Welcome to the Alabama Invitational.

The official label says College Football Playoff, but we all know what this postseason exercise is all about: lovely parting gifts for those who dare challenge the No. 1 Crimson Tide, the most prohibitive postseason favorite in more than a decade.

Never mind actually beating Alabama. Start first with picking an offense in the field that can actually move the ball against Alabama.

That hasn't happened with any consistency in months.

"Eat, destroy, predator, conquer everything," said Alabama defensive end Tim Williams on Saturday night in the SEC Championship Game locker room. He was already working himself into a playoff lather right then and there.

"Bring your heart. That's all I got to say. Like coach says, 'We got some hateful players, some competitors.'"

Despite the most mediocre SEC in decades, Alabama sharpened itself into the most dominant team since perhaps the USC teams of 2003-05.

Those Trojan teams won 34 games in a row and a couple of national championships. This Alabama team has the second-longest winning streak since then (25 games) with at least five high draft picks alone on defense.

They've done it with a piecemeal offense at times. For only the second time since 2011, Alabama does not have a 1,000-yard rusher. (That could change, though, as Damien Harris has 983 yards.) The offensive line is considered the weakest part of the team.

The quarterback (Jalen Hurts) is a freshman still learning his position in the context of winning a national championship. The last and only other true freshman starting QB to win a national title was Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway -- 31 years ago.

LSU came closest to beating Alabama by losing 10-0 on Nov. 5. The Tide triumphed with their lowest winning score in 11 years. They won with that true freshman quarterback playing before 92,000 hostile Tigers fans. That point was not lost with Lane Kiffin.

"To even start as a true freshman, to even call a play in a game like this, you see many people melt," Alabama's offensive coordinator said. "I think people were on him a little bit after the LSU game. But I said, 'Jalen, you just went into Tiger Stadium at night in an Alabama-LSU game and won.'"

Not to mention leading Alabama back from a 24-3 deficit at Ole Miss. Not bad for a guy who didn't open the season as starter and fumbled his first couple of snaps against USC.

The rest of the team is ravenous. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt took over where Kirby Smart left off: coaching up the nation's No. 1 defense. The 247 yards per game allowed by Alabama is the fewest since the 2011 Tide gave up an average of 183.

Saban, a stickler for defense and special teams, has overseen a team that has produced 14 non-offensive touchdowns.

"To beat Alabama, you can't turn the football over ...," said Tim Tebow, the last quarterback to beat Alabama in an SEC title game. "If anybody on defense scores a touchdown, you lose -- plain and simple."

The coach's greatest accomplishment may have been convincing a group of draft-worthy juniors to stay. Blending in with the likes of veterans Williams, tight end O.J. Howard and defensive end Jonathan Allen are freshman starters at quarterback and the offensive line (right tackle Jonah Williams).

"I didn't in my wildest dreams -- when I looked at their schedule playing at Ole Miss, at LSU and at Arkansas -- I did not think they'd be able to do it with a true freshman quarterback," said Gary Danielson, SEC on CBS analyst.

Put it all together and Alabama is only the team to participate in all three College Football Playoffs. It is the only team to be ranked No. 1 in nine consecutive seasons.

It is attempting to become the third team ever to go wire-to-wire in a season at No. 1.

"They created a situation for themselves where they have a chance to do something to create a legacy for this team," Saban said of his players, "because all the teams you play from here on out are really, really good."

We'll see. Alabama immediately opened as a two-touchdown favorite over Washington in one semifinal.

Woe be the fourth-seeded Huskies. That last spot in the playoff has long been regarded this season as sort of a football death sentence.

The No. 1 Crimson Tide were always waiting on the opposite side. Call them the sacrificial Huskies?

"Fortunately, the Seahawks are here in town," Washington coach Chris Petersen told reporters. "Maybe they'll scrimmage us to get us ready for [Alabama]."

If you believe in small, small sample size karma, the No. 4 seed is 2-1 overall through the first two seasons. The No. 1 seed is 1-2.

Back to basics, though. Just who does have the best chance of knocking off the Tide?

"I believe Clemson," Danielson said. "I think they matched up last year on the defensive line. Alabama's offensive line had a tough time handling that."

In the highest-scoring championship game in history, Clemson took Bama down to the wire last before losing 45-40. These Tigers arguably aren't as good.

While QB Deshaun Watson finished with a flourish overall (1,586 passing yards since Nov. 1), he has been easier to defend. The Tigers lost to Pittsburgh. At home.

"I think Alabama is a really good team but nobody's challenged their secondary," Danielson added. "Nobody in [the SEC] has been able to challenge them. There's not good enough quarterback play and there's not good enough [defensive] tackles in this league."

Jake Browning could challenge that secondary. Washington's quarterback accounted for 46 touchdowns, five less than Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson. Browning's 42 passing touchdowns are tied for the second most among Power Five quarterbacks in the last nine years.

"I think that Washington has at least six NFL players on defense and a Johnny Manziel-style quarterback," Danielson said. "Call him a Jake Plummer, to be nicer, who is an athlete at quarterback."

Alabama's secondary is missing two starters for the moment: All-American safety Eddie Jackson and corner Marlon Humphrey. Minkah Fitzpatrick, a likely All-American this season, has been forced to play both positions lately.

It's still hard to look at that unit as a liability. Fitzpatrick has seven career interceptions, four for touchdowns. Alabama's pick sixes (five) are the second-most in the country to Ohio State (seven).

"I think Ohio State matches up pretty well athletically," said Tebow.

It used to be that dual-threat quarterbacks gave Alabama trouble. Then Saban started recruiting differently. Against significant dual threats at Tennessee, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, Alabama allowed less than half the passes to be completed.

"This Alabama team is different," Tebow said. "They're smaller, lighter, faster defensively. That's one thing you really credit Saban with, he's adapted. He's not the same coach he was in '08 and '09."

It's looking ahead, but Ohio State's J.T. Barrett may get the chance he missed in 2014. That year, his injury late in the season opened the door for third-stringer Cardale Jones to move in. Jones pulled off what remains the biggest upset in CFP history, a 42-35 semifinal win over Alabama in 2014.

Since then, the Tide are 27-1. The Alabama Invitational awaits.

"It's still us against anybody," Williams crowed. "We're not here just to participate."