The final edition of the 4-team College Football Playoff will conclude on Monday, January 1, with a matchup between the Texas Longhorns and Washington Huskies in the Sugar Bowl.
It goes without saying that there’s a lot at stake in this game, so let’s get into some of the key players for both teams, plus a few storylines to look out for.
|Texas vs. Washington
|Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
|8:45 pm ET, Monday, January 1
|How to watch
|Texas -3.5, Washington +150 ML
Neither Texas nor Washington was picked by most pundits as a preseason candidate to be in the College Football Playoff, so both teams have had very successful seasons. However, getting to this point was not easy for either program.
The Longhorns fell to Oklahoma on October 7, putting them in a situation where they had to win out just to be in the running for a Big 12 title berth.
Quinn Ewers also suffered an injury that kept him out for a few weeks, and Texas was able to survive and advance in those conference games thanks to the strong play of backup QB Maalik Murphy, who recently announced his transfer to Duke. Now, with Ewers back and healthy, there’s no reason Texas can’t win a National Championship.
On the other side, Washington has been counted out since the Huskies knocked off Oregon by three points back in October. They were not playing great football, but they still showed a ton of resilience and poise in close games to defy the doubters.
In fact, not only did Washington go undefeated this season, the Huskies won nine games by 10 points or less.
It’s been revealed that Michael Penix Jr. and plenty of key players on both sides of the ball were playing through injury down the stretch, so it’s even more impressive that Washington was able to finish 13-0 in the best conference in the country and take home a Pac-12 title by beating Oregon by three points for a second time this season in the championship game.
As much as this game is about the electric athletes on the field, it’s also about the coaches on either side. Steve Sarkisian of Texas and Kalen DeBoer of Washington don't have the big-name status of the coaches in the Michigan-Alabama game, but they have each seen their respective programs improve leaps and bounds during their tenures.
Plus, both Sarkisian and DeBoer are 49, which is 11 years younger than Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and 23 years younger than Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Texas coach Sarkisian is very familiar with the Washington program as he served as head coach there from 2009-2013, and he’s now taken a beleaguered Texas program back to the mountaintop of the Big 12 and into the Playoff as one of the nation's best teams.
Sarkisian is a great coach in his own right, but he’ll be coaching across the field from another rising superstar in Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer. All DeBoer has done as a head coach is win: he’s 24-2 in his two seasons as the coach at Washington.
For his career as a whole, DeBoer is a whopping 103-11, dating back to his days as head coach at Fresno State and Sioux Falls. DeBoer and his innovative offensive staff have had a month to prepare for this Texas defense, and we can expect the Huskies to have plenty of tricks up their sleeve when this one kicks off.