NCAA prediction and Free Pick Sooners vs. Crimson tide Sugar Bowl 2014
#11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) vs. #3 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) 01/02- 8:30PM EST
ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL- New Orleans, LA
Line: ALA -15.5
Now that the No. 3 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide know that coach Nick Saban will not be leaving for the vacant Texas head coaching job, they can now focus their attention on the Oklahoma Sooners in this years Sugar Bowl on Thursday night.
Just how focus will they be remains to be seen though after a stunning last second loss to now No. 2 Auburn Tigers back in their regular-season finale, who will be playing in next weeks BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
It was that loss that prevented the Tide (11-1) from playing for a third-straight BCS national title and fourth in five years, but the good news is, Saban is staying at the University of Alabama and says he plans to retire in Tuscaloosa after agreeing to a contract extension back on December 13 that will pay him a reported $7 million a year.
There were talks around college football that Saban would leave to take the vacant Texas job, which is in the market for a high-profile coach following the resignation of Mack Brown.
“I don’t have any more reactions to it. I think it’s kind of over so why do we want to talk about that?” Saban said.
While most programs consider their season a success playing in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama still has to be stinging from that bitter defeat back on Nov. 30 to Auburn in which they gave up 13 points in the final 32 seconds at Auburn which was capped off by Chris Davis 100-yard return on Adam Griffith’s missed 57-yard field goal attempt.
“We’re fired up playing Oklahoma,” defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan said. “It’s not for a national championship or anything, but we’re going to go into it like it is.
“We’re going to try to finish this season as strong as possible.”
The Crimson Tide do not want to let the Auburn loss affect their Sugar Bowl performance similar to the 2008 season when they were knocked out of the BCS title game and loss to Utah 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl.
“(Saban told us) we shouldn’t let this loss bring us down to the point where we just keep hang-dogging and keep our heads down going into the game and lose (the Sugar Bowl), too,” left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo said.
Oklahoma (10-2) will be making their first trip back to the Sugar Bowl since 2004, when they lost to Saban’s LSU team that earned a split for the national title.
Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron will be playing in his final college game, won the Maxwell Award and finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up this year to Jameis Winston.
McCarron threw for 20 touchdowns with just two interceptions after September.
“I think AJ McCarron is the best player in the country, I really do,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Dec. 8. “If I had a vote, that’s who I’d vote for.”
And while McCarron has been solid calling the signals for the Tide, Oklahoma still has no idea who will be taking the snaps on Thursday night as quarterbacks Trevor Knight, Blake Bell and Kendal Thompson are all fighting for the starting job. Coach Stoops said his starter for the Sugar Bowl will be a “game-time decision.”
Knight began the season as the starter but got injured in the second game and Bell took over for the next seven games where he played well but not great. Bell then got hurt back in Nov. 16 and watched Knight led the team to victory at Kansas State 41-31.
All three QB’s saw playing time in a 33-24 victory at Oklahoma State that put the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl, but it was Bell who threw a touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders with 19 seconds left that provided the game winner.
“I’m sure he’s extremely confident right now and he should be,” Oklahoma Sooner center Gabe Ikard said. “To come in and do that on the last drive was impressive and really made our season.”
Regardless of who Stoops appoints as the starter, they will have their hands full against a Crimson Tide defense that is ranked fifth in the nation overall and second-ranked in scoring defense with 11.3 points per game. They are also fifth against the pass with 166.3 yards per game and 11th versus the run with 108.3 yards per game.
It’s Alabama’s strong defense coupled with their offense that oddsmakers have made the Tide a huge (minus -15.5) point favorite, but get the latest odds up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.
Oklahoma lost last year in the Cotton Bowl 41-13 to Texas A&M to end their three-game bowl winning streak and will need to find an answer in containing the receiving corps of the Tide, which is led by sophomore standout Amari Cooper. Running back T.J. Yeldon ran for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Too many weapons for Alabama on both sides of the ball and although I expect an exciting game, I predict the Crimson Tide taking this year’s Sugar Bowl.
“We’re going to have to attack, just like we did before. It’s no mystery,” Sooners linebacker Eric Striker said. “Everyone know this is the best team, even though they did lose. Even though they lost. I don’t see it.
“I think they are still on of the best teams. It is a great opportunity for us to show what we can do.”
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter