No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS)
College Football Allstate Sugar Bowl
Date and Time: Thursday January 2nd, 2014. 8:30PM Eastern
Where: Superdome New Orleans, L.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OU +15/ALA -15
Over/Under Total: 51.5
Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide were a mere Iron Bowl victory away from having the chance to play for their 3rd consecutive National Championship. Instead Auburn senior Chris Davis returned a field goal attempt 109 yards for an improbable game winning touchdown that sealed Alabama's National Championship aspirations in stunning fashion. Instead of a trip to Pasadena, the 3rd ranked Crimson Tide will now travel to New Orleans to battle the no. 11 Oklahoma Sooners inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at the prestigious Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners put together a rather quiet yet effective 10-2 SU mark on the season. The Sooners ended the season by winning 5 of their last 6 games including two victories over top 10 ranked opponents in Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Despite the Sooners strong play to close out the season, Stoops and company will be rather large 15 point underdogs when they meet Alabama inside the Superdome on January 2nd.
Obviously Alabama is a monster of an opponent as the point spread indicates. The Crimson Tide are extremely talented at the skill positions and overpowering in the trenches. Alabama's defense especially has been super this season giving up just 11.3 points per game (2nd in the FBS). Only Texas A&M and Auburn had any significant success against Alabama's defense. Auburn was able to keep Saban's defense off balance with the option read while Johnny Manziel was able to find some success in A&M's quick striking spread offense. The Sooners offense has not been extremely impressive this year especially throwing the football. Oklahoma's pass offense has averaged only 186 yards per game which is 99th in the FBS.
The Sooners have run the ball fairly well with tailbacks Brennan Clay and Damien Williams. Both tailbacks have combined for just less than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, conventional rushing styles have not had much success against Alabama's defense. Coach Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will be faced with the task of putting together some type of wrinkle in their offense or other type of game plan to keep the Alabama defense off balance. If not, the Crimson Tide will pin their ears back and sell out to stop the run. Neither starting quarterbacks Blake Bell nor Trevor Knight has proven they can carry the offense on their back. Therefore if either is forced into consistent throwing situations, it could be potentially disastrous for Oklahoma's offense. Coach Stoops has yet to announce who the starting quarterback will be for the Sugar Bowl. However, I personally think Trevor Knight gives the Sooners their best chance against Alabama. Despite Blake Bell being the better passer, Knights' running ability could really help in moving the football against Alabama's tough defense.
On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma's defense has played really well this season holding opponents to 21.3 points per game (22nd in the FBS). The Oklahoma pass defense has been really stout despite the pass happy competition of the Big 12. Alabama quarterback A.J McCarron has been effective throwing the ball by completing 67% passing for 26 touchdowns and just 5 picks. Still McCarron may find that this Oklahoma pass defense is a bit better than advertised. However to beat Alabama, Oklahoma's defense must stop the run. Tailback T.J Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have been outstanding this year in the Crimson Tide backfield. Yeldon leads the team with 1,163 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns and Drake has added another 694 yards with 8 touchdowns. Nobody has had success stopping Alabama's running attack this season. Even in the loss to Auburn and close game with A&M, the Crimson Tide posted well over 200 rushing yards to exceed their average of 212 yards per game. That running game could likely be the major difference again once they meet the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I do not expect this game to be a blowout as picking the Crimson Tide to cover may indicate. However I do believe Alabama's defense keeps Oklahoma to a relatively low scoring total in a 31-10 type ball game. Take Alabama -15!
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