Sugar Bowl – Oklahoma Sooners vs Alabama Crimson Tide
Date and Time: Thursday 1/2/14 at 8:30pm on ESPN
Game Line: Alabama -16.5 (from JustBet)
Thursday’s Sugar Bowl NCAA Football Analysis: Alabama had a tense few weeks of waiting before finding out that Nick Saban wasn’t leaving. Now the Crimson Tide can turn its attention back to a post New Year’s date with another of college football’s elite programs. It’s hard to say just how focused Alabama will be after its BCS championship hopes slipped away in agonizing fashion. The third ranked Crimson Tide has had a month to stew over a shocking loss in its regular season finale that’s left it seeking consolation in this Sugar Bowl showdown with Oklahoma on Thursday night. Saban has made promises he hasn’t kept before in his coaching career, but he says he plans to retire in Tuscaloosa after agreeing to a contract extension before Christmas that will pay him a reported $7 million a year. While a chance to face Oklahoma in a BCS bowl would be a successful season for most programs, it is not what Alabama envisioned. They were on the brink of heading to another national championship game before the now famous finish against Auburn in their regular season finale. Now the Tigers get to play for the national championship and Alabama plays in the Sugar Bowl. The game will also the college finale for McCarron, who threw for 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions after September in winning the Maxwell Award and finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner up. Oklahoma’s quarterback is much less certain. They have had a season long carousel between Trevor Knight, Blake Bell and Kendal Thompson. Coach Bob Stoops said the starter for the Sugar Bowl will be a game time decision. Whether it’s Bell or Knight who gets the call in New Orleans, Oklahoma will have its hands full. Alabama has the nation’s fifth ranked defense overall and second ranked scoring defense. It also is fifth against the pass and 11th against the run. If Oklahoma wants to have a realistic chance, it needs to concentrate on slowing running back T.J. Yeldon and that rushing attack. Alabama is 42-1 with McCarron as the starter when it runs for at least 125 yards, and 4-5 when it doesn’t. Oklahoma has struggled to slow down opposing running attacks and done well against opposing passing attacks, but Alabama will focus on the run and keep this game a low scoring grinder that they will win in the fourth quarter, after taking most of the game to regain their focus.
Oklahoma vs Alabama NCAA Football Picks: Oklahoma +16.5 and under 51.5
Oklahoma vs Alabama Game Prediction: 24-17 Alabama
What to expect in the 2013 Sugar Bowl: The Alabama defense will keep them in the game for much of the first half while their rushing game struggles to get going and the passing game has no success against Oklahoma’s elite secondary. As the game goes on, Alabama will stick with the run and their massive offensive line will wear down the Oklahoma defensive front seven and get better as the game goes on. They will score the game winning touch down late in the fourth quarter in a game that will be much closer than most people think.