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The Sugar Bowl Prediction: #2 Washington vs. #3 Texas

Does your UWDP crew think that the Huskies are going to the national title game?

Valero Alamo Bowl - Washington v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

All betting lines from DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details

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Diversity of thought is apparently not our strong suit...

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Andrew Berg (11-2 SU, 5-7-1 ATS)

Texas is an excellent team. They earned their 12 wins and CFP berth. At the same time, the relative strengths and weaknesses of UT and UW tend to work out ever so slightly better for the Dawgs.

First, when the Huskies have the ball, the dominant Longhorn defensive front will be more effective against a run-heavy attack than UW’s passing preference. It’s possible that Texas gets enough pressure on Michael Penix up the middle to disrupt his timing, but with a secondary that is more “good” than “great,” I think UW’s outstanding receiver group will be able to create targets before the pressure gets home.

Likewise, I respect the Texas rush attack, but the absence of Jonathan Brooks will make a real difference in the game. Texas will score points because they have more great receivers than UW has DBs to match them.

The matchup is close. It will be decided on the margins. UW has thrived in those situations all year. Penix is comfortable in high-pressure games, which is enough to give the slight edge to Washington.

Washington- 33, Texas- 31

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Gabey Lucas (6-0 SU, 2-3-1 ATS)

Regardless of the hypothetical we’ve thrown around a bit re: “Who would win if they played, the 2016 team or 2023 team?” the thing that stands out for me coming into Washington’s second College Football Playoff is just how different this feels. I mean, sure, this whole roster of CFP semi-finalists has more parity, period versus 2016 where it felt like the other three were just sacrificial lambs to Alabama (even if Clemson went on to win it all) — but regardless, as a fan in 2016 it really did feel like just a “happy to be there, hope we make a good show of it” scenario. For the 2023 team, there really isn’t anyone in the country that scares me up against them. This includes — although I respect them as an opponent — Texas.

I will say I think if you’re a neutral fan watching this that it will be a ~very~ entertaining game. Both teams are gonna have moments of absolutely torturing the other fanbase and, tragically, that’s entertaining as hell. My primary worry is if the safeties and inside linebackers take poor angles to/shortly after the catch, especially when Xavier Worthy gets the ball because he can be so explosive with one step-and-go, or burst out of a slight angle change.

In fact, I’m far more antsy about him than the thing we’ve been told repeatedly to fear about Texas, the D-line combo of Sweat and Murphy. Don’t get me wrong, they look really good — great, even — but the film I’ve watched doesn’t strike fear in my heart in the same way that Alabama’s D-line in 2016 did. Which, hoo boy those guys...

In the end I think it’ll be interesting to see how Grubb, Penix, and the line work against this. It’ll definitely be a good challenge and I generally foresee there being some good plays by both the Texas D-line and the Washington offense.

Given the matchup, Texas winning goes through Xavier Worthy and I just don’t think, in 100 opportunities, that that’s able to be more productive than UW’s extremely multi-faceted attack. (Unless of course we revert to the “everybody has the flu and is injured” UW, in which case Texas by 30.)

Washington- 34, Texas- 31

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Mark Schafer (13-0 SU, 8-4-1 ATS)

The Huskies make the trip to New Orleans, with everything on the line in the Sugar Bowl as they face the Texas Longhorns. Like every great championship fight, this deserves a sequel. On one side stands Washington, with their vaunted pass offense taking center stage, complimented by an excellent run game led by the workhorse Dillon Johnson.

On the other side is Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns with a similarly excellent pass game, led by Quinn Ewers. Everybody has been talking about what a great defensive line Texas has, and how Washington can’t play “big boy football” and how all we play is “basketball on grass”. To that I say, “have they watched the tape?” Yes, we’re a pass first team, and for good reason. We have a couple All World receivers (Odunze and McMillan) a quarterback with a cannon for an arm, and great complimentary pieces in Germie Bernard, Jack Westover and Devin Culp. Every time this offensive line unit has been doubted, they’ve stepped up and given Michael Penix time to throw. This will probably be their toughest test, but they won the Moore award for a reason, so I expect them to be ready! Expect Ryan Grubb to dial up calls that take advantage of Texas’ weaker secondary, to set up the run the closer they get to the end zone.

On the defensive side, it seems as though help is on the way, as Christian Caple reported that Asa Turner, KamFab and Tuli are all healthy, which should help a defense that was flagging in the regular season, but stepped up in a big way in the PAC 12 Championship. Add the debut of Zach Durfee, who, based on reports from his fellow players from practice, could be a game wrecker, and this might be the best defense we’ve come out with since the start of the year.

Overall, this will be a slugfest, but the Huskies have been the beneficiaries of some crucial turns of momentum and I expect that to be the case here again, and I expect Texas to be running through the briars and brambles by game’s end.

Washington- 42, Texas- 38

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Max Vrooman (11-2 SU, 7-5-1 ATS)

The last time that Washington was in the College Football Playoff it felt like they were a sacrificial lamb before a vengeful goliath Alabama team. That isn’t the case anymore. Washington is the betting underdog against Texas in part because the game is being played in New Orleans but they enter with a better record and a higher seed.

The expectation is that this game will devolve into a shootout. We already know that Washington’s offense is by far the stronger side of the team compared to their defense. That’s also true for Texas although by narrower margins. I’m not so sure though that we don’t see a few more stops than expected similar to last year’s Alamo Bowl which had a final score in the 20’s.

The one game in which Washington’s offense struggled the most this year was against Arizona State. The defining element that gave UW fits was relentless pressure up the middle as Penix was both under siege and ASU was able to get their hands on balls at the line of scrimmage. The defining element of the Texas defense is the best tandem of defensive tackles in the country clogging the middle and necessitating double teams. Expect a lot of quick outside throws to Jalen McMillan and tosses to Dillon Johnson to force them to run sideline to sideline and tire them out so they can run up the middle in the 4th quarter.

Washington’s defense isn’t at the same level as the other 3 CFP squads but they have a habit of making plays when it matters most. No team the Huskies have faced other than Oregon has the same array of playmakers all over the field as Texas. But Quinn Ewers is much less mobile than Bo Nix which should allow Bralen Trice to get a lot of pressure without concerns that the QB will spin out of it. Expect Texas to run a lot of slants and quick passing to negate the Husky edge rushers.

I fully think that one way or another this game is going to come down to the final possession. It’s impossible to have watched Washington win close game after close game and 20 in a row overall and not have confidence in them to pull it out in the end. Washington will have the ball clinging to a 3-point lead needing one more first down to clinch it on a 3rd and 2. Texas’ big DTs will be ready to stuff Dillon Johnson at the point of attack. And instead Penix will pull it out of DJ’s chest and take it himself just barely getting the ball over the marker to secure the win and send Washington the national title game.

Washington- 34, Texas- 31

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THE FINAL TALLY

Straight Up: Washington- 4, Texas- 0

Against the Spread (UW +4): Washington- 4, Texas- 0

Over/Under (63.5): Over- 3, Under- 1

Average Score: Washington-35.3 , Texas- 32.8