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31

(11) Oklahoma (10-2) vs. (3) Alabama (11-1)



Thursday, January 2, 8:30 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: No college football game has ever featured two teams with more combined bowl victories than the 80th Sugar Bowl, as the 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners take on the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday night.

Oklahoma, which has 27 bowl wins to its credit, brings a 10-2 record into this contest, and the team has won three straight and five of its last six games overall. The Sooners, who went 7-2 in Big 12 Conference play to finish in a three-way tie for second place, are appearing in their seventh Sugar Bowl, the most of any school outside of the SEC, and they are 4-2 all-time in the event.

OU's last appearance in the Sugar Bowl was in 2004 when it lost the BCS National Championship to LSU, 21-14. Its last victory in the game came in a 14-0 final against Penn State back in 1972.

The Sooners are making their 47th bowl appearance, earning their 15th straight bowl bid under head coach Bob Stoops. Only three schools have longer active consecutive streaks reaching a bowl game -- Virginia Tech (21), Georgia (17) and Georgia Tech (17). The Sooners have an all-time bowl record of 27-18-1, and have won three of their last four bowl appearances.

A win in this game would give Oklahoma its 10th season of at least 11 victories under Stoops.

"The University of Oklahoma is looking forward to the challenge of competing against the University of Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl," said Stoops. "The Allstate Sugar Bowl has long been a marquee postseason destination, and we're excited about the University of Oklahoma being selected to play in a BCS game once again."

The Crimson Tide are making a record 14th appearance in the Sugar Bowl, and the team owns the Sugar Bowl record with eight wins. The last Sugar Bowl appearance for Alabama was following the 2008 season when it took on Utah. However, the Sugar Bowl hosted the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, in which the Crimson Tide defeated conference rival LSU, 21-0, to win their 14th national title.

Alabama is appearing in its sixth BCS bowl game, and the fifth in the last six seasons under head coach Nick Saban.

The Tide, who own an 11-1 record with their only loss coming in the regular- season finale against intrastate rival Auburn (34-28), have played in more bowl games (61) and earned more bowl wins (34) than any school in college football history. Alabama is making its seventh consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Nick Saban, and the 10th straight overall for the school.

"I know Alabama and the Sugar Bowl have a rich tradition together, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to play such a tremendous program like the University of Oklahoma," said Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. "The Sugar Bowl gives us a chance to play our final game together on one of the grandest stages college football has to offer."

Alabama (11-1 overall) and Oklahoma (10-2) have met four times previously, but are facing each other for the first time since 2003. Oklahoma owns a 2-1-1 series lead over the Crimson Tide, with two of the games taking place in the postseason.

Despite an overabundance of talent, the Oklahoma offense was a bit inconsistent this season. Sure there were explosive efforts like those against Tulsa (51 points), Iowa State (48 points) and Kansas State (41 points), but there were also some lackluster showings against the likes of West Virginia (16 points), TCU (20 points), Texas (20 points) and Baylor (12 points). Overall, the Sooners posted averages of 31.8 points and 422.5 yards per game, with the run (235.8 ypg) outproducing the pass (186.7 ypg) most of the time.

The season began with uncertainty at the quarterback position, although junior Blake Bell eventually cemented himself as the starter. Bell completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,648 yards, 12 TDs and five interceptions, and senior Jalen Saunders proved to be the team's top option down field, as he hauled in 56 balls for 654 yards and six scores. Sophomore Sterling Shepard was also effective in catching 44 passes for 540 yards and six TDs. As for the OU ground game, senior Brennan Clay spearheaded the attack with 957 yards and six scores, while Damien Williams also got in on the act with 553 yards and seven scores before being dismissed from the team in late November.

The Oklahoma defense was largely effective in holding foes to 21.3 points and 336.3 yards per contest. Opponents generated 138.3 ypg on the ground and 198.0 ypg through the air, while converting only 33 percent of their third-down opportunities. The Sooners were credited with 26 sacks while allowing only 14, and they logged 20 turnovers.

Sophomore linebacker Frank Shannon was the most active defender on the team, making 85 stops, while second-year defensive end Charles Tapper was a disruptive force in the backfield with 9.0 TFL, which includes 5.5 sacks. In the secondary, senior Gabe Lynn recorded three of the team's 14 interceptions, while freshman Zack Sanchez paces the club in both passes defended (13) and PBU (12).

Led by its veteran signal caller, the Alabama offense was responsible for 38.8 points and 448.9 yards per game during the regular season. McCarron, who won both the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Maxwell Awards, completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards, 26 TDs and only five picks. The team doesn't have that one sure-fire stud running down field, as sophomore Amari Cooper, senior Kevin Norwood and junior Christion Jones each have 36 receptions for a combined 1,502 yards and 13 TDs. As for the 'Bama run game, sophomore T.J. Yeldon has been the workhorse with 1,163 yards and 13 scores, although fellow sophomore Kenyan Drake has also been effective in accounting for 694 yards and eight scores.

Alabama owns one of the top defensive units in the country, finishing the regular season ranked second in points allowed (11.3 ppg) and fifth in total defense (274.7 ypg). The Tide have been particularly stingy against the pass (166.3 ypg, fourth), while also doing a tremendous job defending the run (108.3 ypg, 11th). The unit is tops in the SEC with regard to an opponent's third-down conversion rate (.335), while also turning the trick on fourth down (.222) and in red zone scoring (.636).

Senior linebacker C.J. Mosley, the 2013 Butkus Award winner, is one of busier defensive players in the SEC, ranking in a tie for fourth place with 102 total tackles, which includes a team-high 9.0 TFL. His closest teammate (sophomore DB Landon Collins) has 61 stops, and no player has more than 5.5 sacks (freshman defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson) or two picks (three guys).

Saban, who recently received a lucrative contract extension from Alabama after his name was bandied about with regard to the pending opening at the University of Texas, knows his team will have its hands full against a very good Oklahoma squad. But the Tide are the better team in this matchup, and they should be able to make enough big plays to claim another BCS bowl win.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 35, Oklahoma 20

12/30 11:52:17 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NCCU 21
NCA 14
 
Final
DAVID 72
UNC 90
 
2nd
ECU 10
TULA 3
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
CAR
9:30pm Tonight
DUKE
STAN
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
MIA
7:00pm Tonight
IND
PHO
7:30pm Tonight
NYK
PHI
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
DAL
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
SAC
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
BRK
8:30pm Tonight
MIL
WAS
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
NOP
Final
UGA 55
CHSO 9
 
Final
UF 52
EKU 3
 
Final
OSU 42
IND 27
 
Final
OKLA 44
KU 7
 
Final
UAB 18
MARS 23
 
Final
NEB 24
MINN 28
 
Final
PURD 14
NW 38
 
Final
ILL 16
PSU 14
 
Final
MSU 45
RUTG 3
 
Final
UCF 53
SMU 7
 
Final
SCAR 37
SALABAMA 12
 
Final
WKENT 45
TXSANANTO 7
 
Final
WAKE 6
VT 3
 
Final
ODU 30
LATU 27
 
Final
ARST 52
WASU 31
 
Final
CMICH 20
WMICH 32
 
Final
COLST 58
NMU 20
 
4th
LALAF 16
APPST 28
 
4th
BST 45
EMICH 16
 
Final
HOU 38
TULSA 28
 
2nd
UTAH 0
ARZ 21
 
Half
FSU 17
BC 10
 
2nd
UNT 14
FIU 14
 
2nd
CLEM 21
GASTATE 0
 
2nd
ND 6
LOU 17
 
2nd
MICH 6
MD 6
 
2nd
ARK 17
MISS 0
 
2nd
PITT 10
SYR 0
 
2nd
ISU 14
TTU 14
 
2nd
ECU 10
TULA 3
 
2nd
IOWA 3
WISC 16
 
2nd
MEM 14
SFLA 10
 
2nd
CAL 0
STAN 10
 
2nd
NMST 7
LAMON 10
 
2nd
ALA 10
WCAR 7
 
1st
OREG 0
COL 0
 
7:00pm Tonight
MTST
FATL
7:00pm Tonight
UVA
MIAMI
7:00pm Tonight
AUB
SAMF
7:30pm Tonight
TENN
MIZZ
7:30pm Tonight
BAY
OKST
7:30pm Tonight
MSST
VANDY
8:00pm Tonight
UCONN
CIN
8:00pm Tonight
UCLA
USC
10:15pm Tonight
WYO
BSU
10:30pm Tonight
NEV
FRES
10:30pm Tonight
WASH
ORST
11:00pm Tonight
HAW
UNLV
Final
PRIN 68
INCWORD 79
 
Final
UMASS 68
ND 81
 
Final
GEOR 80
RMU 66
 
Final
LAS 59
PETE 50
 
Final
VT 63
APP 65
 
Final
IUPUI 71
BST 69
 
Final
WMICH 91
DRAK 75
 
Final
RICH 80
HIGH 56
 
Final
MSST 71
UTST 63
 
Final
CAMP 48
COL 53
 
Final
DAVID 72
UNC 90
 
Final
NIOWA 66
UNF 49
 
Final
CSNO 79
SAMF 72
 
Final
YALE 61
MLOWELL 63
 
Final
NEV 50
CLEM 59
 
Final
PROV 80
FSU 54
 
Final
MARQ 89
NEOM 97
 
2nd
DET 58
SALA 48
 
2nd
TXSA 69
TXST 64
 
2nd
CHIST 64
TRINCHRIS 43
 
Half
UMO 24
LIB 27
 
Half
BONA 28
CAN 30
 
1st
SAV 39
CLST 38
 
Half
NW 27
ELON 29
 
Half
RFLSH 31
MDES 26
 
Half
CARK 33
SEMIZ 39
 
Half
AFA 45
WSCO 30
 
1st
YOUNG 16
LONG 15
 
1st
MTST 20
SOUTH 11
 
1st
ARKLR 5
UMKC 6
 
5:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
DUQ
 
5:00pm Tonight
WEBER
LSU
5:00pm Tonight
BUT
GHND
 
5:00pm Tonight
CSFU
SJST
5:00pm Tonight
WOFF
SD
5:00pm Tonight
NORST
TXSOU
 
5:00pm Tonight
COOK
TOWS
5:00pm Tonight
SILL
YALE
5:30pm Tonight
KNST
ALCOR
 
5:30pm Tonight
MAN
BING
5:30pm Tonight
JVST
MILES
 
5:30pm Tonight
CSOU
WRST
 
6:00pm Tonight
CITA
BOBJONES
 
6:00pm Tonight
INDST
BRO
6:00pm Tonight
WYO
COL
6:00pm Tonight
GSOUT
FCCOL
 
6:00pm Tonight
CCAR
PIED
 
7:00pm Tonight
LATU
AMER
7:00pm Tonight
MAR
ARMY
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENT
CHAT
7:00pm Tonight
EKENT
CLERMONT
 
7:00pm Tonight
SMU
EWASH
7:00pm Tonight
NIAG
HART
 
7:00pm Tonight
PENN
LAF
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCSB
MASTERS
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
MNTER
 
7:00pm Tonight
VMI
UNCW
7:00pm Tonight
RIU
NEB
7:00pm Tonight
NKENTUCKY
OHMWSTRN
 
7:00pm Tonight
GTDNS
QUIN
 
7:00pm Tonight
FAIR
SHSU
7:00pm Tonight
EMICH
UNCG
7:00pm Tonight
ETST
UNCA
 
7:00pm Tonight
TEMPL
UNLV
7:00pm Tonight
STJOE
VERM
 
7:30pm Tonight
MON
CCST
7:30pm Tonight
KSU
ILLCH
7:30pm Tonight
LIP
TRANSYLVAN
 
7:30pm Tonight
FUR
UCD
8:00pm Tonight
WKENT
BEL
8:00pm Tonight
NDST
HAMP
 
8:00pm Tonight
IND
LAM
 
8:00pm Tonight
TTU
MIZST
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
MRGST
 
8:00pm Tonight
NAVY
NE
8:00pm Tonight
ALAAM
OAKW
 
8:00pm Tonight
WILL
SELA
 
8:00pm Tonight
TULA
SONO
 
8:00pm Tonight
TXPA
A
 
8:00pm Tonight
RICE
WMARY
8:30pm Tonight
TXARL
HOUB
 
8:30pm Tonight
MINN
UMBC
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTEP
NMST
 
9:00pm Tonight
GONZ
STTHOM
9:00pm Tonight
SUTAH
WLVRN
 
9:30pm Tonight
PBY
MORE
9:30pm Tonight
DUKE
STAN
10:00pm Tonight
WISC
BSU
10:00pm Tonight
PORT
SIUE
2nd Intermission
OTT 2
STL 3
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
BUF
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CLB
7:00pm Tonight
TOR
DET
7:00pm Tonight
TAM
MIN
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
MON
7:00pm Tonight
NYI
PIT
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
FLA
8:00pm Tonight
DAL
LOS
9:00pm Tonight
COL
CAR
10:00pm Tonight
EDM
CHI
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
NJD
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
ARI
Final
NCCU 21
NCA 14