BY SPNW Staff 11:18AM 12/04/2016

Huskies vs. No. 1 Crimson Tide in national semis

Awarded the No. 4 seed in the college football playoffs, Washington (12-1) will face Alabama (13-0) in the national semifinals. The Cougars will meet Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 27.

Taylor Rapp (21), MVP of Washington’s win Friday over Colorado, now gets a shot at Alabama. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Washington overcame the nation’s second-worst strength of schedule (127th out of 128 FBS teams) and was awarded the No. 4 seed in the college football playoffs Sunday, edging No. 5 Penn State in a vote by a selection committee. The Huskies will face No. 1 seed and defending national champion Alabama Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

“We looked at two conference championship teams. We looked at one-loss Washington against two-loss Penn State,” said Kirby Hocutt, athletic director at Texas Christian who chairs the CPF selection committee. “We talked about strength of schedule. We looked at both teams over 13 games. We considered a variety of metrics.

“As we looked at those key statistics from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, from a starting field position differential, the edge was to Washington. You look at turnover margin. Washington ranks first in the country in turnover margin compared to Penn State, ranking 50th. We spent considerable time talking statistical data. For me, the statistical data represents what’s happening on the field each and every week.

“Then, we’re so fortunate to have some former coaches that are very respected and knowledgable sitting around the table. As we looked to our coaches to share their perspective on what they saw on the field, it was determined that Washington is a better football team when compared to Penn State.”

The Huskies (12-1) won the Pac-12 championship Friday night, beating No. 8 Colorado by 31 points. The No. 7 Nittany Lions roared back Saturday night from a 21-point deficit to win the Big Ten title against No. 6 Wisconsin. Penn State had a head-to-head win against Ohio State, but a 39-point loss to Michigan.

“Strength of schedule was always a concern about Washington,” said Hocutt. “Had Washington had a better strength of schedule, the decision would not have been as difficult as it was. But Washington beat top-25 teams in Stanford, Utah and Washington State. And Friday night we saw a very convincing win against Colorado. Those were quality wins. Our goal as a committee was to identify the four very best teams and we believe Washington is one of them.”

Almost as soon as the committee slotted the Huskies into the No. 4 seed, oddsmakers installed them as a 14-point underdogs to the Crimson (13-0), the SEC winner and defending national champion.

Clemson, by winning the ACC Saturday night, jumped to No. 2 and will play No. 3 Ohio State in the other national semifinal, slated for the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ., Dec. 31. The Alabama-Washington winner will face the Clemson-Ohio State winner Feb. 9 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for the national championship.

“We couldn’t be more pleased, and I mean that,” said UW coach Chris Petersen. “That’s an obvious statement but I know how hard it is to get where we are in terms of how well you’ve got to play, and our kids have played really, really well.

“You’ve got to have luck along the way and have the ball bounce your way. So we’re just really thankful and grateful for this opportunity. I think it’s awesome for the school. I think it’s awesome for Seattle and I think it’s awesome for our guys. It was a little nerve-wracking.

“We just really appreciate this moment.”

Petersen was asked if he had seen the sign at Husky Stadium during the season-opening game against Rutgers that said, “We Want Bama!” The sign had wide circulation on the internet last week.

“I didn’t hold up that sign,” Petersen said, laughing. “Sometimes, you’ve got to be careful what you wish for. I’ve seen bits and pieces of Alabama. Everybody knows what they’ve done. It’s a special team and program. This is going to be the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced. All we can do now is be as prepared as we can.”

Alabama and Washington faced one common opponent this year. The Tide trampled USC 52-6 Sept. 3 and the Huskies had their only loss to the Trojans, 26-13, Nov. 12. By the time of USC’s win over Washington, the Trojans had improved dramatically behind freshman QB Sam Darnold. Following that loss, Washington thumped its final three opponents by an average of 44-15.

“We haven’t seem much of Washington,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “We know they have a very good team. They have outstanding skill players, a great offensive line, a good quarterback, a tremendous defense. Obviously, Washington is going to be a great challenge for us. It’s important that we do a great job of preparing technically for them.”

During an after teleconference, Saban was asked if he was surprised that Washington made the Final Four.

“Not at all,” Saban said. “I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Petersen and what he’s been able to do in his career. This is absolutely not at all a surprise to me. I’d just like to congratulate Coach Petersen on an outstanding season and being selected to play in the playoffs and what a great job they’ve done all season long. It was really fun to watch them the few times I watched them.”

Alabama leads the all-time series with Washington 4-0 dating to 1926. They have twice met on a neutral field, including the most recent meeting in El Paso, TX., in the 1986 Sun Bowl.

Aside from Washington, four Pac-12 schools landed in the committee’s final top 25 rankings: No. 9 USC, No. 10 Colorado, No. 18 Utah and No. 19 Stanford. The Huskies also remained at No. 4 in the Associated Press top 25 rankings released Sunday.

USC overtook Colorado and will represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl Jan. 2. The Trojans will play Penn State. Washington State will play Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 27. Pac-12 teams that reached bowls:

Date Bowl Site Time TV Matchup
Dec. 27 Holiday San Diego ESPN 4 p.m. Minnesota vs. Wash. St.
Dec. 28 Fos. Farms Santa Clara FOX 5:30 p.m. Indiana vs. Utah
Dec. 29 Alamo San Antonio ESPN 6 p.m. Okla. St. vs. Colorado
Dec. 30 Sun El Paso CBS 11 a.m. N. Carolina vs. Stanford
Dec. 31 Peach Atlanta ESPN Noon Alabama vs. Washington
Jan. 2 Rose Pasadena ESPN 2 p.m. Penn State vs. USC




  • Dan Foss

    They had the second to worst non conference schedule. You cannot play on the PAC12 and have the second worst strength of schedule.

    • Tonic99

      Amen. Your comment should not only be listed first in the comments section, but should be placed ABOVE the first paragraph of this article.

      • Dan Foss


    • Eric K

      The other thing people never mention is 9 conference games vs 8 for SEC and ACC, so they need 1 Power 5 game to offset the extra conference game. USC for Bama and Auburn for Clemson fill that, then lets look at their 3 non conference to ours, Bama had the murders row of Western Kentucky, Kent State and Chatanoga

      • Dan Foss

        Haha. Gotta watch that Kent State!

  • Joe_Fan

    There is a typo in the article. The National Championship game is January 9th, not February 9th.

    • ll9956

      Good catch!

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  • 1coolguy

    The best thing about facing Bama is they have a very average, frosh QB in Hurts, whose line is: #34 passing efficiency @ 146, 22 TD’s, 9 Ints. Browning: #5, 176, 42, 7.
    If Jake wakes up from his nightmare state of the past 4 games and plays like he did the first nine, we will be good. If not, TV’s throughout the NW will be turned off by halftime.
    Hate to put it all on a sophomore, but that’s the reality, as Bama will eliminate the running game if there is not a credible, effective passing game.
    For starters, he needs to accurately throw long passes, not the weak-asx ones he’s been under throwing, like all of last year, so as to loosen up Bama’s vaunted defense. Pettis, Ross and McClatcher have to be LED, as they WILL be open, past this secondary.
    Unfortunately also, Kiffin is a MUCH better OC than Smith, so their play calling will exceed anything Smith can figure out.

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    • MrPrimeMinister

      So true. On that fluke touchdown to Ross, that is a pick 6 the other direction against a team like Alabama. So one question is does he have the arm strength. Then the follow up question would be, if he does not, then why was he throwing that ball in that manner. In any case, congrats to the team, should be an exciting 3 weeks.

  • woofer

    Too many errors in this article. Good that somebody clarified that the weak part of the Huskies’ schedule were the three non-conference games, not the schedule as a whole. It is also worth noting that only two of the three non-conference games can truly be classified as deliberate acts of cowardice. Rutgers is a Big Ten school that was also crushed by the Huskies’ main CPF competitors, Michigan and Penn State. So in the bigger picture Rutgers was simply a wash.