Rahal makes tough picks for college football semifinal games


(Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, is an avid sports fan – especially of college football and his beloved Ohio State University Buckeyes. Rahal is providing IndyCar.com his outlook on some of the major college bowl games taking place this weekend.)

Being a football fan, a Buckeye fan in particular, I’m excited for college football bowl season and I think there are a lot of great matchups that will bring a lot of fun to fans everywhere. Today, I take a look at the two bowls that serve as the semifinal round for this year’s College Football Playoff.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Georgia Dome – Atlanta)

No. 4 Washington Huskies vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (Today, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN): I just can’t see or find within myself that this is going to be a game at all. I think Alabama is clearly a dominant football team and I think it’s the Tide’s year, once again, to win the national championship.

I don’t know if anyone can get in their way other than maybe an Ohio State team, unbiased in my opinion, but a team that plays to its fullest potential – which we have not really seen more than once or twice this year. Alabama is in a league of its own this season and I believe the Pac-12 (Washington’s conference) is extremely weak from what we’ve seen.

Unless we’re getting a completely false read on Alabama because of the strength of the Southeastern Conference, I don’t think Washington is going to be able to hang in there at all. Alabama’s big guys are going to hit hard, they’re going to wear them down, they’re going to put up points and I don’t see Washington able to stay in the game. I saw some people picking Alabama by 14 points, I think that’s shy and this game could be a blowout. I just don’t believe Washington is all that good. I mean, we saw how USC manhandled the Huskies a few weeks ago and I don’t think it bodes well for what we will see in this game.

Keys to the game: Is Washington tough enough to physically stay in the game and handle everything that Nick Saban’s Alabama team is going to be bringing? If Washington can get the ball spread out and give quarterback Jake Browning time, it could surprise and put up points.

Pick to win: Alabama

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Ariz.)

No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 2 Clemson Tigers (Today, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN): This is a big one for me, being a die-hard Buckeye. This game is not going to be a blowout. I expect this to be a very tight game where one or two turnovers could be the deciding factor. Clemson is an extremely good football team and, with quarterback Deshaun Watson legging it, is dangerous. Clemson is like Ohio State, though, in that both have been hit or miss this year. The Tigers have had some games when they have been dominant, but in others, like against Pitt or in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship against Virginia Tech, they didn’t really blow anybody’s mind.

I’m not really sure what to make of Clemson, but I do think it will be able to put up points on Ohio State. I also think the Tigers are going to have some turnovers – which would help the Buckeyes. However, I expect this to be one of the best games of the bowl season and I think it is going to be less than a one-touchdown victory for Ohio State, setting up for a showdown with Alabama for the national championship.

Keys to the game: Both teams are going to have to play their best to get through this game – on both sides of the ball. Ultimately, I think the decision maker is going to be turnovers. Whoever commits the most turnovers is going to lose this game.

Pick to win: Ohio State

The winners from these two games will compete for the College Football National Championship on Jan. 9, 2017 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

From the fans