Analysis: Getting to know Alabama's Sugar Bowl opponent
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Dec 24, 2013 | 2173 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops yells to his team as it plays Iowa State on Nov. 16. (AP photo)
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops yells to his team as it plays Iowa State on Nov. 16. (AP photo)
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TUSCALOOSA -- For Alabama, the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl isn't not the national championship game, but it is a BCS bowl against a quality program with a storied history.

Oklahoma is one of the most tradition-rich programs in the nation, which creates the perfect opportunity for the Crimson Tide’s coaching staff to be able to motivate its players.

Here's a bit of information if you're curious about the Sooners:

Key players

Running back Brennan Clay and wide receiver Jalen Saunders are the playmakers on offense. Clay has rushed for 913 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards a carry.

Saunders has 654 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. He’s also a dangerous return man with two punt returns for touchdowns on the year.

How did they get here?

The Sooners pulled off a last-minute comeback to defeat rival Oklahoma State and clinch an at-large BCS bowl bid. The Sooners finished 10-2, tied second in the Big 12 and ranked No. 11 in the final BCS standings.

This is the Sooners' first BCS bowl since the 2010 season, a 48-25 victory over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Sooners rank in the top 20 in the country with 235.8 rushing yards a game and allow only 21.3 points a game, which is good for 22nd in the nation.

What about Bob Stoops?

Bob Stoops has coached Oklahoma since 1999 and has kept the program among the nation’s elite. After winning a national championship in 2000, Stoops earned the nickname “Big Game Bob.”

But as of late, his team has struggled on the big stage. The Sooners lost back-to-back national championship games following the 2003 and 2004 seasons, lost the title game in 2008 and are only 3-5 in BCS bowls.

A win over Alabama would begin to change the narrative on Stoops and help him regain the “Big Game Bob” moniker.

Are they better than Alabama?

No. If both teams play their best, Alabama is clearly the better team.

Problem is, both teams don’t always play their best in these bowl games. Oklahoma is riding the momentum from an emotional win over Oklahoma State while Alabama is trying to cope with not completing the job of making a third straight BCS National Championship Game.

If Oklahoma can hang around and make some explosive plays, this one will be interesting. But Alabama’s seniors appear to be motivated to finish their careers with a win.

What do they need to do to beat Alabama?

Hope the real Alabama doesn’t show up. Talent-wise, these two teams aren’t in the same class. But in these one-game, winner-take-all scenarios, literally anything can happen.

On the field, Alabama has shown it will have a few lapses in pass coverage. So, if there is one area for the Sooners to exploit, it’s in the vertical passing game.

For the Sooners' defense, it should attack Alabama’s offensive line that had to replace its best player in right guard Anthony Steen, who won't play because of season-ending shoulder surgery.
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