best in the country. Not only that, but Washington ranks in the top 10 in 3rd down defense this year as well. It is very hard to extend drives against both these defenses, so it’s going to come down to who can make more plays on the outside. Washington cannot win this game by playing their typical style game.
This is a very underrated Washington defense that does not get a lot of recognition, and they’re going to have quite the challenge come Saturday.
Bag of Tricks
Why does Chris Petersen pull upsets in bowl games? He comes up with some of the best trick plays out there. He has to hit at least one of these to win on Saturday. He’s had all this time to watch film and figure out where Alabama’s visual keys are on defense, and he’s going to have one of these come Saturday. Just you wait.
Jake Browning vs Jalen Hurts
Fun Fact: Jake Browning has thrown touchdown passes at a higher rate than anybody else in the history of college football. The sophomore leads an offense that puts up an average of 44.5 ppg and is top five in the country in that category. They’ve got multiple running backs and if you haven’t heard the name John Ross yet, you’re about to. Like I said earlier, Browning has to get outside the pocket an make plays. He can’t just sit back and try and deliver the ball from the pocket or else he’ll get eaten alive.
The dual-threat freshman has been a huge part of the success Lane Kiffin’s bunch has had this year. However, Hurts is tied for worst in the country with 10 fumbles. Put someone who is known for coughing the ball up against the defense with the best turnover margin in the country, that’s a recipe for disaster. Hurts has to take care of the ball and use his legs against this Huskie defense.
I just think the Crimson Tide are too much. This defense is an absolute wrecking crew and this offense has not been a problem for Nick Saban teams. I think Chris Petersen keeps the Huskies in it, and we won’t see another 38-0 massacre like we did last year when the Spartans played the Tide in the first round of the playoff. Nick Saban does not lose in the Georgia Dome, and that place will be filled with Crimson Tide pompoms.
Alabama 34 Washington 17