The 2016-2017 Bowl Season is reaching its zenith with the College Football Playoff semifinals, which begins with the undefeated Alabama taking on Washington in Atlanta, followed by Ohio State and Clemson clashing in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Buckeyes are the only team in the semifinals without winning their conference or playing for the title, but at 11-1, with wins at Oklahoma and Wisconsin, over Michigan (again) and one 3-point loss at Penn State, it’s hard to say they don’t deserve their place. And they’ll be facing the Tigers, the ACC champions for the second straight season, a team with only two losses over the last two years, that has a 2-0 all-time record against the Buckeyes, including the only postseason loss for Urban Meyer since taking the job in Columbus, back in the Orange Bowl three years ago.
Many think the 1-2-3-4 rankings were made so Alabama and Ohio State would meet in the final, producing the biggest clash possible fanbase-wise. The Buckeyes, without a conference win, were always going to be the #3 or #4 seed, so it wasn’t that difficult putting Washington against Alabama. But enough for conspiracy theories. There’s football to play, and it should be very good.
The one thing Clemson will face is a lot of running. The Buckeyes are 9th in the nation on the ground, with 258.3 yards per game running the ball, scoring 33 touchdowns. Clemson can run the ball too, but their advantage over most teams is what Deshaun Watson can do in the air, which can’t be matched by J.T. Barrett, who seems to have regressed as a passer over the last year. The Buckeyes are 5th in the nation in passing yards allowed, although it does have something to do with the conference they play in, which isn’t exactly filled with opponents who love to air it out.
Watson shredded Alabama’s defense a year ago only for Clemson to fall short in the title game. The Tigers have a relatively good rushing defense, giving up just 3.5 yards per carry, but they haven’t faced the kind of rushing game Ohio State forces each game, led by Mike Weber with 1072 rushing yards this season and nine touchdowns. Whoever wins the two key offense-defense matchups, they’ll be massive underdogs against Alabama in the final, unless…
Can Washington become the first team to beat the Crimson Tide this season? Can anybody? The 13-0 defending national champions have won just one of their games by less than two possessions. They’ve given up 16 points or less in 7 consecutive games. This might be the most dominant team in college football… ever? Always difficult to compare to teams from different eras but statistically, this is probably the best team Nick Saban has had under his win, and he’s had some pretty good ones.
Washington do a good job of blending their run-pass game. Jake Browning was a bit overlooked in my opinion in the whole Heisman discussion, while Myles Gaskin ran for 1339 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The Huskies have a brilliant coach who didn’t take long to break them out of their mediocrity. Washington also do a good job against the run, but compared to Alabama allowing only 64.3 yards per game, 2.03 yards per carry and 3 rushing touchdowns all season?
Two years ago, Ohio State stunned Alabama with lines that were too quick for the Crimson Tide, without giving up anything strength ways, enjoying a super performance by Ezekiel Elliott, showing everyone in the NFL how special he is. Washington need that kind of performance to pull off a massive upset. Alabama just need their usual 3-4 defensive stops and forced turnovers to make it just another day in the office.