The 2014 Sugar Bowl pits two traditional powerhouse programs entering the game with very different mindsets.
Alabama was one second away from potentially playing in its third consecutive BCS National Championship Game. The Tide’s dominant season was derailed by one of the wildest plays in football history.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, is fortunate to be in a BCS game. The Sooners had an inconsistent season and made the Sugar Bowl due in large part to their dramatic Bedlam victory.
Let’s take a look at the important matchups between two programs sharing a combined 22 national championships.
Defense wins … Sugar Bowls
Each team is built similarly, with run-heavy offenses and staunch defense.
Oklahoma led the Big 12 in passing and total defense. The Sooners also gave up slightly over 21 points per game. Considering they played Baylor’s top-flight offense, OK State’s 15th-ranked offense, and a pass-happy Texas Tech squad, that’s not too bad.
Alabama was the SEC’s leader in all defensive categories. They also rank No. 2 nationally in points allowed (11.3) and in the top five for passing and total defense.
The Mouth vs. The South
Bob Stoops is on record for thinking the SEC is overrated. Now he gets to put his playbook where his mouth is. The Big 12′s best coach gets to face off against the premier coach in the country, Nick Saban. If Oklahoma knocks off a stacked Alabama team, there will be a lot less eye-rolling the next time Stoops starts his annual offseason SEC bashing.
Aside from Xs and Os, bowl games usually come down to motivation. Alabama’s players, regardless of what they say publicly, are disappointed to be playing on Jan. 2 instead of Jan. 6. How they respond to being in a lesser bowl will determine this game’s outcome.
Can Saban escape the drama of his new contract and heartbreak of the Iron Bowl to motivate his players? Having a leader like A.J. McCarron playing his final game will go a long way in motivating the Tide to play a full 60 minutes.
On the other hand, there is Bob Stoops. Big Game Bob has faltered quite a bit in bowl games of late. However, it’s often due to his team being the favorite and less than enthused to be competing in a perceived lesser bowl (see above). This time, the Sooners enter as spoilers. They can give the oft-maligned Big 12 bragging rights by defeating one of the top teams in the country.
This game features two of the best coaches in the nation playing similar games. Look for each defense to exploit the passing game. Also, be mindful of the crowd. Tide fans will make the short drive to NOLA in order to send McCarron off in style, and thank their coach for not chasing Texas oil money.
It’s time to settle it. Who wins the Sugar Bowl clash between these powerhouse programs?