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December 4, 2016

Gary Stokan

Nick Saban

Chris Petersen

Atlanta, Georgia

MATT GARVEY: We're going to go ahead and get started right now. This is Matt Garvey. I'm the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Vice President of Communications. Welcome, everybody, to the media teleconference with our head coaches.

I'll introduce who we have. First, in the room here with me, is Gary Stokan, who is President and CEO of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. We also have on the line Head Coach Chris Petersen from the fourth ranked Washington Huskies, and Nick Saban will be joining us in a minute or two from the Number 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.

We'll go ahead and get started. We'll have an opening comment from Gary, and then we'll go to the two head coaches. Gary?

GARY STOKAN: Thank you, Matt. I'd like to officially welcome Number 1 ranked S.E.C. Champion Alabama Crimson Tide and the Number 4 Pac-12 Champion Washington Huskies to the college football playoff semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to be played December 31 at 3:00.

Nick and Chris, congratulations. First time ever for both teams playing in our 49-year history. And as they say, great fights are made by match-ups. We've got the number one scoring defense in Alabama versus the number four scoring offense in Washington.

This is the most significant college football game ever to be played in Atlanta. And the last thing, I want to recognize both coaches, as we sponsor the Dodd Trophy, as being former winners of the Dodd Trophy for scholarship, leadership and integrity.

So, Nick and Chris, congratulations. We look forward to hosting you, your families and your team here in Atlanta over the holidays.

MATT GARVEY: Thanks, Gary. I think we might still be waiting for Coach Saban, who is trying to dial in right now.

So, Coach Petersen, we can go to you for an opening statement and your comments, please.

COACH PETERSEN: Sure. Well, thank you, guys. Thanks, Gary.

I can't tell you how excited we are to be a part of this. I know that it was a really hard decision on the Selection Committee. Such really good teams out there, deserving.

We just are honored and proud and excited to be part of this whole thing. We don't take any of this for granted and we just couldn't be more thrilled.

It will be the biggest challenge we've ever had as coaches, as players to play this great Alabama team and program, but I think it will be great. We've got a while before we play, and there will be so many different distractions that come with it.

Playing a team like Alabama gets you focused in a hurry so I see that as a good thing for our guys. But really honored to be part of this and we're really excited to come down there and be part of the pageantry of college football.

GARY STOKAN: Chris, thanks. We appreciate that. I guess a compliment to a coach is certainly that your teams play hard. And having seen your teams play at Boise State and now here, I want to compliment you for how hard your teams play.

As you mentioned, I think you're very well deserving to play in the National Semifinal Game. So we look forward to having you come to Atlanta and hosting all of your fans, administration and everybody.

COACH PETERSEN: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

MATT GARVEY: Thanks for that, Gary and Coach.

Coach Saban, it's Matt Garvey from the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Welcome. We'll go ahead and go right to your opening comment, Coach.

COACH SABAN: Good. Our team is very excited about having the opportunity to, first of all, be selected to play in the playoffs. This is a new season for our team, and certainly looking forward to the challenges that go with that in playing some of the most outstanding teams in the country.

We're excited to come back to Atlanta and be a part of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Great host city, great place to be, playing against a fantastic opponent in the University of Washington. An outstanding team. It will be a tremendous challenge for our team.

Coach Petersen has been very, very successful for a long, long time and we have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what his team has been able to accomplish this year by winning the Pac-10 championship in very impressive style over Colorado.

They have some outstanding players on offense and defense and have put up some fantastic numbers in terms of their ability on both offense, defense and special teams. So this is going to be a really challenging game.

GARY STOKAN: Nick, hi. This is Gary. I officially welcomed Chris earlier. Want to do so, the same with you with the Number 1 ranked S.E.C. Champion Alabama Crimson Tide coming to Atlanta.

We look forward to the first time ever hosting the Alabama Crimson Tide and having the number one scoring defense, Alabama does, and Washington with the number four scoring offense. Makes for a great fight.

So we're looking forward to hosting you, your families, the Alabama team and the Crimson Tide fans and administration here in Atlanta.

COACH SABAN: We certainly appreciate it, Gary. You've always been the best at being the host with the most so we look forward to it.

GARY STOKAN: Thank you, Nick.

MATT GARVEY: Thanks, Coach. We'll go ahead and open it up questions.

Q. This question is for Coach Petersen. You saw the film of USC and Alabama when you were preparing for the Trojans. How much would you take from that game, considering it was the first game of the year?
COACH PETERSEN: You know, we'll certainly look at it. The nice thing is having time, you know, you get to look at everything. But it's a decent gauge because we played, obviously, USC and so we know those athletes, those coaches and so you have a feel for USC just playing them, and that's a way to gauge some things.

We already know the tremendous challenge that we have, going against Alabama. We probably don't even need to put on that tape to know what a challenge we have. But when we do, it will certainly put things in perspective.

Q. This question is for Coach Petersen. Can you hear me, Coach?
COACH PETERSEN: I'm here. I'm ready.

Q. What do you see on Alabama's defense? I know they're known more about their defense than their offense, except for yesterday when they just took control of the Gators. What do you see so far?
COACH PETERSEN: The good thing is I really haven't had a chance to look at them. I probably, if I had a chance, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you. We'd be practicing right now.

We know the type of program we're going against. We know the type of coaches, in Coach Saban and his staff, we're going against. We know the talent that he has put together there, which is incredible.

I haven't had a chance to look at them. I've had a chance to look at them on TV a little bit, but never really studied them, you know, not being on our schedule, thinking we would play them.

Now here we are so we'll get a chance to analyze them. I haven't had a chance to really know any of the specifics about schemes and the details of their players.

Q. How hard is it for you guys to travel from the west coast to east coast? East coast teams going to the west coast, it's a little problem for them because of the time zone. What do you have to do to get acclimated?
COACH PETERSEN: We'll be there longer than normal. When you fly to play a regular season game, it's such a quick turnaround, it's hard to adjust to the time. We'll be there a handful of days so we'll have a chance to adjust and adapt.

I will say this. Adapting to the time change is going to be the least of our problems, playing Alabama.

Q. Thanks, Coach.

Q. Coach Saban, for the millennials or the younger generation that are going to be looking ahead at this game between Washington and Alabama, I know you haven't really had a chance to really sit down, look at them yet a lot. But what can you tell people about what your experience is with Washington's history?
I know you were tutored by Coach James. What is your feeling about the background coming into this with the Washington program?

COACH PETERSEN: We have a tremendous amount of respect for the Washington program. First of all, I played for Coach James, and he actually talked me into being a graduate assistant when I didn't even really care about being a coach. Probably wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for him.

Learned so much that we still use in our program because of him and the great success that he had at the University of Washington, winning the National Championship there. And then we played and got beat badly when I was at Michigan State in the bowl in Hawaii, whatever it's called.

So we have a lot of respect for this program, and I know they have a fantastic team this year. Got a great quarterback, one of the top passing teams in the country. They've got a couple outstanding receivers. Their defense is one of the top ten defenses in the whole country in scoring in total defense.

So we really have a lot of respect for this team and the people that they have and the consistency they play with. Coach Petersen has done a fantastic job of developing this team to be one of the best teams in the country.

Q. Coach Saban, talk about Jake Browning. What type of quarterback is he? Do you see him developing maybe in the future as an NFL quarterback?
COACH SABAN: I haven't seen him much. I'm in a little bit the same mode as Coach Petersen in terms of we didn't find out until earlier today that we were going to play each other.

I have seen him play on TV a couple times, and really, really impressed with him athletically as well as a passer and does a really good job of executing their offense and taking what the defense gives, and I think that's why his passing efficiency is one of the best in the nation. So I haven't seen enough to really make comments beyond that.

Q. Coach Saban, I'm wondering, whether it's coaches or players, kind of both, how much can you guys take from the fact that you've been here and done this against a different opponent, but that you've been to the playoff before?
COACH SABAN: Well, I don't know that we can take anything from it. I don't think any of those games are going to have anything to do with the outcome of this game. I do know that we did it better one year than we did it the other. So, hopefully, we can take something from that to try to build on the things that at least worked a little better a year ago than two years ago.

Q. This question is for Nick Saban. How much do you expect to utilize Coach Sarkisian and his knowledge of Washington leading up to this game?
COACH SABAN: Hasn't been there for quite some time. I know he was involved in recruiting some of these players when he was the coach there, but this is a whole new coaching staff, a whole new system. They've been there for three years.

I don't think he probably knows any more about it than some of the players that he may have recruited four or five years ago. So he'll have the same role in this game he's had in every other game.

Q. Coach Saban, I was actually curious, I know you haven't put a lot of thought into how the playoff thing panned out. Do you feel like the playoff committee got it right?
COACH SABAN: Look, I have confidence in the people that are on the committee, that they go through all the research, they have all the information that I just have faith, trust and confidence that they're doing the best job they can to get the best teams in the playoffs. I'm not judging what they did or didn't do. I'm just saying that we have faith, trust and confidence in the people that are put in position to try to make these decisions and I'm sure they made it with the best intentions for college football.

Q. Nick, having gone through the playoff now twice, do you know of any effect that the four weeks between the end of the regular season and the semifinal game has in terms of whether the teams, either your own team or the opponents, have looked different than they did the way they were playing toward the end of the season?
COACH SABAN: I think it's hard to carry the momentum from the end of the season to the game. I think it's almost like a new season, and you almost have to sort of approach it that way, or at least that's what we've tried to do. We've done it successfully and we've done it unsuccessfully so I'm not sure we have the formula exactly right. But if your team plays well, I think you did it correctly. If they didn't, you probably missed something along the way.

MATT GARVEY: As we wrap up here, final questions for either of the head coaches. Go ahead, please.

Q. Coach Saban, since you guys are undefeated, along with Western Michigan, a unique position, it's kind of hard to tell from the outside which team gave you the most trouble in the 13 games you played this year.
From your perspective, which game was the toughest for your team to win this season so far?

COACH SABAN: We had several very difficult games. I think the Ole Miss game, where 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 most of the time. We didn't start out very well in the game last night against Florida. Played better as the game went on. The Auburn game was close at halftime. The Texas A&M game was close at halftime.

So we've had lots of difficult challenges this year that our players have had to persevere.

Q. Coach, when you look at what Coach Petersen was doing at Boise State, obviously he had them playing at a high level. So should this be a surprise that he has Washington in this position in just three years?
COACH SABAN: Not at all. I've had a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Petersen, what he's been able to do in his career, wherever he's been, in terms of the success he's had in his program. This is not at all a surprise to me.

MATT GARVEY: Thank you, Coach. Last chance as we wrap up here. Last chance for any questions for Coach Petersen.

Q. Coach Petersen, obviously, Coach Saban is not surprised you've turned the program around at Washington. Talk to me about your sense of expectation to see Alabama here once again.
COACH PETERSEN: Well, I don't think there's a better program in the country. I don't think anybody would dispute that. I think it's one thing to make it to the playoffs once and do some good things now and again. But, I mean, every year, you know Alabama is going to be right there. It's just a testament to the system, the program, the whole thing that he's built at Alabama.

I mean, it's the best in the country, and he's proved that year after year, and I don't think anybody would dispute that. So this will be the toughest challenge that any of us has seen for quite a while.

MATT GARVEY: Any more questions for Coach Saban or Coach Peterson?

COACH SABAN: Can I make a comment?

MATT GARVEY: Sure, go ahead, Coach.

COACH SABAN: I'd just like to congratulate Chris, Coach Petersen and his team on an outstanding season and being selected to play in the playoffs and what a great job they've done all season long. It was really fun to watch the few times that I watched them and they really play well and have a lot of respect for what they've done. So wanted to pass that along.

COACH PETERSEN: Appreciate that, and I thought the same thing until we got matched up, and I actually had to now, all of a sudden, have to deal with this.

So awesome job by you guys, as usual, and look forward to seeing you guys.

COACH SABAN: Thank you.

GARY STOKAN: Nick and Chris, this is Gary. We'll wrap up with just thanking you two for both what you do for your teams and what you do for college football, how you represent your universities and what you represent, the best in college football.

We know our bowl game is going to be better for having you two personally and your programs in our game. So have a Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you around Christmastime.

COACH PETERSEN: Appreciate it, Gary.

COACH SABAN: Thank you. Merry Christmas to you too. Thank you.

MATT GARVEY: Thanks, everybody.

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