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Tight end O.J. Howard and Alabama opened this season with a 52-6 drubbing of Southern California, which went on to hand Washington its only loss. Alabama and Washington will collide in a national semifinal at the Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve.

Washington's lone blemish this college football season occurred last month, when the Huskies lost 26-13 to visiting Southern California.

USC opened its year with a 52-6 loss to Alabama at AT&T Stadium near Dallas, which gives the No. 1 Crimson Tide and the No. 4 Huskies very different outcomes against their lone common opponent entering their New Year's Eve national semifinal in the Peach Bowl. Though Alabama's decimation of the Trojans occurred before Labor Day, Huskies coach Chris Petersen said it definitely will be included in his video study of the Tide.

"The nice thing is having time to look at everything, but it's a decent gauge," Petersen said. "We played USC, so we know those athletes and those coaches, but we already know the tremendous challenge that we have going against Alabama. We don't need to put on that tape to know what kind of challenge we have.

"When we do, it will certainly put things in perspective."

Alabama opened its season with redshirt freshman Blake Barnett as the starting quarterback, but true freshman Jalen Hurts entered late in the first quarter with the Crimson Tide trailing USC 3-0 and fumbled away his first snap. Hurts then ignited the Crimson Tide, who scored 38 straight points in the runaway win.

The Tide racked up 465 total yards against the Trojans, who managed just 194. Redshirt junior Max Browne started at quarterback for USC in the opener, but redshirt freshman Sam Darnold assumed the role after three games and led the Trojans to an 8-1 record that includes eight straight wins entering their Rose Bowl date against Penn State.

While USC was vastly better when it faced Washington compared to its opening debacle, Petersen knows the Trojans didn't undergo a complete roster overhaul.

"We know the type of players and coaches we're going up against," Petersen said. "I've seen them play on TV, but I've never studied them thinking that we would play them, but now here we are."

And here Alabama is getting time off to prepare for another showdown. In their last three games in which they've had at least a month to prepare, the Crimson Tide have routed Wisconsin (35-17) in last year's opener, Michigan State (38-0) in last December's Cotton Bowl and USC.

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Alabama's last such setback came in the 2014 Sugar Bowl semifinal against Ohio State, when the Tide jumped out to a 21-6 lead but unraveled in a 42-35 loss.

"It's hard to carry the momentum from the end of the season to the game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I think it's almost like a new season, and you almost have to approach it that way. That's what we've tried to do, and we've done it successfully and done it unsuccessfully, so I'm not sure we have the formula exactly right."

The Crimson Tide have won 12 of their 13 games by double figures and have won 11 by at least 18 points, but Saban insists his team has weathered treacherous moments.

"We've had several very difficult games," he said. "I think the Ole Miss game, when we got behind 24-3, was probably the most difficult of circumstances. We struggled to beat Arkansas even though we were ahead in the game. We didn't start out well against Florida but played better as the game went on.

"The Auburn game was close at halftime and the Texas A&M game was close at halftime, so we've had lots of difficult challenges this year."

Tops on the Tide

Senior inside linebacker and Butkus Award winner Reuben Foster recently was voted by his teammates as the MVP of this year's Crimson Tide. Foster, senior defensive end Jonathan Allen, senior safety Eddie Jackson and junior left tackle Cam Robinson were voted permanent team captains, though Jackson hasn't played since breaking his leg in the win at Tennessee.

Robinson and junior receiver ArDarius Stewart were voted Alabama's offensive players of the year, while Allen, Foster and senior outside linebacker Ryan Anderson shared defensive honors.

No 'Big Apple'

Alabama did not have a Heisman Trophy finalist this season after having quarterback AJ McCarron (2013), receiver Amari Cooper (2014) and running back Derrick Henry (2015) receive recent invitations to New York City. Henry won the award last year, and Allen was thought to be Alabama's best hope for a finalist this year.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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