Sugar Bowl 2014: Biggest Takeaways from Oklahoma's Upset Win over Alabama

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Bob Stoops and MVP Trevor Knight #9 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrate after their 45-31 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Most expected the Alabama Crimson Tide to roll past a seemingly overmatched Oklahoma Sooners squad during the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, but that simply wasn't the case.

Oklahoma took it to 'Bama in spectacular fashion and the entire landscape of college football could be changing because of it.

Some might argue that it was merely a blip on the radar for the Tide, but they will enter the 2014 season on a low note while the Sooners will have a ton of momentum behind them. If nothing else, the Sugar Bowl revealed a lot about both programs as well as their respective leadership structures.

As college football pundits still try to process what happened to Alabama, here are the three biggest takeaways from Oklahoma's shocking Sugar Bowl victory.


The Sooners Have Found Their QB

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Trevor Knight #9 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates with the MVP trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 45-31 during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisian
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest thing that held Oklahoma back all season long was the inability to settle on a quarterback.

Trevor Knight started the year as the No. 1 guy, but his play was disjointed and he eventually got injured. Blake Bell stepped in and had his moments, but he didn't look anything like an elite signal-caller either.

There were plenty of questions surrounding who would start under center for Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, but head coach Bob Stoops clearly made the right decision.

Stoops went with Knight and the freshman made sure that his coach didn't regret it. The young fireballer earned MVP honors by throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns against Alabama's vaunted defense.

Nobody could have possibly predicted that Knight would play that well, especially since ESPN Stats & Info indicates that he had just five passing touchdowns overall heading into the game.

Strong quarterback play was the one thing missing from Oklahoma's game all season long, but that appears to have been solved. With that in mind, the Sooners will almost certainly enter next season among the top national title contenders. Alabama will be in the conversation as well, but with A.J. McCarron graduating, things could get tricky.

Knight's performance signaled big things for Oklahoma and potentially cloudy days ahead for the Tide.


Alabama Can't Get Up for Non-BCS Title Games

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after a penalty during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There is no denying what Nick Saban has accomplished since settling in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He is 74-15 as the Crimson Tide's head coach and 'Bama owns a 5-2 record in bowls. That includes three national titles.

At the same time, Saban seems to struggle when it comes to motivating his team to play in bowls other than the BCS National Championship Game. This is an issue that first manifested itself in the 2009 Sugar Bowl when Alabama was shocked by Utah.

That loss was slightly more surprising than Oklahoma's win this year, but the Tide were favored by 17 points over the Sooners, so it was a significant upset. Alabama expects to win the national title every year, so playing in the Sugar Bowl was understandably disappointing.

As Saban pointed out to Alex Apple of SportsDayDFW, there were simply a ton of deficiencies in Alabama's game against Oklahoma.

I don't think we played very well defensively in the first half, and never got any stops. We created a lot of the adversity that we faced with some of the things we did and didn't do…We didn't play very well on third down. We didn't get off the field on third and long three or four times in the game which were critical factors.

All of that points to a lack of preparation and motivation. It's difficult to get on Saban's case too much because of the success that he has had, but this was definitely a bad loss for the Alabama program.

It now creates a lot of questions regarding how the Tide will cope with life after McCarron and may erase Alabama as the favorite to win the national title next season.

Tide fans certainly hope that it was just a one-time slip-up that stemmed from the disappointment of not reaching the National Championship Game, though.


Bob Stoops Is the Best Head Coach in College Football

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Bob Stoops celebrates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 45-31 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If the only measure of head coaching greatness is winning national championships, then Saban is the best in college football. With that said, there are other factors to take into account.

Saban had a stacked team that, by all accounts, should have run Oklahoma out of town in the Sugar Bowl. Stoops pushed all the right buttons on both sides of the ball, though, and there is absolutely no question that he outmaneuvered Saban in each and every way.

Stoops doesn't receive nearly as much credit as he deserves since the Sooners have won just one national championship under his watch, and that came way back in 2000. Oklahoma is in the mix every year, however, and Stoops has a lot to do with that.

By beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, SportsCenter noted that Stoops also became the first head coach in the BCS era to win every BCS bowl as well as a national title.

That is an immense accomplishment and most definitely shouldn't be ignored. Stoops had plenty of issues to overcome this season, but still managed to win 11 games, qualify for a BCS bowl and beat a team that many called the best in the nation.

Stoops did more than Saban with less talent in the Sugar Bowl and put his freshman quarterback in a position to thrive against arguably the best defense in college football.

Because of that, Stoops is the best head coach in the nation, and it's time for observers to recognize it.


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