Sugar Bowl: Preview, Predictions, TV info

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

What: Allstate Sugar Bowl

Who: Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2 Big 12)

When: Thursday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (74,000), New Orleans, La.

Opening Line: Alabama -14.5

What matters: Good news, Oklahoma: Alabama's last trip to the Sugar Bowl ended in a 31-17 loss to Utah! Bad news, Oklahoma: that's the only one of Nick Saban's six bowl games with the Tide that hasn't ended in not only an Alabama win, but an Alabama win against the spread. (Saban seems to have it out for BCS-level nonconference foes in general; the Tide have both won and covered their last 11 such games.) And despite the loss at Auburn, this is still the most loaded roster in the country, one that will boast matchup advantages over the Sooners at virtually every position on the field. (Placekicker excepted? Yes, placekicker excepted.) Bob Stoops showed against Oklahoma State that he could win a game, a big game, via special teams, effective gadgetry, and just enough timely quarterbacking. He's about to have to do it again.

Who matters: The identity of the Sooners' quarterback has been something of a question mark all season, and will be again after Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson both saw snaps vs. the Cowboys ... and then Blake Bell rode in to save the day with a 10-of-16, 140-yard, 1 (game-winning) touchdown performance. If Knight is healthy, he and Bell should both see time again, but whoever's under center will have to do their best to reacquire the same lightning Bell caught in a bottle in Stillwater; for the season, the Sooners finished 90th in the FBS in yards per-passing attempt at just 6.6, and that won't be good enough against the likes of Alabama.

Matchup question: Led by star corner Aaron Colvin, the Sooners rank 15th in pass defense and 18th in opponent's QB rating. Can the Oklahoma secondary handle Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Co. well enough that Stoops can continue to commit extra bodies to stopping T.J. Yeldon and the Tide's brutal rushing attack?

Prediction: Anyone who saw Oklahoma's offense struggle mightily against Baylor and Texas has to be of an awfully imaginitive mind to see them accomplishing much of anything against C.J. Mosley and the Alabama defense. Stoops will have his defense ready, but there's only so long the dame can be held back. Alabama 35, Oklahoma 13.

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