It’s finally time for the 2016 College Football Playoff, when No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Washington meet in the Peach Bowl and No. 2 Clemson faces No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Both games will be played on Saturday, New Year’s Eve.
The Crimson Tide enter Saturday’s game against the Huskies as the only unbeaten Power 5 team remaining. Alabama rolled through the SEC this season to take the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff for a third-straight year. Washington and Clemson each won their conferences with one-loss seasons. Ohio State didn’t take the Big Ten, but got into the playoff ahead of two-loss Penn State thanks to an impressive resume.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2016 College Football Playoff, including kickoff times, TV channels and how to watch the games online.
2016 College Football Playoff game times, details
Times: Alabama-Washington at 3 p.m. ET, Ohio State-Clemson at 7 p.m. ET
Date: Saturday, Dec. 31
Location: Alabama-Washington at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga., and Ohio State-Clemson at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Betting odds: Alabama -14, Ohio State -2.5
What TV channels is the 2016 College Football Playoff on?
ESPN will show both Alabama-Washington and Ohio State-Clemson in the College Football Playoff. The network will provide a “multicast” to give viewers six different ways to watch the game, including a command center program on ESPN2, each local team’s radio broadcast with the regular game broadcast on WatchESPN and a sky cam on WatchESPN.
How can I watch the 2016 College Football Playoff online?
ESPN will simulcast the game on WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app. A cable subscription is required.
2016 College Football Playoff preview, Alabama-Washington
SECCountry’s Marq Burnett gave his five keys to the game for Alabama, which is a 14-point favorite.
5. Put Washington away early
The last thing you want to do with a team that is an underdog is allow it to hang around and gain confidence. Alabama needs to get off to a quick start and put the Huskies away early.
That means taking advantage of opportunities on offense. At times this season, Alabama moved the ball early on in games, but didn’t finish drives with a touchdown.
On this stage, Alabama must cap those early drives off with touchdowns if the opportunities are there.
4. Take care of the ball
This is true for every game, but especially against Washington. The Huskies are No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin.
That means Washington doesn’t make a lot of mistakes but forces turnovers.
Washington has an aggressive secondary full of ball hawks. The Huskies have intercepted 19 passes on the year. If you’re Alabama, the last thing you want to do is put the defense in a tough position.
3. Watch the trick play
Don’t be surprised if Washington comes out with trick plays early. Coach Chris Petersen is known for his ability to dial up misdirection to keep defenses guessing.
Alabama must remain disciplined to avoid giving up a big play or a touchdown on one of Petersen’s famous trick plays.
2. Alabama can’t buy into the hype
This is more for the fans than the players, but Tide supporters can’t get caught up in a lot of the media coverage. The media created a narrative saying Washington has no chance of winning this game.
Washington is a good team, and it deserves respect. Alabama is more talented, but the most talented team doesn’t always win. This is why Tide players must remain focused throughout the contest.
1. Alabama must dominate the line of scrimmage
One thing is clear when looking at these teams: Alabama’s offensive and defensive linemen are bigger. This should lend itself to the Tide having an advantage in the trenches.
The Crimson Tide should be able to control both lines of scrimmage. That means Alabama should be able to run the ball and control the clock. On defense, Alabama should be able to get pressure on the quarterback and hold up against Washington’s talented rushing attack.
Ohio State-Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff preview
Land of 10’s Ryan Ginn also gave five keys for Ohio State.
1. The Ohio State offensive line
More than anything else, this game will be decided by the Ohio State offensive line. Led by All-Americans Pat Elflein (center) and Billy Price (right guard), Ohio State is one of the best run-blocking teams in the country. However, the same can’t be said for the line’s pass blocking. The Buckeyes allowed eight sacks against Michigan, and it nearly cost them the game. Right tackle Isaiah Prince has been the main culprit this season when things go wrong, but there have been breakdowns across the line.
Against Clemson, the Buckeyes will face a huge test. The Tigers rank third nationally in sacks per game (3.54). Their defensive line is an absolute force. Ohio State believes it can fix its offensive line over the course of bowl prep. The Buckeyes’ success depends on it.
2. Finishing pressure
Ohio State’s defensive line has done a great job of generating pressure this season. However, their hounding of quarterbacks hasn’t always led to sacks. The Buckeyes average just 2.17 sacks per game, which ranks 54th nationally.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up, and with good reason. He has a knack for making plays, especially with extended time. Ohio State will need to make sure it not only forces early throws but also generates sacks and tackles for loss that become drive-killing mistakes for offenses.
3. Forcing mistakes
If there’s one criticism of Watson that can be made, it’s his interception total. He threw 15 interceptions in 13 games this season. (Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, by comparison, threw five picks in 12 games.) Ohio State’s defense thrives on turnovers, and the Buckeyes will have the opportunity to capitalize on Saturday.
Watson makes some elite throws, but he also tries to force passes into some windows that he shouldn’t. If the Buckeyes can take away some possessions — or even score on defense — they have to like their odds.
4. Balanced offense
Ohio State’s worst offensive games have come when the Buckeyes abandoned the passing game. In order for everything to be operating on all cylinders, Ohio State needs to have the threat through the air in addition to on the ground. That means better play from the offensive line, Barrett and OSU’s wide receivers.
Furthermore, the Buckeyes run the ball more efficiently when Barrett doesn’t run as much. The Buckeyes are much better off when those carries are split up between H-back Curtis Samuel and running back Mike Weber.
5. Hitting home runs
In a game between two great teams, big plays matter. The difference could come down to which team is able to break a tackle or gain the separation that leads to a long score.
Ohio State has struggled at times with the deep ball this season. Furthermore, there have been runs that were oh-so-close to going for huge gains. The Buckeyes will have to finish those plays in order to beat Clemson.