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Sugar Bowl Preview: Alabama vs. Oklahoma

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Alabama 2013: Alabama was the presumptive BCS favorite. They hit an in-form Auburn in the Iron Bowl, had this horrible fluke ending happen and have not played a game since. That could deflate them. It could motivate them. It could leave them unfazed. Fill in the blank based on the result.  On paper, this team is about 95 percent what it was in 2012. Top 10 total offense with balance, albeit working around a not quite as dominant line. A dominant but not historically dominant defense. Texas A&M was the only opponent to average more than six yards per play against them.

Oklahoma 2013: This was a transition year. The Sooners were outside the Top 50 in yards/play offense, and the Top 30 in yards/play defense. They cycled quarterbacks, showed flashes and seldom did the same thing well game to game. Their pass defense was a strength, except when it wasn’t. Nice road wins at Notre Dame and at Oklahoma State were countered with getting rolled by both Baylor and Texas away from home.

Bob Stoops is sad during Baylor game

Big Mouth Bob: After being creamed by nouveau SEC-team Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, Bob Stoops had a chippy off-season. He termed the consensus opinion the SEC was the best football conference “propaganda.” He also took issue with the “SEC Defense” narrative, suggesting it was a product of the quarterback play in the conference. The latter point was not entirely off base. The SEC, rife with talented veteran quarterbacks, had just one Top 25 yards/play defense. In 2012, the conference had four of the top 11. Stoops did not extend that criticism to Alabama this winter.

That May Look Familiar: Oklahoma switched to a multiple 3-4 look this season. Their system was modeled on Alabama’s 3-4, to the point that Crimson Tide coaches advised on its installation.

Mr. BCS: By one metric, Bob Stoops could be considered the most successful (or at least consistent) coach of the BCS era. He is making his ninth BCS bowl apperance, the most of any coach (Saban has 7). Critics will note, however, he has lost five of the previous eight appearances, including his last three BCS title games.

Prognosis: Nick Saban is the Jose Mourinho of college football. The beauty of his work is getting very talented people to do basic tasks with the utmost efficiency. Alabama teams are inveterately functional. They convert third downs. They score touchdowns in the red zone. They stop other teams from doing both and they seldom turn the ball over. The Sooners have not approached that level of proficiency this season. Oklahoma is 77th in third down conversions and 110th in red zone touchdown percentage. We picked Alabama at (-15). The line has moved up to (-17). Tis a steep price to pay, but it’s hard to see anything besides an emphatic Alabama win. 31-10.

Dee Dee Bonner and Katherine Webb during LSU blowout

 

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