The Alabama Crimson Tide enters the 2014 Sugar Bowl with only one loss yet they have won nothing so far in the 2013 college football season. The team ranked number one for the bulk of the season lost in rare and dramatic fashion on the final play of the game to rival Auburn. The loss sent Bama to the Sugar Bowl and Auburn to the SEC Championship game where they defeated Missouri.
With Auburn now in the BCS Title game against Florida State, the Crimson Tide football team has just one opportunity left to win some sort of title. Many will recall when the Tide was in a similar situation five years ago and got trounced by Utah. I don’t expect that to happen tonight for two reasons; first, Oklahoma carries much more name recognition than Utah did and second, Nick Saban rarely makes the same mistake twice.
While I personally don’t think the Sooners really belong in the BCS this season, they earned their way here with a last-second drive and touchdown to defeat rival Oklahoma State in the season finale. The loss sent Oklahoma State to the Cotton Bowl, Baylor to the Fiesta Bowl as Big 12 Confer fence champ and Oklahoma to a Sugar Bowl berth.
My feeling is that Oregon was more deserving of the BCS slot but I have very little say in that.
Over the last month leading into this game, Sooners’ Head Coach Bob Stoops has done a lot of talking. He doesn’t think the SEC is all that it’s cracked up to be despite owning seven-straight BCS titles. He claims that his own conference is just as deep. He would be wrong about that and I have every confidence that Coach Saban has reminded his players of this sign of disrespect.
After opening as a 16-point favorite, Alabama has moved to a 17-point favorite and I honestly think it’s a fair number based on strength of schedule, record and just simply experience in BCS games.
The Tide is an amazing 16-1 straight up in their last 17 games while the Sooners are 5-1 straight up in their last six. Something will clearly give here.
One particular place where rubber will meet the road is when Oklahoma is on offense and Alabama is on D. I’m talking about the running of the Sooners versus the run defense of the Crimson Tide. OU hasn’t run the ball this well since 2001 and does so with a number of backs and as many as three different quarterbacks. I believe you’ll see Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson, but I suspect Bell will get the bulk of the work.
The Alabama defense has been consistently good against the run under Coach Saban and this year has been no exception. Alabama surrenders just over 108 yards per game on the ground. By contrast, Oklahoma averages 235 yards rushing so I believe this is where the game will be decided.
That doesn’t mean you should dismiss the Bama offense though. A.J. McCarron has been at his best in bowl games where he has yet to throw a pick and the rushing attack spoke for itself last year when they ran over Notre Dame. Look for T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake to carry the load on the ground which will set up Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood for passes down-field.
While I believe the Tide will win the Sugar Bowl tonight, I have a hard time saying they’ll cover so take Oklahoma getting 17. In terms of over/under, the number is at 52 and I like the under but not by much.