College football bowl season kicks into high gear this week. The top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) will kick off the College Football Playoff semifinals in the Peach Bowl on Saturday as large 14-point favorites against the fourth-seeded Washington Huskies (12-1)
The defending national champion Crimson Tide bring a 25-game winning streak into this matchup at the Georgia Dome, going 16-9 against the spread during that stretch.
The strength of Alabama’s defense lies in their front seven. The Crimson Tide defensive line and linebacker corps may be the very best in the nation, and the Huskies will have to challenge that group.
Myles Gaskin will need to make himself known, and the Husky offensive line will have to hold their own and make some holes. This won’t be an easy task against a defensive front who ranked first in the nation, giving up only 63.38 rushing yards per game and surrendered only three rushing touchdowns.
The Huskies don’t necessarily have to completely break down Alabama’s defensive front, but they’ll need to get Gaskin and the other backs some positive yards to force Alabama’s linebackers to creep up towards the line setting up some effective play-action for quarterback Jake Browning
The Pac-12 champion Huskies have won 15 of their last 16 games straight up dating back to last season, along with a 10-6 mark ATS.
The Huskies are led offensively by sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, who threw for 3,280 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Browning is viewed as one of the top prospects at his position in the country, but he will be going up against the nation’s top scoring defense, which features many future NFL players, making this the toughest challenge of his young career.
The second semifinal will take place in the Fiesta Bowl between the second-seeded Clemson Tigers (12-1) and the third-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1), who are listed as three-point chalk at University of Phoenix Stadium and who won the national championship two years ago.
The Tigers are back in the CFP semifinals for the second season in a row. They fell to Alabama 45-40 in last year’s title game but covered the spread as 6.5-point underdogs. Clemson won the ACC again this season, with its lone loss coming at home to the Pittsburgh Panthers 43-42 as a 21.5-point favorite on Nov. 12.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were a somewhat controversial choice to make the playoff because they did not win the Big Ten. Instead, Ohio State suffered its only setback to the eventual conference champ Penn State Nittany Lions 24-21 as 17.5-point road chalk on Oct. 22.
Neither team has fared well covering the number lately, with the Buckeyes going 2-6 ATS in their last eight games overall and the Tigers struggling versus winning teams with a 1-5 record ATS in their past six in that situation.
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