Saturday, December 31st
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, College Football Playoff Semifinal
No. 1 Alabama vs No. 4 Washington
This is the third year in a row that head coach Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide in the national semifinals. Undefeated Alabama is gunning for back-to-back championships while Washington is playing in their most meaningful and pressure-packed game since claiming a share of the 1991 national title.
The Huskies offense comes in averaging 44.5 points and 477.2 yards per game, led by the talents of sophomore running back Myles Gaskin, who’s rushed for 1,339 yards and 10 touchdowns. Defenses have enjoyed no rest with Washington’s running attack when Gaskin takes a breather, as his backup Lavon Coleman averages 7.8 yards per carry en route to 836 yards and seven touchdowns of his own.
The Huskies use their rushing threat to blow out opponents with an explosive air attack led by sophomore QB Jake Browning, who had an exceptional season en route to being named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,280 yards and a school-record 42 touchdowns.
Junior receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis are deep threats that can score in an eye-blink. Ross caught 76 passes for 1,122 yards and 17 touchdowns while Pettis has 50 receptions for 796 yards and 14 TD’s. They’re both exceptional as return men on special teams as well.
But as prolific as Washington is on offense, they have yet to see a defense quite like Alabama’s dominating, bruising and ferocious unit, led by senior defensive end Jonathan Allen, who is expected to be among the top three picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Bama’s defense alone has accounted for ten touchdowns off of turnovers this year and if the Huskies hope to pull off the upset, they’ll have to take care of the ball.
The Crimson Tide offense is led by true freshman QB Jalen Hurts, who is shooting to become the first true frosh to lead a team to a national championship since Loose Ends was Hangin’ on a String back in 1985, when my man Jamelle Holieway took over for an injured Troy Aikman to lead the Oklahoma Sooners to the promised land.
Hurts has thrown for 2,592 yards and 22 TD’s while rushing for 841 yards 12 more scores this year.
Playstation Fiesta Bowl, College Football Playoff Semifinal
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson
In last year’s national title game, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson delivered one of the most memorable performances in college football history in running Alabama’s formidable defense ragged to the tune 405 passing yards and 73 rushing in the Tigers’ 45-40 loss.
At times this year, Clemson and Ohio State have looked both dominant and vulnerable. The question for this game is which team will show up at its best.
This should be Watson’s final game in a college uniform as the junior is widely expected to declare for the upcoming NFL draft. He leads a prolific offense that averages 505.7 yards and 40.2 points a game. After an unbelievable sophomore campaign where he threw for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns, Watson followed up in similar fashion this year, accumulating 3,914 yards through the air with 37 scores.
Clemson’s other offensive weapons, halfback Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Mike Williams, will be joining Watson in leaving for the NFL after their junior seasons. And they’d like nothing better than to complete the mission of delivering the program its first national championship since D Train was rocking the charts back in 1981.
Gallman rushed for 1,002 yards and 15 touchdowns this season while Williams, the #1 receiver prospect in the 2017 Draft, caught 84 passes for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ohio State has no shortage of offensive weapons, and they’re led by an exceptional signal caller of their own in J.T. Barrett, who has passed for 2,428 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 847 yards and nine more scores this season. Considered one of the greatest leaders in program history, Barrett has led the Buckeyes to 26 wins against only three losses when he’s been the starter.
Their other spectacular weapon is Brooklyn, New York Native Curtis Samuel, a delightful running back/wide receiver combo out of Erasmus Hall High School who caught 65 passes for 822 yards and seven touchdowns in addition to averaging 7.7 yards per rush while putting up 704 rushing yards and eight more scores on the ground.
Ohio State averages 480 yards and 40.2 points a game. In order to maintain that production, the Buckeye offensive line will have to keep Barrett out of harms way, as they’re facing a Clemson defense that sacks the opposing quarterback as much as Donald Trump tweets.
If they aren’t on their “A” game and look as porous as they did in surrendering 11 sacks combined in their last two regular season games against Michigan State and Michigan, they’ll have tough time pulling out a victory.