Dynasty takes on a curiosity
atlanta» Alabama is familiar with this role.
Washington? It’s been awhile.
The Peach Bowl features one of college football’s greatest dynasties against the definite outsider in this season’s College Football Playoff.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide (13-0) is going for its second straight national title and fifth in the last nine seasons under coach Nick Saban.
At this point, it’s national championship or bust for Alabama.
A loss in Saturday’s semifinal game would make this season a failure.
“It’s the Bama way,” linebacker Reuben Foster said.
Washington (12-1) comes into the Peach Bowl with an entirely different perspective.
The Huskies wandered in the wilderness for much of the past two decades, playing in only one major bowl since Don James retired after the 1992 season and slogging through a stretch of six straight losing seasons that included an 0-12 debacle in 2008.
Chris Petersen took over as coach in 2014 and struggled through his first two years, going 15-12. But it all came together this season as the Huskies overcame their lone loss, at home against Southern Cal, to claim the final playoff berth behind a trio of perennial national contenders that included Ohio State and Clemson.
For Petersen, the return to prominence comes down to a simple formula he looks for in every recruit: talent plus character equals OKG (Our Kind of Guy).
“We feel strongly about the guy that we’re looking for that we think fits our culture, our style of football,” he said Friday. “There’s good players out there, and some of those guys don’t fit what we’re all about.”
What to watch for when the Crimson Tide takes on the Huskies:
• Saban said Washington’s secondary reminds him of the Seattle Seahawks. That’s a bit of an overstatement, but the Huskies do rely heavily on a talented, experienced group that includes safety Budda Baker and cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Kevin King. Washington has created 33 turnovers this season, more than any team in the country, including 19 interceptions.
• Lane Kiffin brought the Tide more in line with the wide-open times. It’s clear he was given the latitude to transform Alabama into more of a spread-like team. From Saban’s perspective, the willingness to change and adapt is the key to keeping a team on top.
• Jake Browning and a high-flying passing game gets much of the attention at Washington, but the ground game features 1,339yard rusher Myles Gaskin. He came through big in victories over Utah and especially Colorado in the Pac12 championship game, when Browning was held to 118 yards on 9-of-24 passing.
• Alabama will be playing at the Georgia Dome for the second time this month — having already won the Southeastern Conference title on the same field — and in a city that is a manageable drive for most of its fan base. That should give the Crimson Tide a decided edge in the stands, especially when Washington is on offense.