Since 2009, Alabama has set the standard when it comes to winning championships in college football. The Crimson Tide are the only team to make the College Football Playoff in all three seasons since it began in 2014. It's no surprise to see Alabama back in the mix this year, but this team is different. It has evolved into a monster.
Nick Saban's squad has become equally as potent on offense as it is on defense and that could spell trouble for Washington. The Crimson Tide opened as a 14-point favorite and that has moved down slightly to 13.5. A double-digit number from Las Vegas in a College Football Playoff semifinal against a 12-1 team just shows how much respect Alabama has earned.
Here are five reasons why Alabama will knock out Washington and move on to play for a national title on Jan. 9.
5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the Peach Bowl
Might as well start with what's most obvious — Alabama has by far the best defense in the country. The Crimson Tide rank No. 1 in the nation in total defense, scoring defense and most impressively, rushing defense. Alabama's run D ranks No. 1 nationally by a large margin, allowing only 63 yards per game on the ground (33 fewer on average than second-place Wisconsin). In other words, it's nearly impossible to move the ball against the Tide. Washington is an intriguing opponent for Alabama considering it has the nation's No. 4 scoring offense. Quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin has been a lethal combo against most teams the Huskies have faced. But also, none of those teams were Alabama. Look at the history books and you'll see that time and time again, a great defense usually shuts down a great offense.
2. Quarterback Jalen Hurts
Washington has a capable defense of its own, ranking No. 7 nationally in scoring defense and No. 11 in total defense. However, Alabama has become an offensive juggernaut in its own right since Nick Saban hired the now-departing Lane Kiffin two years ago. Hurts has been magnificent as a true freshman starter, giving Alabama dual-threat capabilities which made it even more dangerous than before. In his first season at the quarterback position, Hurts threw for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns in addition to running for 841 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and was a Freshman All-American. It's pretty amazing how composed Hurts has been all season no matter the stage. Everyone kept waiting for him to have a freshman moment, yet all he did was guide his team to 13-0 record and an SEC title. He'll be ready to go against the Huskies.
3. Experience vs. Emotion
Alabama has an advantage in this game in terms of experience. As referenced above, Alabama is making its third consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff. There is no team in college football more familiar with playing on a big stage. The target is always on Alabama's back and that makes every game a big game. The Tide is as battle tested as a team can be and the players on its roster will have no problem adjusting to the atmosphere in the Georgia Dome — which happens to be where Alabama played its last game. Washington hadn't been nationally relevant for a long time before this season. Sure, the Huskies won the national title in 1991 and then went 11-1 in 2000. But since then, they won more than eight games in a season only once until this year. Washington's players don't have any experience on the big stage and you have to think the magical run will come to an end at some point.
First of all, let's be clear. Washington's Chris Petersen is a phenomenal football coach, particularly from an Xs and Os standpoint. He's arguably one of the five best coaches in the game. Also, Petersen knows a thing or two about knocking off a traditional power. Remember the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma when he was at Boise State? But again, with all due respect to Petersen, this is Alabama we're talking about. It is, quite frankly, the most impressive dynasty in the history of college football and it starts with Nick Saban. He is on the verge of going down in history as the greatest college football coach of all time and even Alabama fans are beginning to admit Saban has what it takes to make a run at the "Bear." While Petersen may be a top-five coach, Saban may be the best to ever roam the sidelines — and he's got a top-notch staff assisting him. Nobody is better with time to prepare than Saban and that will show in the Peach Bowl.
5. The "Soul" Factor
This one is pretty simple... Alabama just takes your soul. Just when a team thinks it's for real and able to compete with the best, Alabama rips out its heart and feeds it to the big red monster. I recall watching a 5-1 Tennessee squad come into its game against Alabama in Knoxville this year with a real belief that it could win. Then, all of a sudden, it was 49-10. Tennessee went on to lose to South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The same thing happened to Texas A&M. And why do you think LSU always falters down the stretch after the Alabama game? How about that 54-16 beatdown against the SEC East champion, Florida? It's not just the physicality. It's a mental thing. Teams pull out all the stops against Alabama and still manage to trail 28-3 at the half. Playing Alabama is discouraging. As another example, let's look at USC — a team that happened to give Washington its only loss this season. Yeah... that team also lost 52-6 to Alabama. Just when you think you're at your best, you get humbled. Washington better be ready for that, because this is when the Tide are at its best. It's Alabama's world and everyone else is just living in it.
— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host on Sports Radio 1180 WVLZ in Knoxville, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.