2014 BCS Bowl Picks: Oklahoma vs Alabama Odds and Predictions – Allstate Sugar Bowl Picks 1/2/2014: Two of the most prestigious programs in college football will meet Thursday night when the 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) face the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1. 7-1 SEC) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sooners pulled off an upset over rival Oklahoma State on the final week of the regular season to snag the at-large bid, and after a stunning loss to rival Auburn in the their finale, the Crimson Tide settled for an at-large bid instead of a chance at a national championship three-peat. The matchup will be only the fifth-ever meeting between the two teams, and the Crimson Tide are 16-point favorites.
For Oklahoma, a strong running game has made up for the lack of consistent quarterback play this season. Three different players have seen time under center for a passing attack that ranks 99th in the country, and Sooners’ coach Bob Stoops recently announced that he won’t name a starter for the bowl game until game day. On the plus side, Brennan Clay has emerged as the lead back for a ground attack that ranks in the top 20 nationally, and Oklahoma’s offensive line has proven to be one of the best, as well. The Sooners have also managed respectable numbers on defense for most of the year, ranking in the top 25 in terms of fewest points allowed.
A balanced offense and excellent defense were the secrets to Alabama’s success again this season. Senior quarterback A.J. McCarron and running back T.J. Yeldon have been the stars of an offense that ranks in the top 20 nationally in points per game and in the top 25 in rushing. On the defensive side of the ball, the Crimson Tide are allowing the second-fewest points in the country at just 11.3 per game. An athletic group of linebackers led by C.J. Mosley is the biggest strength of the unit.
The Sooners Win If:
If the Sooners are going to pull off the upset, they need be able to establish a somewhat consistent running game. None of Oklahoma’s quarterbacks have shown they can be a consistent passer, and if the Sooners are forced into obvious passing situations, things could get ugly. Defensively, the Sooners can’t afford to allow the Crimson Tide to control the line of the scrimmage and gain big chunks of yards on early downs. If Oklahoma protects their QB deficiencies by establishing a ground game and can make the Alabama offense a little more predictable by forcing third longs, the Sooners have a chance at winning the game.
The Crimson Tide Win If:
For Alabama, focus is the biggest hurdle. After winning the last two BCS titles, a trip to the Sugar Bowl could easily be seen as a disappointment, and if the Crimson Tide come out flat, Oklahoma could jump on top early and take control of the game. Outside of being mentally prepared, Alabama needs to do everything it can to force whoever is under center for Oklahoma to have to make plays. For the Crimson Tide, the perfect scenario would be their defense being able to slow down the Sooners’ ground game and their offense rolling early and putting the Sooners in a hole. If Oklahoma is forced to throw the ball to try to win, Alabama is going to be in the driver’s seat.
While there is little doubt that Alabama is the more complete team on both sides of the ball, motivation is a legit concern. Keep in mind that the Crimson Tide faced a similar situation in 2008 when a loss in the SEC title game knocked them out of the BCS title game and left them with a Sugar Bowl matchup with Utah. Well, the Utes jumped on top of a flat Alabama team 21-0 and never looked back. However, something tells me that a senior QB like McCarron isn’t going to want to end his decorated career on a sour note, and he will make sure his teammates are up for the game. I also have a feeling that a defense that has only allowed more than 17 points in a game to the top-10 offenses of Texas A&M and Auburn will have little trouble slowing down an Oklahoma offense that ranks 48th in scoring and doesn’t have a reliable quarterback. Alabama will come to play.
Prediction: Alabama Crimson Tide (-16) Cover the Spread
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