Bowl Games

Sugar Bowl 2013: Keys to Victory for Alabama and Oklahoma

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  AJ McCarron #10 celebrates a second quarter touchdown by Jalston Fowler #45 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 1, 2014

Almost no one is expecting the No. 3-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide to have any difficulties with the 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners Thursday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Besides the appearance that Bama simply has the superior talent, it hasn't lost a nonconference game in six years. Per Covers.com, the Sooners are 16.5-point underdogs. 

What does Bob Stoops have to do to guide his team to an improbable win? What does Nick Saban need to get from the Tide to finish the season on a winning note?

Check out the keys to victory.

 

Slow Down Bama's Balanced Attack

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 26:  AJ McCarron #10 and T.J. Yeldon #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Yes, AJ McCarron has proven he is capable of making plays with his arm. McCarron was big-time all season, most notably against Texas A&M and Auburn. He completed 63 percent of his passes, had seven touchdowns and no interceptions in those games.

However, the run game is still the engine for the Crimson Tide machine. Sophomore stud, T.J. Yeldon, is the leading rusher with 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

If the Sooners are to have any prayer of upsetting Alabama, they have to contain the rushing attack. Bama only failed to dominate on the ground in two games. The Virginia Tech Hokies and Colorado State Rams—of all teams—were the only teams that held the Crimson Tide under 100 yards rushing all season.

It happened early in the campaign and both teams obviously still lost. Is the Sooners' offense better than the Hokies and Rams? Is it better suited to capitalize if the defense can contain Bama on the ground? Those points are certainly debatable.

If defensive coordinator Mike Stoops can dial up a scheme that prevents his front seven from being trampled, that's the first step towards a monumental upset.

Sep 7, 2013; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The Oklahoma Sooners beat the West Virginia M
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Per Marq Burnett of the Anniston Star, Stoops knows what he and his defense are in for. He said this during a press conference in New Orleans on Sunday:

[This] will be the most physical game that we have played all year.

Offensively, they are probably the most complete or they are the most complete team we have faced. When you at the offensive line, you look at the skill, you look at the running backs, you look at the tight ends, they present challenges across board.

Turnovers

Whenever a team is heavily favored, the quickest way to eliminate that advantage and level the playing fields is by turning the ball over. Alabama survived two games during the season in which it lost the turnover battle, but in those games, the talent discrepancy was larger than it will be against Oklahoma.

The Tide shook off two miscues against Kentucky and won 48-7, and four giveaways when they beat Mississippi State 20-7. 

It's possible that could happen again, but it would be an example of playing with proverbial fire.

The Sooners need to play a near perfect game, and that includes limiting or completely eliminating turnovers. Bama's talent will create its own opportunities, Oklahoma will only make the hill steeper to climb by giving away the football.

 

Alabama Can't Take the Sooners Lightly

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 5:  Brennan Clay #24 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs the ball for a touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Norman, Oklahoma.  The Sooner defeated the Horned Frogs (Photo b
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest potential problem Alabama might face is overconfidence. This team naturally feels as if it should be playing for a national championship. The Sugar Bowl is merely a consolation prize.

If the players are not engaged, it could open them up to a slow start. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit thinks the Sooners may surprise some folks. Per Jon Solomon of AL.com, Herbstreit said:

I think Oklahoma definitely has a chance in this game because I think they're going to play with some urgency and with a major chip on their shoulder. I think the game will be much, much closer than what a lot of people who I'm listening to or talking to think.

Allowing Oklahoma to believe it has a chance to win will make the game tougher. The Sooners are already gearing up to shock the world. Running back Brennan Clay said this, per Alabama Sports Now:

If Bama comes out with intensity from the beginning of the game—especially on the defensive side of the ball—it should have no problems handling Oklahoma.

 

Follow me. Sports is what I do.

 

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices