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Game Preview: Chick Fil A Peach Bowl, No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs No. 4 Washington Huskies (via Crimson Magazine)

29 Dec 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: December 29, 2016

There has been much discussion, or as University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban would tend to classify it, "outside noise," regarding the legacy of the 2016 Crimson Tide squad, a No. 1-ranked powerhouse that has already rolled to a 13-0 mark, a third consecutive Southeastern Conference title and a third straight trip to the College Football Playoffs.
Some observers are wondering aloud whether this may be the best Alabama team ever, or at least the mightiest one that Saban has coached in Tuscaloosa, as UA seeks to become the first major college team ever to finish with a perfect 15-0 mark.
At the very least, many media types are suggesting that Jeremy Pruitt's Alabama defense may be the Crimson Tide's finest ever stop unit.
All of that hype and hoopla makes for fine water cooler discussion and round table debate, but there is just one small problem with all of this clutter.
The story of this Alabama team is still yet to be completed, and an upcoming one or two-game run in the playoffs will determine if this team may go down as the greatest piece in Saban's Crimson Tide dynasty, or if it will be remembered as a very good team that simply could not finish the job.
In two days we will find out if the Tide can reach the 14-victory plateau for the third time under Saban, but it will not be an easy task as Alabama will face Chris Petersen's No. 4 Washington Huskies in the New Year's Eve Chick Fil A Peach Bowl in one of the playoff semifinals.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. in the Georgia Dome, and the game will be televised by ESPN.
Before the Tide left Tuscaloosa for its Christmas break, Saban noted that Petersen's Pac 12 champions (12-1) are extremely well-coached, as well as being very solid in all facets of the game.
"Every time I stand up here, I try to convince everybody what a great team Washington has, and they are a very, very good football team on both sides of the ball and special teams," he said. "They're very well-coached and they've got good schemes, they've got good players, so this is going to be a real tough game for us. This is by far the best team we've played against all year long."

He also has high praise for sophomore Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
"He's a really good athlete, he's got quickness, he's got pocket presence, he extends a lot of plays, he can run, and he's athletic enough to run," said Saban. "This guy is a really, really good player. He's accurate throwing the ball and gets the ball out of his hand quickly and does a really good job of executing their offense. So, this will be one of the best quarterbacks we've played against all year."
Although it is easy to become enamored with Petersen's deep arsenal of trick plays, going back to his years of coaching at Boise State, the Huskies will likely be the most complete team, both offensively and defensively, that Alabama has faced this season.
Offensively, it all starts with the talented Browning, the native of Folsom, Calif. that leads an attack averaging nearly 45 points and 477 yards per contest.
He has thrown for 3,280 yards, along with 42 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions, averaging around 252 yards a game through the air.
His two main receiving weapons are junior John Ross, who has hauled in 76 passes for 1,122 and 17 touchdowns, and fellow junior Dante Pettis, who has snagged 50 aerials for 796 yards and 14 scoring receptions of his own.
Ross also has 14 kickoff returns for 364 yards and a touchdown while Pettis has contributed 23 punt returns for 282 yards and a pair of scores.
Leading the UW rushing attack is sophomore Myles Gaskin, who has carried the ball 227 times for 1,339 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averages nearly six yards per carry and 103 yards rushing per contest. Junior Lavon Coleman has added 836 yards on 107 carries with seven touchdowns. He averages nearly eight yards per tote.
Defensively, Petersen's team is paced by junior linebacker Azeem Victor, who leads the team 67 tackles, with junior defensive back Budda Baker adding 65 and junior linebacker Keishawn Bierria with 63. Baker has nine tackles for loss while sophomore defensive lineman Greg Gaines and sophomore linebacker Tevis Bartlett have eight each and senior outside linebacker Psalm Wooching seven. Wooching leads Washington with six sacks while senior outside linebacker Joe Mathis has tallied five.
Freshman defensive back Taylor Rapp lead the team with four interceptions.
Senior placekicker Cameron Van Winkle has made 16 of his 20 field goal attempts with a long field goal of 45 yards while junior Tristan Vizcaino has punted 43 times for an average of 39.6 yards with a long kick of 62 yards.
For the Crimson Tide in this game,  it all starts with being sound defensively against an unpredictable Washington offense with proven weapons, especially with its deep threats on the perimeter.
The Tide secondary needs to be sound against Ross and Pettis, but fortunately for Alabama, Browning is not the most mobile quarterback it has faced.
If Alabama can generate a consistent pass rush with Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and company, this could limit Washington's options considerably, especially in terms of its trick play effectiveness.
For the Tide offensively, it needs to establish its running game early and limit the time that the Washington offense is on the field.
This will also be the biggest stage that freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has encountered, and it will be essential that he fights through his early nerves, plays under control and limits his mistakes considerably.

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