Game two of the New Year’s Day doubleheader.
The second game of the New Year’s Day College Football Playoff doubleheader figures to be a high-scoring affair between two teams with limited experience in the playoff. Texas did win one BCS championship, while Washington lost to Alabama in their lone College Football Playoff appearance.
READ MORE: Keys to the Rose Bowl
Keys to the Washington vs. Texas Sugar Bowl
The Huskies offense has put up points at an impressive clip this season. The challenge for them is that their playoff opponent has done the same.
Texas has consistently jumped out to big leads this season, so it will be imperative they don’t let the Longhorns do that to them. It’s reasonable to believe that running back Dillon Johnson will put in at least a solid performance as he’s been remarkably consistent all year.
The key to overall success for the offense will be the line play. When quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. has time to throw, he’s virtually unstoppable. However, he has struggled when under pressure as evidenced by three interceptions against Arizona State earlier this season that seriously hurt his Heisman Trophy chances.
Having a goal of shutting down the Texas offense may be noble, however, it is not realistic. The Longhorns haven’t been slowed down by anyone except perhaps at Iowa State if you count holding them to 26 points slowing them down.
Having transfer defensive end Zach Durfee, who hasn’t played at all this season, available can only help. They will also need their other two edge rushers, Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui to put pressure on quarterback Quinn Ewers. If Ewers throws for over 450 yards and four touchdowns as he did against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game, then it’s a wrap.
With the season-ending ACL injury to Texas stud running back Jonathon Brooks, the Longhorns’ ground game is not as dangerous as it was. Brooks is an elite three-down back who caught more than his share of passes out of the backfield. Neither CJ Baxter nor Keilan Robinson is as good as Brooks although they do form a nice one-two combination.
The bottom line is that Ewers is the key. If he has all day to throw to receivers Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell, then the Huskies are in for a long night. The key for Washington’s defense is to eliminate the big plays and force Texas to drive the length of the field and hope they make a mistake along the way.
Again, the key is putting pressure on Penix, preferably without blitzing. Sending extra men after him is risky because if he gets the ball out quickly to one of a half-dozen of his receiving weapons, it could be a long night for the Longhorn’s defense. They need to emphasize the pass rush more than stopping the running game. As good as running back Dillon Johnson is, he doesn’t have many long touchdown runs.
If the Longhorns are able to win the turnover battle by enticing Penix into a couple of interceptions, they will win.
Coaching And Special Teams
Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian has rebounded from personal issues by taking a Longhorns program that had underperformed for years. Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer has put together a two-year record in Seattle of 24-2 after serving as the head man at Fresno State.
The Huskies did beat the Longhorns in last season’s Alamo Bowl, 27-20. Is revenge on the minds of Texas? If so, will it matter?
Last Hurrah For The Final Four Of College Football
As we all know, next season, the College Football Playoff will expand to twelve teams. No doubt whoever ends up ranked 13th will complain they got robbed like Florida State did last week. But for one last time, we have two marquee games back-to-back to decide who plays in the CFP National Championship. Expect a lot of points in this one.
Main Image: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports