Yesterday I previewed the New Years Six, minus the two biggest games of the year: The Playoff Semifinals. For the first time ever, we have the correct four teams squaring off. Here’s to chaos.
Peach Bowl Semifinal: No.1 Alabama vs. No.4 Washington
When the matchup was first announced, I thought this was a worse-case scenario for Washington. I thought they’d be much better suited against Ohio State or Clemson, where they could hope for a shootout and win that way.
But as I thought about it more, the Huskies match up pretty well with Alabama. In fact, I think there’s a scenario where they win.
Washington and Alabama have similar talent on offense, but they run different systems. The Huskies can bomb it downfield on a regular basis. Jake Browning has an incredible arm, and they have one of the best receivers in the country in John Ross. Thats a guy who you can just throw it up to and he’ll come down with it.
Washington has to get these big plays on the best defense in the country. The Huskies game-plan should feature a ton of downfield throws, because their run game isn’t strong enough to carry them, especially against this Tide front seven.
The Washington defense is like their offense: They fly around like a bunch of swarming bees. Its different than Alabama, who have smash-mouth, old fashion-style players. The Huskies defense is not like anything Alabama has seen this season.
Jalen Hurts has been awesome this year, but he’s the X-factor in this game. He’s not very complete, and is prone to mistakes. The same concerns I had before the season are coming back for this game.
If Hurts struggles, the wide receivers struggle. That leads to Alabama relying on the running game, which isn’t a bad thing. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough and others are machines. But I’m not sure that running game alone is gonna be enough to keep up with Washington.
There’s two ways this could go. Hurts could play great, and Alabama scores enough while the defense does a good job against Browning & Co. Or Hurts can struggle, and Washington gets enough big plays against the Tide defense and cruises.
So what happens?
First of all, I think Washington is being massively underrated in this contest. Las Vegas and others are pounding Alabama, but there is a way this can go bad for them.
However, its too hard to go against them. Hurts has faced better overall defenses this season than Washington. While Bama’s offense has struggled in those games (LSU for example), they’ve found a way. The Huskies might struggle with run defense, and if Hurts flails, then Bama can do their thing and grind it out.
Prediction: Alabama-28 Washington-24
Fiesta Bowl Semifinal: No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Ohio State
What a great matchup. Even as I write this I’m truly stumped on who’s the better team.
Both teams have a massive barrage of weapons. Its really ridiculous. DeShaun Watson ands J.T. Barrett are both dual-threat quarterbacks, and can make incredible plays with their feat. Ohio State has a spectacular duo in the backfield with Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber, which the Tigers shouldn’t have a problem stopping with their blitz-heavy defense. What that aggressive defense does allow is for Buckeyes receivers like Noah Brown and Samuel to get some separation. Clemson’s secondary is great, but against these receivers, you can’t expect every play to be locked-down.
Since this is gonna be such a close game with little room for error, that separation in the secondary is going to be key for Ohio State. They have to make plays down the field if they want to win.
For Clemson, they have to get their main-stays the ball. Watson has to play well; he’s been a tad mediocre in games this year. If Watson can’t get the ball to guys like Mike Williams and Hunter Renfrow, then the Tigers are gonna be in big trouble.
These teams are so evenly matched. There is so little room for error on both sides. I believe this game will come down to the final possession.
But we’ve had playoff games in the past that should have ended like that and haven’t. Whats caused that? Well, a lack of preparation, or the mindset of “Don’t worry, we got this.” This is where coaching comes into play.
Dabo Sweeney is a great coach. He relates to his players, is fun and goofy, and gets along with the media.
But if you have to choose which team would be more likely to be underprepared for this game, it’d be Clemson. They’ve been underprepared in multiple games this season. They’ve been a little mediocre at times. There were people who believed they maybe shouldn’t have been in the Playoff.
Ohio State, led by Urban Meyer, is a no-BS, no fooling-around team. They are going to be prepared. They are gonna be ready to take care of business.
In a game thats gonna be as close as this, those little things matter. Intangibles, discipline. I really think Ohio State is gonna have those things in their advantages. And its gonna allow them to face Alabama once again, this time for all the marbles.
Prediction: Ohio State-38 Clemson-35