It’s no surprise that the Alabama Crimson Tide will playing in a BCS bowl once again, but the fact that they aren’t playing for the national title after ranking No. 1 in the nation for the first 14 weeks of the season is quite shocking. It will be interesting to see how inspired they are to play for a Sugar Bowl victory.
On the other side of the field, the Oklahoma Sooners got hot at the right time by beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the final game of the season on the road to sneak into BCS bowl consideration. With a 10-2 record, the Sooners look like a serious contender to be the second team to knock off Alabama this season.
While they aren’t playing for a national title like they would have hoped, the Crimson Tide look to be one of the top-three teams in the nation because of the leadership that senior quarterback AJ McCarron possesses. The veteran quarterback has passed for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns and his one loss might have costed him a spot as a finalist for the Heisman. Sophomore wide out Amari Cooper has finally broken out like the Tide would have hoped for earlier in the year, leading the team in receiving with 36 catches for 615 yards and four scores. T.J. Yeldon leads the 21st-ranked rush offense with 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Oklahoma may have barely snuck into the BCS bowl rankings after a huge late-season win against a huge rival, but it has shown that it can win big games when they count. Blake Bell took over for freshman Trevor Knight earlier in the season at quarterback and hasn’t looked back, passing for 1,648 yards and just 12 touchdowns but his leadership has been noticed by his teammates. Brennan Clay has been a big reason why this team has been so success as well, rushing for 913 yards and six touchdowns while leading the 18th-best rushing offense in college football.
Defensively, the Sooners are known for having a tough, lock-down unit. Oklahoma ranks 23rd in points allowed per game while also ranking 12th in yards allowed per game. Alabama, on the same page, ranks second in the nation in points allowed per game as well as fifth in yards allowed per game.
Oklahoma and Alabama will face off for the 2014 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La., at 8:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 2. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 14, Alabama 30
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure to purchase your Sugar Bowl tickets for Oklahoma vs. Alabama now before inventory isn’t available. Tickets begin for well under $200.
When Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jalen Saunders caught a seven-yard pass in the right corner of the Oklahoma State Cowboys‘ end zone to take a 26-24 lead with 19 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, one could practically hear a pin drop at Boone Pickens Stadium. This held true for the final 19 seconds of the game, as the Sooners would go on to win 33-24, ensuring they won the game and took their record to 10-2 in 2013.
While any win in this rivalry series is a hugely important one, there is no doubting that the results of the win are far ranging for Oklahoma. The win not only ensured that their biggest rival could not win the Big 12 Championship in 2013, but also practically guaranteed a BCS Bowl Berth for the Sooners themselves.
Some people may believe that Oklahoma does not deserve to go on to one of college football’s premier bowls after losing to Texas and Baylor by a combined score of 77-33 in 2013, but these blemishes do not outweigh a very impressive resume. Chief amongst the teams accomplishments are a Week 9 victory over a then 10th ranked Texas Tech win and a victory over sixth ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon. Overall, their victories were compiled with a combined score of 350-179, showing a dominance over teams when the Sooners do win.
Additionally, they have a very impressive roster on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Offensively, they are led by a core group of running backs — with duo Brennan Clay and Damien Williams being the most prominent — that have combined to rush for 235.83 yards per game and 18 touchdowns. Heading into Saturday’s game, their output was good enough to rank 15th in college football, and the team was able to control the ball for 34:20 against Oklahoma State by rushing for 165 yards in total.
Defensively, they are not great, but are surely good enough to keep themselves in the game against nearly any team in the nation. On Saturday this was displayed as Oklahoma made key plays whenever it was needed, and despite giving up 400 yards they allowed a mere 24 points. When things got tight they made the right play, which has been a key theme all season as the Sooners have allowed the 21st fewest points in the nation.
Finally, the most important part of Oklahoma’s resume in gaining entrance into a BCS Bowl is that they have a fan base that ranks amongst the best in the nation, and is willing to travel to any bowl game. While this monetary side of football may not seem pretty to some people, the facts are that BCS Bowl games are more about making money than being feel good stories. There is no doubt that the Sooners will bring in the cash, and in a big way.
So when BCS Bowls are announced on Sunday night, everyone should expect to see Oklahoma being amongst the team’s announced. When looking at the field of options for the bowls, it would appear they are destined for either the Sugar or Orange Bowl, and are entirely deserving of going to either.