Taking The Huskies In Peach Bowl Over Top Rated Tide

Washington Huskies QB

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 4:52 PM GMT

First up on this year's playoff schedule pits No. 1 Alabama against No. 4 Washington, and we've got a free NCAA football pick for the Peach Bowl showdown.

Season: 25-23-3 (+0.40)

It took Chris Petersen three short years to get the Washington football program righted and into the national spotlight, much shorter than anyone expected. His and the Huskies' reward for the short turnaround take on the Alabama Crimson Tide powerhouse that Nick Saban has built over the last decade in a College Football Playoff game.

The first of two CFP semifinals on New Year's Eve, ESPN starts its broadcast from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at 3 PM (ET). Both teams bring conference championship trophies into the clash, but the sports books are valuing Alabama's SEC hardware well above Washington's Pac-12 title.

5Dimes has the Crimson Tide -16 for the matchup, that spread up from 13½ at the opening but showing signs of coming back down a bit. The total has shrunk from 55 at the initial offer to 54½ a little less than three weeks in advance of kickoff.

Can Huskies Move Ball Against Nation's Top Defense?

Washington (12-1 straight up, 7-6 against the spread) had a couple of scares through its first nine games but managed to survive with road wins at Arizona (in overtime) and Utah to remain unbeaten. The perfect record was eventually spoiled in Week 11 at home, a 26-13 loss to USC as a 10 point favorite. The Huskies caught the Trojans when they were finally playing like the Pac-12 favorites they began the season as on the NCAA football futures.

Southern Cal was definitely the toughest defense Washington faced during the regular season, and now the Huskies will face one that's even better with the Crimson Tide tops in the country in yardage (248 ypg) and scoring (11.8 ppg). Washington is top 10 in both categories itself, both offenses also close to each other statistically.

The biggest scare for Alabama (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS) came early in a 48-43 win at Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide giving up 10 on the NCAA football odds in that one. After that, the 10-0 defensive struggle at LSU was Saban's closest game. Freshman Jalen Hurts proved himself at quarterback under weekly pressure, but now we'll see if he falters any in the playoffs.

Teams Meeting For 1st Time Since '86

What little bit of history there is in this series took place 30 years ago and before, and it was one-sided up to that point. The Huskies and Crimson Tide last got together at the 1986 Sun Bowl in El Paso, a Christmas Day affair that ended in a 28-6 Alabama triumph. Before meeting USC in their 2016 season opener, you have to go all the way back to a loss to UCLA in 2001 to find the last time the Tide faced a team from the Pac-10/12. Washington's most recent game against a SEC squad was a 41-3 loss to LSU in 2012.

We don't have to be concerned with a long-range weather forecast since this one's under the big top in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide were just on this gridiron for the SEC-Championship, and they've won eight in a row on this field for a 9-2 overall record at the Georgia Dome. I'm not counting on that 8-win streak ending with this game, but I am counting on Petersen and the Huskies to cover the spread for my free college football pick.

Free College Football Pick: Washington +16

Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

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