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Processing the Numbers, Peach Bowl Edition | Washington Huskies

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Chris Petersen with a month to prepare is absolutely terrifying.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Football Power Index (FPI) Ratings are courtesy of ESPN.
All other statistics are courtesy of Football Outsiders, home of the F/+ Combined Ratings for college football.
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) was created by Brian Fremeau; check out his website BCFToys for other goodies.
The S&P+ rating was created by Bill Connelly; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.
Hat tips to Addicted to Quack's kalon and FO's 7th Day Adventure column for the inspiration.

ICYMI: The companion Fiesta Bowl preview went up yesterday evening.

The one you’ve all been waiting for.

The SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide take the next step in the title run against the PAC-12 Champion Washington Huskies in the Peach Bowl, held per usual at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game is on Saturday, December 31st, at 2 PM CT / 3 PM ET, and will be televised on ESPN. Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge are one of the better announce crews out there, but if you’d rather listen to Eli Gold,[1] check out the alternate broadcasting options ESPN is making available for these games.

1 | And why on earth wouldn’t you?

The Résumé — Alabama

#1 - ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
TEAM F/+ S&P+ FEI FPI OS&P+ DS&P+
LSU 44.2% (6) 22.0 (5) 0.172 (13) 22.1 (7) 36.3 (24) 14.7 (4)
USC 43.4% (7) 20.5 (8) 0.175 (12) 20.3 (10) 38.6 (17) 19.5 (13)
API 42.7% (8) 19.0 (11) 0.181 (8) 20.1 (11) 34.9 (34) 17.1 (7)
WEST. KENTUCKY 32.6% (17) 16.0 (14) 0.127 (21) 11.6 (28) 39.7 (9) 24.5 (35)
TEXAS A&M 26.2% (23) 12.3 (19) 0.108 (33) 16.2 (15) 35.9 (27) 24.6 (37)
THE VILES 20.6% (34) 7.1 (43) 0.118 (24) 15.0 (19) 35.2 (32) 29.3 (65)
FLORIDA 18.4% (38) 7.2 (42) 0.094 (37) 12.6 (26) 22.8 (107) 17.2 (8)
OLE MISS 18.1% (39) 8.8 (30) 0.075 (45) 11.3 (29) 38.2 (20) 30.6 (77)
ARKANSAS 6.0% (55) 3.6 (53) 0.023 (57) 6.6 (51) 33.9 (40) 30.6 (76)
MISS. STATE 0.6% (62) 3.0 (55) -0.018 (65) 7.2 (47) 34.9 (33) 30.7 (79)
KENTUCKY -4.8% (68) 0.2 (59) -0.036 (74) 2.9 (62) 32.2 (47) 32.0 (87)
KENT STATE -26.8% (105) -12.2 (113) -0.098 (98) -11.9 (109) 18.0 (123) 29.2 (64)
AVERAGE 18.4% 9.0 0.077 11.2 33.4 25.0

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Observations
  • Average F/+ Opponent: NC State (F/+ #37)
  • Average S&P+ Opponent: Ole Miss (S&P+ #30)
  • Average FEI Opponent: Kansas State (FEI #43)
  • Average FPI Opponent: Kansas State (FPI #30)
  • Average Offense: Colorado (OS&P+ #43)
  • Average Defense: Texas A&M (DS&P+ #37)
  • Best Win: LSU (F/+ #6)
  • Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 5 (LSU, USC, API, Western Kentucky, Texas A&M)

So, I’m not sure if you heard or not, but the SEC was down this year. Alabama’s schedule wasn’t very tough. They’re a good team, but once they get in the playoff and have to start playing real teams again it’s not going to go so well.

In reality, the SEC was down this year,[2] and if you’re expecting the Tide to casually saunter to a national title, you’re fooling yourself. However, this ended up being one heck of a schedule, and in fact rates out tougher than last year’s playoff-best schedule strength. If you’re not a believer in average F/+ as a measure of schedule strength, consider the Tide also have the top spot in FPI’s Strength of Record rating. However, they are #22 in FEI’s Strength of Schedule rating, for what that’s worth.[3] The top of the schedule was deep, with the Tide taking home a playoff-best five victories against the F/+ Top-25; LSU, at F/+ #6, represents the second-best win of the field. Oddly enough, the Tide’s offensive slate was the toughest of the four participants with an OS&P+ average of 33.4,[4] while the defensive slate was a bit softer than in years past, with an average rating of 25.

2 | Mainly in the East, though.

3 | This originally said #2, because I couldn’t read, apparently.

4 | Thank you Western Kentucky!

With the exception of Kent State, there’s really not an easy game to be seen here — despite the East being down, the Tide got the tough end of that division, and with Mississippi State sneaking in on APR, 9 of the Tide’s 11 eligible opponents[5] made the postseason. The struggle with LSU seems more understandable here, and Ole Miss, the only other team who realistically had a shot at knocking off the Tide, probably places better than you thought they did. All in all, the Tide’s résumé lines up pretty well with their reputation, and they are more than deserving of the #1 seed.

5 | Chattanooga lost in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

Similarity — Washington
  • Rushing Offense: API (Rush OS&P+ #27)
  • Pashing Offense: Western Kentucky (Pass OS&P+ #4)
  • Rushing Defense: LSU (Rush DS&P+ #9)
  • Passing Defense: Florida (Pass DS&P+ #7)

Only two teams managed to rush for over 100 yards on the Tide this season. API was not one of those teams, as the Gus Bus managed just 66 yards on 26 carries against Alabama. The next closest comp for a rushing offense was USC, who managed 64 yards… on 30 carries. The Tide defense in the Saban era has hung its hat on limiting the opponent’s rushing attack first and foremost, and this unit has exemplified that approach perhaps better than any other. Myles Gaskin is as underrated as he is talented, but he’s got an uphill climb in this one.

You’d think the comparison with a high-powered passing attack like Western Kentucky’s would be better, but unfortunately for Washington fans, it’s not. Mike White is probably not the quarterback Jake Browning is,[6] but he managed a paltry 5.7 yards an attempt and a passer rating a shade under 96 against the Tide. Both numbers are just above half what he averaged on the year. Not encouraging for Washington, which has one of the country’s higher passing rates on standard downs.

6 | Somewhat debatable! White had a markedly better statistical year against, per S&P+, a slightly tougher slate of passing defenses than Browning.

Ah, but there is always good news — Washington’s defense might not be as talented from top-to-bottom as the Tide’s, but they are still among the country’s elite units. They’re slightly stingier than LSU against the run, and the Tigers held the Tide to just 4.2 yards a carry, among their lower outputs of the season — still a solid number of course, but a full yard and a half short of the Tide’s usual average. Even more encouraging for Huskies fans was Jalen Hurts’ performance against Florida, which was pedestrian — just 6.9 yards an attempt and a passer rating a touch under 130. There’s a possibility young Hurts might make a Coker-esque leap in effectiveness during bowl prep, but more than likely Budda Baker and company will make it a long afternoon for the true freshman.

The Résumé — Washington

#4 - WASHINGTON HUSKIES
TEAM F/+ S&P+ FEI FPI OS&P+ DS&P+
USC 43.4% (7) 20.5 (8) 0.175 (12) 20.3 (10) 38.6 (17) 19.5 (13)
COLORADO 34.9% (16) 13.4 (17) 0.177 (11) 16.3 (14) 33.2 (43) 18.7 (11)
STANFORD 24.3% (26) 11.3 (21) 0.101 (35) 14.4 (20) 30.8 (58) 21.1 (19)
WASH. STATE 23.9% (27) 8.3 (33) 0.136 (19) 15.4 (17) 39.0 (15) 29.2 (63)
UTAH 18.6% (36) 7.3 (40) 0.095 (36) 10.5 (32) 31.4 (53) 25.5 (38)
CALIFORNIA -2.0% (64) 2.3 (56) -0.034 (73) 4.5 (55) 39.0 (14) 37.0 (114)
OREGON STATE -4.5% (67) -0.1 (62) -0.029 (69) 0.4 (70) 28.1 (75) 27.5 (47)
OREGON -8.3% (76) -0.8 (69) -0.056 (81) 4.0 (60) 38.0 (21) 38.4 (119)
ARIZONA STATE -16.0% (88) -5.5 (89) -0.071 (88) 0.8 (67) 30.3 (59) 37.4 (117)
IDAHO -24.8% (100) -7.2 (96) -0.135 (104) -8.7 (98) 25.0 (92) 33.7 (94)
ARIZONA -26.5% (104) -8.4 (100) -0.136 (105) -2.2 (79) 29.2 (70) 36.3 (109)
RUTGERS -43.8% (123) -16.5 (120) -0.199 (122) -11.9 (108) 15.1 (127) 30.0 (71)
AVERAGE 1.6% 2.1 0.002 5.3 31.5 29.5

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Observations
  • Average F/+ Opponent: Michigan State (F/+ #61)
  • Average S&P+ Opponent: UCLA (S&P+ #57)
  • Average FEI Opponent: Ohio (FEI #61)
  • Average FPI Opponent: Virginia (FPI #53)
  • Average Offense: Virginia Tech (OS&P+ #50)
  • Average Defense: Western Michigan (DS&P+ #68)
  • Best Win: Colorado (F/+ #16)
  • Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 1 (Colorado)

Uh oh. The knock on Washington all season has been the schedule, and at least by this measure, it’s not great.[7] The out-of-conference slate is largely to blame for this, as Idaho and Rutgers were amongst the worst teams in college football and FCS cupcakes, of course, do not count. They have just one win against the F/+ top-25,[8] and the F/+ average of 1.6% puts them well short of the other three playoff participants. Of particular note is the defensive schedule strength, which S&P+ has pegged at 29.5 — easily the worst mark in the field. Solid offensive slate though, and while the top and bottom of the card is underwhelming, the middle isn’t terrible.

7 | FEI has them 18th, and they are fourth in FPI’s SOR measure.

8 | A casualty of an arbitrary (but consistently applied) cutoff, of course, as they possess wins over F/+ #26 and #27.

Looking a little deeper, certain results are concerning. The USC game was not the shellacking some were lead to believe, as the score in that game was only 17-13 heading into the fourth. However, that was the one game Washington’s played against the best in the college football,[9] and it corresponded with their one loss of the year. The more concerning result is the win at Arizona, where one of the worst teams in college football forced the Huskies into overtime. To be fair, it was on the road, but an elite team really shouldn’t be in that situation against a team as poor as the Wildcats. A quick peek at the box score suggests there were no major injuries, so your guess is as good as mine. Reviewing this it’s understandable why the committee had a spirited discussion about slotting Penn State in at #4, which would have come with the bonus of not setting the interesting precedent of putting Ohio State in over its conference’s champion. That being said, the annihilation of a quality Colorado team to end the year spoke volumes, and as we’ll discuss shortly there’s several positives for the Huskies entering this matchup.

9 | Not to mention a common opponent, for those of you who ascribe to the transitive property of college football.[10]

10 | I don’t, for the record.

Similarity — Alabama
  • Rushing Offense: Stanford (Rush OS&P+ #11)
  • Pashing Offense: Washington State (Pass OS&P+ #25)
  • Rushing Defense: USC (Rush DS&P+ #10)
  • Passing Defense: Colorado (Pass DS&P+ #6)

So right up front is one of those positives. Stanford, blessed with the presence of true and uncrowned Heisman winner Christian McCaffrey, put up absolutely jack on this defense. Removing the influence of sack yards, the Cardinal managed just 86 yards on 22 carries — a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry average. The box score suggests nothing fluky was going on, either — Stanford just got worked, plain and simple. Alabama’s rush offense is a good bit better than Stanford’s and will be comfortably the best Washington’s played this season, but this front is no joke.[11] The Wazzu comp is not much better for the Tide — vastly different offenses, but even Mike Leach’s overpowered outfit managed just 5.4 yards per attempt against the Huskies, not to mention the three picks thrown by Luke Falk. Next to LSU this is probably the toughest defense the Tide’s seen this season, and that game may be a good indicator of what we’ll see on Saturday.

11 | I had to do the sack adjustment because the Huskies notched eight in that game.

Which means a defensive struggle, because these are the two worst comparisons possible for the Huskies. The main reason USC beat Washington is they completely shut down the rushing attack, allowing just 35 yards after adjusting for sacks. Gaskin, who normally averages 5.9 yards a carry, managed just 51 yards on 15 carries against the Trojans, and backfield mate Lavon Coleman was a complete non-factor. That’s not encouraging, and then you consider that the Tide’s rush DS&P+ rating is a full 65 points higher than USC’s, and it’s downright terrifying. The Colorado comparison isn’t any better, as that was one of Browning’s worst efforts of the year. The sophomore completed just nine passes for an average of only 4.9 yards an attempt, good for a passer rating a touch over 106. That’s pretty bad, and while the difference isn’t as large, the Tide’s pass DS&P+ clears that of Colorado’s by a healthy margin. Not good.

The Goods

OVERALL QUALITY
ALABAMA WASHINGTON THE EDGE
F/+ 75.9% (1) F/+ 54.2% (5) ALABAMA
FPI 31.7 (1) FPI 26.1 (4) PUSH
FEI 0.338 (1) FEI 0.253 (4) PUSH
S&P+ 31.5 (1) S&P+ 21.8 (6) PUSH
Home Spread -13.5 ALABAMA

THE MATCHUP ON OFFENSE
ALABAMA WASHINGTON THE EDGE
OFEI 0.77 (16) DFEI 1.22 (3) WASHINGTON
OS&P+ 38.8 (16) DS&P+ 18.2 (10) PUSH
Rush OS&P+ 133.3 (4) Rush DS&P+ 129.7 (7) PUSH
Pass OS&P+ 116.2 (27) Pass DS&P+ 127.6 (8) WASHINGTON
SD OS&P+ 122.1 (11) SD DS&P+ 127.8 (6) PUSH
PD OS&P+ 129.0 (10) PD DS&P+ 134.8 (10) PUSH
OALY 114.2 (16) DALY 114.6 (18) PUSH
OASR 111.5 (43) DASR 160.1 (6) WASHINGTON

THE MATCHUP ON DEFENSE
ALABAMA WASHINGTON THE EDGE
DFEI 1.92 (1) OFEI 1.11 (5) PUSH
DS&P+ 7.5 (2) OS&P+ 39.7 (10) PUSH
Rush DS&P+ 191.8 (1) Rush OS&P+ 117.3 (19) ALABAMA
Pass DS&P+ 157.4 (2) Pass OS&P+ 136.5 (3) PUSH
SD DS&P+ 160.1 (1) SD OS&P+ 129.3 (2) PUSH
PD DS&P+ 181.3 (1) PD OS&P+ 115.9 (33) ALABAMA
DALY 163.1 (1) OALY 109.4 (36) ALABAMA
DASR 156.3 (8) OASR 93.7 (82) ALABAMA

THE MATCHUP ON SPECIAL TEAMS
ALABAMA WASHINGTON THE EDGE
ST S&P+ 0.2 (63) ST S&P+ 0.3 (53) PUSH
NFP 1.7 (42) NFP 1.7 (36) PUSH
STE 0.03 (50) STE 0.07 (26) WASHINGTON
FGE -0.09 (87) FGE 0.05 (70) WASHINGTON
KE 0.11 (21) KRE 0.16 (6) WASHINGTON
PE -0.01 (58) PRE 0.07 (40) WASHINGTON
PRE 0.19 (11) PE 0.2 (12) PUSH
KRE -0.15 (111) KE 0.06 (59) WASHINGTON

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
Statistics current as of December 29th, 2016.

Wondering what all of this means? Check out the PTN Primer!

For even more advanced statistics goodness, check out the Advanced Stats Profile Index, the Alabama Profile, and the Washington Profile.

So, what do we know?

Overall Quality

They’ve floated around in the top 3 all season, but the Tide enter the playoff as the unanimous #1 according to the advanced metrics and every poll we’ve seen, and are apparently the best team in the polling era to boot.[12] At one point they were flirting with an 80%+ rating in F/+, and that may still be on the table if they can win this game and finish strong in the national championship. There’s really no question they should be the top seed given how the season shook out.

12 | Note the next eight teams on that list all peaked at the end of the season. Hmm…

Washington’s slot is more of the consensus variety, depending on how you feel about Michigan and Penn State. But what Chris Petersen has managed to do in just three years in Seattle is remarkable, as the Huskies went from the persistent mediocrity of the Seven Win Sark era right into the playoff in year three. The disparity in the F/+ rating is pretty stark, however, and indicative of how difficult this matchup is on paper for the Huskies. Vegas has been in love with the Tide all season, and have them installed as a 13.5 point favorite. That feels a bit high given the quality of the opponent, but that’s also been somewhat of a theme this season, and the Tide’s managed to cover nine times anyway.

When Alabama Has the Ball

Based on the résumé discussion above, this section of the chart should not be a huge shock. Washington is a legitimate top-10 defense, and in fact per DFEI is the third best defense in college football behind Alabama and Ohio State. However, while Alabama’s offense would hardly be considered elite, they are quite good, averaging 33 points a game when not including the non-offensive touchdowns.[13] Washington has seen similarly-regarded units multiple times this season with largely positive results, so this will be an interesting battle to watch on Saturday.

13 | A gentle reminder that counter is now up to fourteen!

Much like Lane Kiffin was implored to do from numerous couches across the South all season, running the ball is probably the best option available to the Tide in this one. Washington is very talented at stopping the run, but this is the lone area where the Tide offense has any sort of edge on the Huskies. Both fronts put up a nearly identical performance in Adjusted Line Yards, but the Tide’s quartet of talented ballcarriers has combined with that line to produce the #4 rushing offense in the country per S&P+. The script is fairly familiar at this point — heavy doses of Damien Harris early, with spot work from Hurts and Joshua Jacobs yielding to Bo Scarbrough in the second half.[14]

14 | By which I mean “run jet sweeps and screens for the first several drives to throw ‘em off, then quit screwing around and run the ball.” Lane.

Hurts, per usual, is the key player on this side of the ball. It sure feels like he will need to stretch the defense a bit with his arm in this one, and while he is physically capable of doing that, the accuracy and timing just hasn’t been there this season. That’s particularly concerning given the level of talent in this secondary, led by consensus All-American safety Baker. As a team they’ve picked off opposing quarterbacks 19 times this season, good for sixth in the country. The defensive front is also among the country’s better pass rushing units, sixth-best per Adjusted Sack Rate.[15] The talent level overall is not really on par with Alabama’s, but they are well-coached, disciplined, and opportunistic — Washington leads the country in both takeaways and turnover margin.

15 | Led by All-Name Team candidate Psalm Wooching, with six on the year. Psalm Wooching!

Usually that sort of dominance both in the pass rush and in the secondary produces an absolutely lethal defense on passing downs, but surprisingly enough that’s the S&P+ split where Washington ranks the lowest, at 10th overall. That’s still a great spot to be in, of course, but despite some of the media reports lately passing downs are one of the strengths for the Tide offense this season, where they also rank 10th. If Washington’s defense is able to win on standard downs as the stats seem to indicate they might, what the Tide is able to do on third-and-longs will largely determine their offensive performance. If Hurts becomes a turnover machine against the most opportunistic defense in college football, the outcome will be decided quickly.

When Washington Has the Ball

Everything in the previous section more or less applies here as well, except the differences are a little more stark. The Tide, statistically speaking, is far and away the best defense in college football, with a DFEI rating pushing 2 and an S&P+ rating in the single digits. Much like last year’s group, they are not really poor at any discipline on that side of the ball; even the pass rush, a weakness for previous Saban teams, is among the country’s best.[16] Unlike the offensive matchup, Alabama has an edge, however slight, in each row of this chart.

16 | Third in the country heading into bowl season with 45 sacks, right in line with last year’s country-leading pace.

The biggest concern for the Huskies, as it is with all Tide opponents, is how to run on this defense. As noted in the résumé discussion, only two teams have managed 100 yards rushing on the Tide, and the one rush defense remotely comparable to Alabama’s that Washington saw this season completely shut the Huskies down. Rendering the opponent’s offense one-dimensional is a hallmark of the Tide defense under Saban, and there’s nothing here to suggest that won’t happen on Saturday.

However, as Gary Danielson is fond of reminding the country whenever the Tide plays on CBS, elite quarterback play is the best way to handle this defense, and fortunately for Washington they have that in the form of Browning. Browning was a Heisman candidate for much of the season before some poor performances down the stretch took him out of contention, but the sophomore is more than capable of exploiting holes in this defense with some of the weapons at his disposal. The big name is speedy John Ross, who leads the Huskies in receptions and yards with 76 and 1122, respectively. He is far from the only weapon, however, and you shouldn’t sleep on Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher in particular.

Pettis has multiple 100+ yard games and 14 touchdowns on the year, and McClatcher, while not seeing as many targets as Ross and Pettis, is averaging 20 yards a catch. The one knock on this defense has been when they do break, it’s usually for big gains — they are 73rd in defensive IsoPPP. However, IsoPPP only measures impact on successful plays, and the Tide allows the lowest success rate in college football. In other words, it’s ok to break if you don’t do it often, and the Tide breaks very, very rarely.

Much like on the other side of the ball, this will probably come down to the quarterback’s performance under pressure. One of the biggest edges for the Tide is that pass rush, where Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and company have more than 70 ranking spots on the Washington offensive line. Per our sister site, Browning operates well in the pocket, but has a tendency to panic under heavy pressure. There’s an injury situation we’ll discuss shortly that probably brings the overall defensive performance down a peg, but Reuben Foster will play alongside one of the more explosive linebackers on the roster Saturday, and it would be surprising if that wasn’t exploited by Jeremy Pruitt in some fashion. Much like with Hurts, if the Tide’s able to generate extra pressure against the Washington offense this will be over in a hurry.

Special Teams

In a game that may turn into a defensive struggle, special teams may make all the difference, and at least statistically Washington has a big edge on the Tide. The one split that’s a push — the punt return game for the Tide — is largely based on Eddie Jackson’s efforts and will have no relevance on this game. The most concerning edge is probably Washigton’s kick returning, where Ross averages 26 yards a return, including one for a touchdown this season. Neither team can afford to give the other free points in a game like this, and while the Tide’s renowned for their ability to generate points on defense and special teams, the matchup doesn’t suggest we’ll see that on Saturday. Lastly, while Washington’s field goal efficiency is not particularly great, it is well ahead of the Tide’s mark on the year — something to keep in mind if this comes down to field goals.[17]

17 | *shiver*

Any intangibles to consider?

The game will be played indoors at the Georgia Dome, which means weather will not be a factor. The Tide is now 9-1 in that location under Nick Saban, and while it is tempting to label this a home game for the Tide, consider that there is no bowl fatigue among this fan base — Washington’s last trip to a major bowl was in 2000. Pretty sure there’s quite a few direct flights from Seattle to Atlanta as well.

Washington’s injury luck in terms of quantity has been pretty good, but they have been down two defensive starters in Azeem Victor and Joe Mathis for a good chunk of the year, and lost rotational defensive back Darren Gardenhire before the Washington State game. Victor and Mathis are big losses, but like the Jackson injury for Alabama they’ve had time to rejigger and test new lineups and schemes prior to bowl practice.

The Tide, on the other hand, have been plagued by injuries this season, and with Dakota Ball’s recent hunting injury will now be down at least six players for the game, most notably middle linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton. Rashaan Evans has plenty of playing experience and filled in capably for the remainder of the SEC Championship, however, and has had the bowl practice sessions to get used to his new role; as noted earlier, that’s another explosive athlete in the front seven Washington will have to deal with. More recent is the news regarding Cam Robinson, who at time of writing is officially questionable with an ankle injury. Robinson has dealt with nagging injuries all year and has not missed a start, however, so unless this is more severe than his prior issues, he will probably play. At this stage, it appears ArDarius Stewart, Keith Holcombe, Marlon Humphrey, and Tony Brown will all play.

Finally, there are two things to keep in mind here that we don’t typically discuss. Outside of the true freshmen on the team, every other player for the Tide has been here before, and the third year players will now be going to their third consecutive playoff. Washington, as noted, has not been on an equivalent stage since 2000. You can argue, however, that the PAC-12 Championship Game is a big enough stage, and given how easily the Huskies eviscerated Colorado, it’s hard to believe they will not be prepared for this challenge. On that note, if you’re at all unaware of who Chris Petersen is and what he made his career doing, please direct your attention to the Fiesta Bowl between Boise State and Oklahoma that took place after the 2006 season. Boise was severely outgunned against a pretty good coach in Bob Stoops, but they executed their game plan to perfection, and some timely calls from Petersen and his staff provided the difference in the game. Chris Petersen with a month to prepare is absolutely terrifying.

Swanson Giddiness Index

Chris Petersen with a month to prepare is absolutely terrifying.

The Picks

With all due respect to LSU, this is the best team the Tide has played all year; the same goes for USC and Washington. What Alabama’s doing this season — breaking games open with defense and special teams and relying on a true freshman with a questionable arm on offense — seems kind of impossible, and yet here we are. I do think the ride’s going to last for at least one more game, but I also think Vegas is completely nuts for pushing the spread this high. Disrespect Petersen at your own peril.

STRAIGHT UP:      Alabama Crimson Tide
AGAINST SPREAD: Washington Huskies

ROLL TIDE