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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
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
 
Final
CHI 103
NYK 97
Final
HOU 90
NOP 99
Final
SAC 107
MIL 108
Final
GSW 114
OKC 109
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
UTA
 
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
BRK
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
MIN
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
TOR
 
7:30pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
CHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAN
POR
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
LAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
OKC
 
Final
RICE 72
STTHOMASTX 61
 
Final
UVA 70
CLST 54
Final
LIU 69
FIU 58
 
Final
STET 67
GSOUT 76
 
Final
QUIN 80
LEH 65
 
Final
SFLA 69
SHU 89
Final
RICH 65
SALA 54
Final
CAN 60
USB 59
 
Final
DEL 62
TEMPL 82
Final
WCU 56
WRST 69
 
Final
VERM 56
YALE 57
 
Final
SDKST 75
IDST 72
 
Final
RIDE 62
MRGST 48
 
Final
LATU 79
NICST 54
 
Final
CHAR 75
APP 65
Final
MISS 71
CCAR 68
 
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
Final
BRAD 80
EUREK 38
 
Final
PEAY 76
OAKC 52
 
Final
JST 66
SMISS 46
 
Final
SD 55
MNTST 53
 
Final
UAB 70
LSU 79
Final
EVAN 81
OHIO 69
 
Final
CSFU 72
CSDH 50
 
Final
ORST 90
DEP 59
Final
PAC 69
NEV 65
Final
USF 77
PORST 40
 
Final
IDAHO 86
WALLA 39
 
Final
UTST 57
CALST 56
 
1:30pm Today
YOUNG
WILB
 
2:00pm Today
TULA
JST
 
6:00pm Tonight
RAD
SIENA
 
7:00pm Tonight
MERC
COOK
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
CASEWEST
 
7:00pm Tonight
LIB
CPNC
 
7:00pm Tonight
SCAR
CLEM
 
7:00pm Tonight
CMICH
CONC
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIAMI
EKENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
GWEBB
HIWASSEE
 
7:00pm Tonight
ODU
MDES
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
NIAG
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NCAT
 
7:00pm Tonight
FAM
UNF
 
7:00pm Tonight
NORST
NARZ
 
7:00pm Tonight
DART
NILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
MORE
NKENTUCKY
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCSB
SDCHR
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJ
GAELS
 
7:00pm Tonight
ALA
STILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
HAMP
TENST
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENN
TENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
WMARY
WSHMD
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLGC
FUR
 
7:30pm Tonight
CALST
SDKST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MTST
CHAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
DICKINSON
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAMON
LSUALEX
 
8:00pm Tonight
PRIN
LIP
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
MLGN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MINN
SEAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
LOYC
SUTAH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
WINT
 
8:05pm Tonight
SILL
NO
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
ALAAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
TTU
ARKPB
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
COLST
 
9:00pm Tonight
CREI
TXPA
 
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
EWASH
 
10:05pm Tonight
UTST
IDST
 
11:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ARZ
 
11:59pm Tonight
CHAM
HAW
 
Final
PIT 1
COL 0
Final
PHI 1
FLA 2
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
CLB 4
WAS 5
Final
MON 1
ANA 2
Final
SJS 4
EDM 3
Final
LOS 6
STL 4
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
TAM
 
7:30pm Tonight
OTT
ANA
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
NYI
 
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
BOS
 
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
DAL
 
Final
JAC 21
TEN 13