Washington could be the toughest test for Alabama's defense
Alabama's stingy defense will face perhaps its toughest test against Jake Browning and Washington.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide, fresh from facing teams with pedestrian passing games, will play the Huskies Dec. 31 in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. That's where Alabama (13-0) just dispatched Florida 54-16 in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
The defending national champs are trying to go wire-to-wire No. 1 and become the first NCAA team to go 15-0. Alabama has made each of the first three College Football Playoffs and won 25 straight games.
''There was a lot of talk out there about the playoffs and not much talk about the SEC championship game, which was a little concerning to me as a coach,'' Tide coach Nick Saban said Sunday on ESPN's selection show. ''I was really proud of the maturity that our players showed of competing in that game and wanting to win that championship.
''The next step is what do we create as a legacy for this team in terms of how they do in the playoffs.''
The Huskies (12-1) rose from a No. 14 preseason AP ranking to earn a national title shot.
''This is not at all a surprise to me,'' Saban said on a teleconference, speaking of his respect for Petersen.
They routed Colorado 41-10 for the Pac-12 championship. Washington won a share of the 1991 title under Saban's mentor and college coach, the late Don James.
''I think it's awesome,'' third-year Washington coach Chris Petersen said. ''I think it's awesome for the school. I think it's awesome for Seattle and I think it's awesome for our guys. There are a lot of guys in there that have been here for a while - not a lot of them - but there are some and their commitment and persistence and focus, I think it's spectacular.''
He joked that he feels like he knows Saban well because he's on TV so often, but said this will be the biggest challenge the Washington players and coaches have faced.
''I think everybody knows about Alabama and it's not just one year, it's every year, how dominant they are,'' Petersen said. ''We'll prepare hard and fortunately the Seahawks are here in town. Maybe they'll scrimmage us to get us ready for those guys. I don't know.''
The Huskies rank fourth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 44.5 points per game. Browning is the nation's fifth-rated passer, and his 42 touchdowns are one shy of Jared Goff's Pac-12 record.
Alabama leads the nation in total, scoring and rushing defense. But the Tide hasn't faced a Top 25 scoring offense since Week 2 against Western Kentucky, which ranks second. The Tide won 38-10 and held Tennessee's No. 26 scoring offense to 10 points as well.
Florida ranks 84th in passing offense and Auburn, which faced Alabama in the regular-season finale, stands 112th.
Saban downplayed any benefit of having been through the playoff preparations and atmosphere twice before. The Tide lost to eventual champion Ohio State two years ago and last season beat Michigan State and Clemson.
''I do know that we did it better one year than we did it the other,'' Saban said.
Here are some things to know about the Peach Bowl matchup:
CLASHING STYLES: Browning has passed for 3,280 yards and been intercepted just seven times. Alabama's passing game, led by freshman Jalen Hurts, has sputtered at times but Hurts is a dangerous runner.
HEISMAN HOPEFULS: The different styles of these teams is illustrated by their respective candidates to be Heisman Trophy finalists, Browning and Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen. Allen has recorded 8.5 sacks while returning two fumbles for a touchdown.
QBS ON REBOUND: Browning and Alabama's Hurts have both been huge playmakers for their offenses, but neither posted big numbers in their league championship games. Browning was just 9 for 24 for 118 yards with two touchdown passes. The freshman Hurts was 11 of 20 for 138 yards with a touchdown and was mostly a nonfactor as a runner.
SARKISIAN VS. HUSKIES: Former Washington and USC head coach Steve Sarkisian is facing one of his former teams. The Alabama offensive analyst coached the Huskies from 2009-13, so was involved in recruiting some of the veterans. ''He'll have the same role in this game he's had in every other game,'' Saban said.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.
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