ATLANTA (CNN) — This season’s College Football Playoff centers on one simple question: Can anyone stop Alabama?
Because if it’s not clear by now, it should be: The national championship is the Crimson Tide’s to lose.
No. 1 Alabama’s defense reinforced that it’s the nation’s best, stuffing No. 4 Washington’s high-octane offense and scoring a defensive touchdown off an interception, winning the Peach Bowl semifinal 24-7 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The Crimson Tide’s next opponent will be either No. 2 Clemson (12-1) or No. 3 Ohio State (11-1), which square off in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, later Saturday.
The national championship is January 9 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The defending national champion, Alabama (14-0) has won four of the past seven titles and is favored again.
Washington, in the College Football Playoff for the first time, ends its season at 12-2.
Alabama defense the greatest ever?
Alabama’s dominance this season starts with defense, and the Crimson Tide boast the nation’s best, coming into the Peach Bowl leading the country in total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense and defensive touchdowns.
In fact, the Tide’s defense has scored almost as many touchdowns this season (11) as it has allowed (15).
One of those defensive scores came Saturday, when Alabama senior linebacker Ryan Anderson picked off Washington sophomore quarterback Jake Browning and took it back 26 yards for the score to make it a 17-7 Crimson Tide lead with 1:13 left in the second quarter.
Additionally, a forced fumble late in the first quarter by Alabama junior defensive back Anthony Averett led to a 41-yard field goal for Adam Griffith.
The Pac-12-champion Huskies entered the Peach Bowl fourth in the nation in scoring offense with 44.5 points per game. But aside from a 16-yard touchdown pass from Browning to junior wide receiver Dante Pettis with 8:01 left in the first quarter, which gave the Huskies at 7-0 lead, Washington couldn’t muster much.
And it was a short-lived lead. Alabama answered Washington’s score on the following drive with an 18-yard touchdown rush from sophomore running back Bo Scarbrough with 5:01 left in the opening period.
Scarbrough also scored on a 68-yard run with 11:56 left in the fourth quarter, putting the game firmly out of reach.
Alabama, which has been ranked No. 1 since the beginning of the season, is making the case for being the greatest team of all time, and now it needs to win just one more game to cap off a perfect season.
Since September 2015, Alabama has won 26 consecutive games. It also has won the past three Southeastern Conference championships.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson
Meanwhile, heading into the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State — which won the inaugural College Football Playoff in the 2014-2015 season — is a narrow favorite.
The Buckeyes — whose lone loss came to eventual Big Ten Conference champion Penn State — haven’t played since November 26, when they defeated then-No. 3 Michigan 30-27 in double overtime. Ohio State is the first team to reach the playoff without winning a conference championship.
“It’s the third playoff,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Monday. “This is our second time in three years, and we’re honored to be part of it.”
Clemson, Atlantic Coast Conference champions for the second year in a row, will try to reach the national championship game in back-to-back seasons. The Tigers lost to Alabama 45-40 in the title game last season.
“We certainly had a chance to win it all,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Monday. “And we didn’t quite finish like we needed to. And give Alabama the credit for that. They earned it.
“But this is a new team, a new season, and it’s a new opportunity. So as I always say, last year’s success doesn’t get it done this year. You’ve got to earn it all over again.”