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College Football Playoffs
Updated: September 2017


Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 1 Alabama v. No. 4 Washington


The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl kicks off at 3 p.m. on Dec. 31 and with it, the 2016 College Football Playoff begins. The No. 1 seed Alabama enters the game a perfect 13-0 looking to defend its national championship from a year ago. The Crimson Tide’s opponent will be Pac-12 champion and fourth-seeded Washington. Head coach Chris Petersen has done an incredible job of turning around the Huskies program and making it relevant nationally once again. The big question, of course, is can Washington play with Alabama?

A loss to USC and a subpar nonconference schedule almost cost Petersen and the Huskies a shot at the CFP. A 41-10 thrashing of No. 10 Colorado in the Pac-12 title game was enough to convince the CFP committee that the Huskies were indeed worthy. For their efforts, Washington must now bring its high-octane offense to face the nation’s best defense.

Quarterback Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin lead Petersen’s attack. Washington averages 44.5 points per game, third-best in the nation. Browning has thrown 42 touchdown passes and Gaskin has rushed for 1,339 yards. Wide receiver John Ross has hauled in 76 receptions for 1,122 yards and 17 touchdowns.

If anyone knows how to slow down the Huskies, it’s Alabama. Of their 13 opponents this season, the Crimson Tide defense has held 10 of them to two touchdowns or less. Head coach Nick Saban once again has the nation’s best scoring defense. Alabama allows just 11.8 points per game.

On offense, Saban found the unit’s spark in freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Since taking over the reins of the offense in Game 1 this season, Hurts has added another dimension to the Tide. Hurts has thrown for 2,592 yards and rushed for 841 more. He has 34 total touchdowns and thrown just nine interceptions. Damien Harris is the team’s leading rusher with 986 yards and Joshua Jacobs and Bo Scarborough give the Tide four players with 500-plus rushing yards.

The Washington defense is no slouch. In fact, the Huskies defense may be best suited to slowing down Alabama. Washington is 17th in the country in rush defense and limits opponents to just 3.46 yards per carry. Still, the Tide is a 13.5-point favorite and rightly so. They have been challenged just once and that was in a 10-0 win over LSU, a game in which the Tigers were never really going to score.

 

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No. 2 Clemson v. No. 3 Ohio State


No. 2 seed Clemson will face No. 3 Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, the second of the College Football Playoff’s semifinals. Despite entering the national semifinals without a conference championship, the 11-1 Buckeyes are three-point favorites over the Tigers. Clemson, 12-1 on the season, defeated Virginia Tech to win the ACC championship for the second season in a row.

After going 14-1 and losing in the CFP last year, it was no surprise that the Tigers qualified once again. The surprise may have been that head coach Dabo Swinney’s team earned the No. 2 seed. As the second seed, the Tigers are still a three-point underdog to No. 3 Ohio State, the first-ever playoff participant to not earn a conference crown.

The Buckeyes dropped a 24-21 decision to Big Ten champion Penn State, but still remain one of the most complete teams in the country. Many believe Ohio State to be the one team that can play with and challenge Alabama.

Head coach Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are equally talented on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes are seventh in the FBS in scoring averaging 42.7 points per game while the defense held opponents to just 14.2 points each contest. That was good enough for third in the nation. Ohio State’s defense will present Clemson with a mighty task, especially since the Tigers have had their share of troubles this season.

In six of their twelve victories, Clemson won by just a touchdown or less. They did not dominate many opponents until the end of the season when quarterback Deshaun Watson finally got healthy. Watson has scored 11 touchdowns in the Tigers last two games, including the 42-35 win over the Hokies that won the ACC championship. With a few more weeks to heal up and prepare, Watson and the rest of the Tigers should ready to go on New Year’s Eve.

College Football Playoff National Championship
The winners of the two semifinals games will meet on Monday, January 9, for the CFP national championship. Alabama and Ohio State are favored to win and meet for the title and the Crimson Tide opened at -250 when the semifinalists were announced. Saban and company are heavily favored to win a second consecutive national championship and their fifth title in the last eight years.



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