Allstate Sugar Bowl: Washington vs Texas

By Simon Carroll

Welcome to Bowl Season! 84 teams, 42 matchups, 35 different cities; if you thought the College Football postseason was restricted to the four teams in the playoffs, think again. In this game preview, we turn our attention to the second of the CFB Playoff semi-finals; the Allstate Sugar Bowl between the Washington Huskies and Texas Longhorns:

Where and When

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Location: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA

Date: 1st January 2024

Time: 8:45pm (ET)

The Story So Far...

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A member of the Bowl Championship Series, the Sugar Bowl is one of the most prestigious and iconic bowl games of the collegiate postseason calendar. Back in previous iterations of the systems used to define a National Champion, the Sugar Bowl has hosted the big game twice this century, and has been a part of the playoff rotation with the other ‘New Year’s Six’ bowl games since 2004. But of course, it’s history goes back much further than that – Monday will represent the 90th time that this illustrious game has crowned a winner.

Think what you like about the CFB Playoff Committee’s decision making, but they’ve certainly delivered an elite matchup in this game. Undefeated and ranked #2 in the country, Washington are having one of the best season’s in their football program’s history. You’d have to go back to 1991 to the last time the Huskies went undefeated, a year they claim a split National Championship title with Miami. Head Coach Kalen DeBoer has backed up his debut 11-2 year in Seattle with 13 wins in 2023 – no other Washington HC can claim such a thing. His team has run a pretty dangerous Pac-12 gauntlet and come out unscathed, despite two testing games against Oregon. And with a dangerous offense and opportunistic defense, the Huskies are an explosive and exciting team to watch.

Texas don’t arrive into this game undefeated, but they still offer Washington a tough test of their National Championship credentials. The job in Austin is often a daunting one for head coaches, external pressures adding to the ludicrous high standards that an elite football program in the Lonestar State routinely expects. Steve Sarkisian had sewn the seeds of revival in his first two seasons with the Longhorns, but results were still underwhelming, and he knew he had to deliver in 2023.

He did just that. Highlighted by a ten point victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the only blemish on Texas’ season was a last second touchdown from Dillon Gabriel in the Red River Shootout. Unlike in previous seasons, the Longhorns proved they had the mettle to overcome that setback, winning their last seven games and forcing their way into the playoffs. A varied, quick-strike offense and a ferocious front seven on defense is this team’s hallmark – expect fireworks in New Orleans on Monday night.

The Quarterbacks

I’m not sure what’s left to be said about the season Michael Penix Jr. has delivered in Seattle. Already considered a talented quarterback whilst at Indiana, Penix’ Hoosiers career was pockmarked with injuries that didn’t allow him to showcase his true abilities in Bloomington. That all changed when he hooked back up with DeBoer at Washington, once his offensive coordinator at Indiana. Over the past two seasons, Penix has racked up an incredible 8,859 yards and 64 touchdowns – taking advantage of a star-studded ensemble and DeBoer’s penchant for attacking vertically.

Penix finished second in the Heisman voting this season, behind just the unbelievable dual-threat abilities of Jayden Daniels. As impressive as individual accolades are, I’m sure Penix has his sights set on finishing the job with the Huskies before taking his talents to the NFL.

Whilst perhaps not delivering a season as flashy or stat-heavy as his counterpart on Monday, Quinn Ewers has certainly had a season to remember of his own. Building on a promising freshman year in Austin, Ewers finally started to show what made him the #1 recruit of the 2021 class. A mid-season injury did not seem to knock Quinn or Texas out of their stride this season, Texas leaning on backup Maalik Murphy whilst Ewers took a couple of games to recuperate. Blessed with just as many weapons as Penix, Ewers put up 3,161 yards, eradicated some of the mistakes in his first year at Texas, and led the Longhorns to the Big 12 title.

Make no mistake; this is a heavyweight quarterback matchup.

Prospects To Watch

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Michael Penix is a legitimate NFL prospect in his own right, but if you’re looking for a name that will almost certainly be off the board before the end of round one, then it’s one of his receivers that fits the bill. Rome Odunze has shown just what he can do when he has a legitimate QB to work with, eclipsing his impressive 2022 figures with a monster season in 2023.

With almost 1,500 yards and 14 TD’s, Odunze is highly productive, but grind the tape and there’s a lot more to like. 6’3″ and 200lbs, Odunze is big and strong, can block well and fight at the catch point. His speed allows him to be moved around the formation, and he was devastating playing both outside and as a ‘big slot’ for Washington. My favourite receiver in this draft class, Odunze merits a top ten selection.

Ja’Tavion Sanders, Adonai Mitchell, Xavier Worthy, even Quinn Ewers if he declares? Sure, all legitimate draft prospects. But Texas might have the best interior defensive lineman in the nation on their roster right now. T’Vondre Sweat has been a total game wrecker for the Longhorns in 2023. Operating as a 3-tech in a four man front, Sweat will play in burnt orange for the final time on Monday. An undisputed leader on defense the last two years, he put up 42 tackles, 8 TFL’s, 2 sacks and even four pass breakups this season.

With Washington’s ground game their perceived weakness, the 6’4″, 340lb Sweat could put the capper on an incredible career in Austin, and open some eyes as a day one or two pick in the draft.


Cards on the table; as a Texas fan, I unashamedly bleed burnt orange, and would find it very hard to go against the Longhorns in this one regardless of the situation. That said, I do think Texas has what it takes to beat the high-flying Huskies on New Year’s Day. They have the better ground game despite missing the elite services of Jonathan Brooks, and a defense that will likely test Penix better than most did in the Pac-12.

Nevertheless, if you ask me which team is the most dangerous, then Washington are not to be overlooked. If they manage to turn this into a shootout, they have the tools to take down Texas – but I think the Longhorns will slow the game down, control the clock, and slowly turn the screw. Hook’Em!

Washington 30-42 Texas

Mock Draft