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Thiel On UW Vs. Alabama: 'Huge Feat' To Get This Far

Marcio Jose Sanchez
AP Photo
Washington players celebrate with the trophy after a 41-10 win over Colorado in the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.

The University of Washington takes on No.1 Alabama Saturday in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia.

It’s one of two NCAA semifinal games. And knkx sports commentator Art Thiel tells 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick that it’s the biggest game in Husky football history.

New Territory

"This is only the third year for the playoffs with these four teams," Thiel said.

"It's a concession finally to people who want a real resolution in college football as opposed to a bunch of bowls being played and the opinions of sports writers and coaches as to who's number one."

Alabama No. 1 For Good Reason

"It's pretty clear this year that Alabama is number one by a large margin. The Crimson Tide are 17-point favorites over the Huskies for this game.

"They are an institution in football. They've had a long and storied history. And under coach Nick Saban, they've become dynastic.

"They're the defending national champions. They've won 25 games in a row. And 15 of those games have been against ranked teams.

"One of the amazing statistics out of this team is that they have scored 14 touchdowns that they call non-offensive, meaning special teams: punt or kick returns or the defense has scooped a fumble or run back an interception for a touchdown. That's an amazing force on an already good team."

Huskies Are Contenders

"There's a lot of NFL talent on this Husky roster," Thiel said.

"The key man is quarterback Jake Browning. He's only a sophomore, 20 years old. He's still got physical maturity to go but he's a very bright, capable guy.

"And I'm thinking this time off since the Pac-12 championship should return him to 100 percent strength.

"And he's got two formidable offensive weapons in wide receivers Dante Pettis and John Ross and a very good defense led by Budda Baker. They, I think, can control the game because the Alabama offense is manageable for the Husky defense."

Who Will Win?

"Chris Petersen has had a reputation from his days at Boise State as a very creative guy," Thiel said, "a master of the trick-play call.

"He had a great game in the Orange Bowl in 2007 when his little Boise State team upset the Oklahoma Sooners.

"It's a very memorable game in college football history. But Chris doesn't want to rely on that. He says this team is a different circumstance.

"What's going to have to happen is Browning is going to have to play the game of his life. And the defense is also going to have to respond to keep it close.

"I'd like to be able to predict a Washington win but, in all honesty, the Alabama talent is just so deep and so good.

"In fact, one college scout said that the 11 starters on the Alabama team will probably all be drafted in the first two rounds of the drafts for which they are eligible, which is a remarkable statement. I think that's going to be a difference maker.

"I see Washington staying in the game, beating the spread, but probably we're going to see the Crimson Tide prevailing 23-16 or thereabouts.

"But it still is going to be a remarkable achievement no matter what the outcome because the Huskies have come a long way in a very short while."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.