If it weren't for Chris Davis' improbable 100-yard touchdown return on an Adam Griffith missed field goal, Alabama would be playing for its third consecutive national title game.
Instead, the one-loss Crimson Tide were relegated to tonight's Allstate Sugar Bowl where they'll matchup with an Oklahoma Sooners team thinking upset. How exactly does Oklahoma go about shocking No. 3-ranked Alabama? The Sooners will need a couple of players to step up big time in New Orleans.
Luckily, they have players that are more than capable of competing with the Crimson Tide's star-studded cast of characters.
Quarterback Trevor Knight
Sooners head coach Bob Stoops has yet to name a starting quarterback for the Sugar Bowl; however, I think Trevor Knight could be the man getting the call. The 6'1" freshman signal-caller hasn't exactly shined from the pocket this season, throwing for just 471 yards on 47 completions in limited action this season. However, there's one facet of his game that makes him appealing in this game: His mobility.
In Alabama's lone loss of the season, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall was able to beat the Crimson Tide defense with his legs and instincts. Marshall ran the ball 17 times for 99 yards and a score. He also used his mobility to set up the pass, especially on a late 39-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates. Marshall ran left and caught the attention of the entire Alabama defense. Then at the last second, he whipped the ball to an open Coates who trotted down the field for the easy touchdown.
In an interview with Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman, Knight addressed the offensive game plan for the upcoming game.
We're gonna try to run the zone read and pick up the tempo a little bit on them just like those teams have done,” Knight told Kersey referring to the performances of Auburn and Texas A&M against Alabama. “We've got a great game plan coming in.”
If Stoops and Knight want to have any success against the stingy Crimson Tide defensive front, they'll have to emulate the successes of Marshall and Auburn.
Defensive Back Aaron Colvin
For Alabama, quarterback A.J. McCarron's best friend is big-play threat Amari Cooper. Taking away Cooper's big-play ability is crucial for a successful defensive showing by the Sooners. Senior corner Aaron Colvin should be the guy in charge of shutting down Cooper.
Colvin, a first-team All-Big 12 defensive back, has battled through injuries this season. However, after some much needed rest, Colvin looks primed and ready to make an impact against the Crimson Tide.
The 6'0" corner has the size to play with bigger receivers, but he also has the ability to step up in the run game and make plays. In 10 games this year, Colvin has had 49 tackles for Mike Stoops' defense.
Taking away McCarron's favorite target might be the first step in limiting a talented Crimson Tide attack.
Wide Receiver/ Returner Jalen Saunders
Often times, in order for an underdog to pull of an upset, it needs big plays that can change the scope of a game in a single snap. Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders can accomplish that in a multitude of ways.
Saunders, a speedy transfer From Fresno State, is pivotal to the Sooners attack on both offense and special teams. Against Oklahoma State in the final game of the season, he put all of his skills on display.
Saunders had a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown, had two carries for 49 yards and caught five passes for 39 yards, including the game-winning touchdown.
Saunders is without a doubt the "x-factor" in the Sugar Bowl. If he has a similar performance against Alabama like he had against Oklahoma State, the Crimson Tide could be in trouble.