Washington is set to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, so here are some storylines and predictions for the Huskies ahead of the game.
Chris Petersen’s team came into the 2016 season heralded as one of the best teams in the country, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The Huskies went 12-1 and ended up capturing its first Pac-12 Championship since 2000.
Now, Washington will get ready for its toughest test yet when it takes on Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl for a shot to advance to the College Football Playoff championship game.
The game will take place at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Dec. 31 at 3 p.m. ET, and here are some storylines to keep your eye on as the game approaches.
1. Jake Browning’s 2017 Heisman Run
Lamar Jackson may be the only other quarterback who made as big of a leap forward as Jake Browning did in his sophomore season. He completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 3,280 yards, and he threw 42 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. It’s pretty difficult to beat a 7:1 touchdown-interception ratio, but Browning will try to do it in 2017 when he ultimately ends up as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
2. Washington Defense
What we heard the most about the Huskies heading into the season was how stout their defense was and how it would eventually turn them into a College Football Playoff contender. Well, it was, and it did. Washington ranked No. 11 in total defense (316.2 yards/game) and No. 7 in scoring defense (17.2 points/game). However, the losses of linebackers Joe Mathis and Azeem Victor are huge. Both went down with season-ending injuries and have definitely left holes in the defense.
3. Pac-12 Power
In the first year of the College Football Playoff, the Oregon Ducks came through and steamrolled the defending champion Florida State Seminoles. There were no Pac-12 teams in the CFP last season, but the Huskies representing their conference and are in a similar position to the one the Ducks were in two years ago. Washington is going toe-to-toe with the defending champion, and it will look to its star quarterback to take down a juggernaut just like Oregon did the first time around.
4. Recruiting Future Huskies
Right now, Washington sits at No. 15 in the 2017 recruiting class rankings with 14 total commits. Winning always helps out on the recruiting trail, and it can definitely hold true in the Huskies’ case. Right now, they’re in a great position to land 5-star offensive tackle Foster Sarell. But doing well in the CFP can help close the deal on other recruits like 4-star safeties Isaiah Pola-Mao and Chaz Ah You. All prospects want to compete for titles.
5. Offensive Strategy
Clearly, Alabama is a heavy favorite. The Tide is the defending CFP champion, and Nick Saban is Nick Saban. But what will be interesting to watch is how the Huskies operate offensively considering Alabam’a front seven is filled with first and second-round draft picks. When SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic spoke with Campus Insiders, he expressed a belief that Washington needs to exploit the Browning-John Ross connection in the passing attack to get an edge on the Crimson Tide. However, former LSU head coach Les Miles, who’s gone toe-to-toe with Saban and Alabama many times in the past, believes getting the running game going and short, quick passes will be the key for an upset win over the Tide.