The Orange Bowl already had its share of intriguing storylines, but an emerging narrative has made the buildup to the College Football Playoff semifinal juicier.
No. 1 Alabama is still an overwhelming favorite over No. 4 Oklahoma, as the spread for the December 29 game sits at 14 points, per OddsShark.
But what the Crimson Tide don't have is a Heisman Trophy winner, as Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray used a late-season surge to take the award over season-long favorite and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Murray winning the Heisman over Tagovailoa spurred a series of tweets from Alabama players that indicated Nick Saban's team will use that as extra motivation when it reaches south Florida.
Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson was one of many Crimson Tide players who voiced their displeasure with the Heisman results on Twitter.
Even the Alabama coaching staff chimed in on the Heisman result, as offensive line coach Brent Key tweeted #Dec29 moments after the Heisman was awarded to Murray.
As for the Heisman winner, Murray affirmed his commitment to the Oakland Athletics in recent days, despite buzz surrounding a potential NFL career.
Murray confirmed to MLB.com's Jane Lee that he's going to play baseball in the Athletics organization after being selected ninth overall in the 2018 MLB draft.
There's a good chance the Orange Bowl is Murray's final football game if the Sooners lose because, as MLB Network's Jon Morosi pointed out, there are provisions in MLB contracts that force athletes to pay back most of their signing bonus if they opt for another sport.
Murray could be opposed by Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts depending on how much the Alabama staff trusts the healing ankle of the left-handed sophomore.
Hurts hasn't been in the public eye for most of the season, but he's been a vocal member of the Alabama roster in all sorts of situations.
When defensive back Saivion Smith was benched against Ole Miss, Hurts was one of the most encouraging teammates on the sideline, per Ben Jones of TideSports.com.
“When I got benched against Ole Miss, he came to me and said ‘Keep your head up, stay positive. You never know when you’re going to have to go in again,’” Smith said. “So later, he had to do it.”
After starring off the bench in the SEC Championship, Hurts should play some type of role in the Orange Bowl, as should running back Damien Harris, who made history with his performance during the regular season.
Harris averaged 6.54 yards per carry, which is second in SEC history among running backs with over 400 carries, per Jones.
While Harris and the other Alabama playmakers will be on the field, there's concern about the health of one of Oklahoma's top offensive weapons.
Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who is Oklahoma's leading receiver, is recovering from a lower leg injury, and his status is still unknown.
"Still too early," Riley said of Brown's status. "Working through it. It's not a definite no, not a definite yes. We're hopeful, but he hasn't done much to this point."
Regardless of how many healthy stars take the field in Miami, the Orange Bowl is expected to be one of the highest-scoring games of the postseason, as the over/under currently sits at 81 points, which is the highest for an Alabama game since at least 1995, per SB Nation's Alex Kirshner, who quoted OddsShark's database.
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