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ATLANTA (AP) -- For Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, it would be unimaginable to end a season any other way.
Once again, they'll be playing for a national title.
BOX SCORE: ALABAMA 24, WASHINGTON 7
Going old school on playoff newcomer Washington, top-ranked Alabama relied on a stifling defense and the bruising runs of Bo Scarbrough to wear down the Huskies for a 24-7 victory Saturday in the Peach Bowl semifinal game.
Saban isn't satisfied.
He never is.
"We've got more miles to go," said Saban, who will be seeking his fifth national title in the last eight years at Alabama, a remarkable run that has stamped him perhaps the greatest coach in college football history.
The Crimson Tide (14-0) scored 10 points off turnovers, including Ryan Anderson's interception return for a touchdown late in the first half, and Scarbrough's 68-yard TD run in the fourth quarter finished off the Huskies.
Scarbrough totaled 180 yards and two scores, garnering offensive MVP honors.
Not bad for a backup.
"Whoever's hot, that's who's going to get the ball," Saban said. "He's been hot lately and he's going to get the ball."
Seeking its second straight title, Alabama heads to Tampa, Florida, for the Jan. 9 championship game and a rematch against Clemson.
"We're 1-0," linebacker Reuben Foster said. "Now it's time to focus on the next one and leave this behind us."
No. 4 Washington (12-2) reached the College Football Playoff with a remarkable turnaround season after struggling much of the last two decades -- including an 0-12 debacle in 2008.
But Jake Browning and the Huskies' high-powered offense were no match for Alabama's top-ranked defense , even after an impressive drive gave them an early 7-0 edge.
The Tide began to exert its dominance late in the first quarter when Anthony Averett stripped the ball away from John Ross on a screen pass. Jonathan Allen recovered, giving Alabama possession at the Washington 40 and setting up Adam Griffith's 41-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
Anderson made an even bigger defensive play with just over a minute to go in the half. With the blitzing Foster bearing down on him, Browning desperately heaved a pass into the flats for Lavon Coleman. But Anderson peeled off to make the pick, knocked Coleman over in the process and was off to the end zone on a 26-yard return that made it 17-7 at the half.
For Alabama, it was the 11th defensive touchdown of the season.
"That's as good a defense as there is out there in college football," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "They played like it."
Any hopes of a Washington comeback were snuffed out by Scarbrough, a starter at most schools but not for the deep, talented Tide. On a simple running play to the left, he appeared to be stopped by two players just short of the line of scrimmage.
But Scarbrough somehow managed to stay on his feet and -- boom! -- he was gone. Streaking down the field in front of the Alabama bench, he avoided another defender with a subtle deke, cut back toward the middle of the field at the Washington 30 and outran everyone to the end zone.
Scarbrough also scored Alabama's first touchdown with a bruising, 18-yard run.
Washington was held to a season-low for points and yards, even after a 64-yard opening drive capped by Browning's 16-yard TD pass to Dante Pettis.
The Huskies finished with 194 yards, below their previous low of 276 in a 26-13 loss to Southern Cal . That was also their lowest-scoring game of the season until they ran up against the Tide.
Browning finished 20 of 38 for just 150 yards. He was sacked five times and picked off twice.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts had been a big part of the Alabama offense, but he didn't have much of an impact in the Peach Bowl.
The youngster was 7 of 14 for 57 yards passing, with three sacks. He ran 19 times for 50 yards.
Saban, who won a BCS championship at LSU, has a chance to join Bear Bryant as the only coaches to capture six national titles in the poll era.
To some, he's already tied with the Bear.
One of Bryant's titles came in 1973 when the Tide was voted No. 1 in the final coaches' poll, which came out before the bowls. Alabama lost in the Sugar Bowl to Notre Dame, handing the Fighting Irish the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press poll.
A scuffle broke out after Minkah Fitzpatrick's interception in the closing seconds, leading to a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Alabama.
Several Washington players were shaken up while chasing down Fitzpatrick, but they all managed to walk off the field while the officials sorted things out.
Two Alabama players -- linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive back Ronnie Harrison -- headed to the locker room before the game was over. But they were sent off by their coaches, not the officials.
"They were taking some cheap shots," Foster said.
Alabama will face a familiar opponent in the national championship game.
A year ago, the Tide beat Clemson 45-40 in a classic title showdown at Glendale, Arizona.
Column Alabama reminds Washington why it is No. 1 with 24-7 win in Peach Bowl
Anthony Averett was a high school junior in his home state of New Jersey when Alabama won its second national championship under Nick Saban.
Alabama allowed a touch more than eight points per game in that 2011 season. The Crimson Tide were No. 1 in the country in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense.
“That was one of the reasons I came here,” Averett said. “I wanted to be part of a defense like that.”
Now, as a redshirt junior safety for the top-ranked Crimson Tide, he is.
So, yeah, nothing’s really changed at Alabama. It’s more of the same for Saban and the Crimson Tide, a 24-7 Peach Bowl victory over No. 4 Washington on Saturday in a College Football Playoff semifinal final offering an opportunity to play for a second consecutive national championship. Alabama (14-0) will take on No. 2 Clemson on Jan. 9 in a rematch of last year’s final.
There’s a feeling of repetitiveness in all of this, as Alabama used the same defense-oriented formula to claim four of the previous seven national titles. But that shouldn’t take away what the Tide is doing to opposing offenses this season. This might not be once-in-a-lifetime special, but it’s special.
Of course, the more dominant the defense, the more boring the game, and the triumph over Washington (12-2) at the Georgia Dome was especially tedious to watch for anyone who wasn’t wearing red and barking the words of the Alabama fight song.
Alabama was up by 10 at halftime and it felt as if the game was already over. The Huskies scored on their second drive and never came close again. Their record-setting passer, Jake Browning, was sacked five times and intercepted twice. All-American receiver John Ross was limited to 28 yards receiving.
“They kind of are what we thought they were — really, really elite, championship defense,” Washington Coach Chris Petersen said.
Washington was limited to 44 yards on the ground. Alabama’s 13 previous opponents ran for an average of 63.4 yards per game.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Ross said.
Alabama wasn’t moving the ball well, either. While Bo Scarbrough ran for 180 yards and a couple of touchdowns, the Tide had only two more first downs than the Huskies. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, a true freshman, rushed for 50 yards but passed for only 57.
This is where a defense like Alabama’s becomes particularly useful. This is a group that also creates offense.
With the score tied late in the first quarter, 7-7, Ross caught a short pass from Browning and turned upfield, only to have the ball swatted out of his hands by Averett. All-American defensive end Jonathan Allen recovered the fumble, which set up a 41-yard field goal by Adam Griffith to start the second quarter.
“It was a game-changer,” linebacker Reuben Foster said of Averett’s play. “Changed the momentum.”
The Tide effectively ended the game shortly before halftime.
Foster noticed running back Lavon Coleman was lined up wide, leading him to believe Coleman would make himself available as a receiver. Foster called on linebacker Ryan Anderson to cover Coleman. Anderson was lined up as an end on the play.
“I knew he was going to flare,” Foster said.
When Washington snapped the ball, Coleman drifted to Browning’s right. Two Washington linemen were occupied by the ferocious Allen, which allowed Foster to make an unobstructed run at Browning. The quarterback reflexively lofted the football toward Coleman, only to have Anderson step in front of him, intercept the pass and and return it 26 yards for a touchdown.
“It totally changed the momentum of the game,” Browning said. “They’ve had some games where it’s been close and then they’ll get a defensive touchdown and get rolling.”
The touchdown was the 11th of the season for Alabama’s defense, with Anderson becoming the ninth defensive player to score. Alabama has 15 non-offensive touchdowns, including three on punt returns and one on a blocked punt. No other major college team has more than seven.
The Tide was up, 17-7, and on its way to its 26th consecutive victory.
Unless Clemson can figure out something that 14 other Alabama opponents couldn’t, that streak should reach 27.
Mysterious white powder causes commotion on Peach Bowl sidelines
An unnerving scene unfolded at the Peach Bowl on Saturday when an object containing a mysterious white powder was thrown on the field near the Washington bench. The object wound up hitting an event staff member in the face and caused a burning sensation in his eyes, according to investigators who spoke to ESPN after the game.
While the man was ushered off the field in a wheelchair, more than two dozen law enforcement officials, including Department of Homeland Security officers, rushed onto the field to cordon off the area near the south sideline where the powder landed at the Georgia Dome.
Investigators went on to test the substance for traces of biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear elements, and all tests came back negative, according to ESPN.
The condition of the man struck remains unknown, while the culprit who threw the projectile is still at large. The commotion did not appear to interrupt the action on the field that saw Alabama dismantle Washington, 24-7.
After the game, however, another controversy brewed when ESPN quoted Crimson Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen as calling the Huskies “soft.”
As that report spread, Allen later took to Twitter on Saturday where he denied saying that at all.
“I have nothing but the up most [sic] respect for Washington and how they came out there and competed today,” he added.