After Auburn returned a field goal and ended Alabama's hopes of a national title, the Crimson Tide were relegated to the Sugar Bowl and a date against Oklahoma.
This isn't particularly good news for either school.
Although the Sugar Bowl is nothing to sneeze at, it isn't going to leave a lasting impression on Nick Saban's resume. Not that anyone should expect Saban to demand anything other than his players' best.
The lack of a shot at a national title doesn't appear to have hurt fan interest for the Tide:
Saban is 5-1 in bowl games at Alabama, and this Crimson Tide squad is just as talented as the last two, which went on to win national championships. This year's squad was just not quite as lucky.
That is why Alabama's inclusion in this game is bad news for Oklahoma. The Sooners will not bring the same talent level to the Superdome. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops did his part to put a positive spin on the matchup, though:
“Not that I’m excited to play Alabama, but I’m glad it’s not LSU” Stoops said shortly after landing in NOLA. http://t.co/Z0Y74LqD15— GEAUX TIGERS (@GeauxTigers) December 28, 2013
The Sooners battled through inconsistent quarterback and defensive performances. They did, however, end the season in good form. They posted a three-game winning streak that included a season-ending 33-24 triumph over Oklahoma State.
If the Sooners have used the momentum from their late stretch of success to fuel a good month of practices while Alabama has spent more time lamenting missed opportunities, perhaps an upset will be in store.
When: Thursday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Betting Line: Alabama -15.5, according to Bovada on Dec. 30
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Source: USA Today
Source: USA Today
Key Storyline: Who Will Step Up Under Center for the Sooners?
Bob Stoops: OU starting QB against Alabama will be 'game time decision' http://t.co/E9u3fqGeUv— CollegeFootballTalk (@CFTalk) December 18, 2013
On the season, the Sooners are 90th in the nation in yards per pass attempt, and it's not like they have been playing the nation's fiercest defenses. The Big 12 has seen improved defense over the past few seasons, but it's still a friendly place for quarterbacks.
As a result of those struggles, the quarterback position has been a bit of a revolving door, and three quarterbacks threw more than a pass against Oklahoma State in Oklahoma's last game.
Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson combined for just 5-of-16 passing with no touchdowns and an interception. Luckily for the Sooners, Blake Bell came in and went 10-of-16 for 140 yards, and he threw the game-winning touchdown.
We will see if Bell or any of the other quarterbacks will keep a hot hand rolling against Alabama. This is not Nick Saban's most intimidating defense, but it is very good. Alabama is 21st in the nation in yards allowed per pass, and its 10 interceptions are one more than the nine touchdown passes it allowed.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Oklahoma 20
Oklahoma will keep this game close early with some inspired play. The Sooners will begin to wilt, however, as Alabama continues to grind out yards and points and the Sooners are forced to try and keep up. This will lead to a second half dominated by Alabama.
All stats via CFBStats.com.