USC players lean Alabama over Washington in Peach Bowl
LOS ANGELES (AP) No one has a better perspective on the Peach Bowl between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Washington than Southern California, having faced both teams this season.
And while the Trojans would love to see their Pac-12 rival advance to the national championship game, first-hand experience has them leaning toward picking the Crimson Tide.
''I would love for Washington to win, bring the national championship back to the Pac-12, but it's kind of hard to go that way when you got a team like Alabama,'' safety Chris Hawkins said at Rose Bowl media day Friday.
USC handed the Huskies their only loss this season with a 26-13 upset in Seattle, and that performance is frequently cited as a main reason why Saturday's matchups favors Alabama. Washington rushed for just 17 yards and quarterback Jake Browning was sacked three times and threw two interceptions, buckling under the pressure from USC's young but improving defensive front.
Hawkins really likes Washington's skill players, but their chances to have an impact on the game depend on the offensive line keeping Browning upright against Alabama's collection of pass rushers. Alabama had three sacks and nine tackles for loss in a 52-6 win over USC during the season's opening weekend.
''Alabama's front seven is fantastic,'' Hawkins said. ''It's one of the best front sevens college football has ever seen. I'm a Pac-12 guy so I feel like if Washington can somehow block them and give Browning enough time to get John Ross or Dante Pettis down the field it's going to be a little different than people expect it to be. But if they're not able to block those guys, that's when Alabama takes over games.''
Defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu summed up the dilemma that most USC players were wrestling with.
''The head is somewhere else, but I've got to back the Pac, man,'' he said.