Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2) — Many expected Oklahoma State, not the Sooners, to be in this matchup against the SEC’s best at-large in New Orleans but Oklahoma shoved its way in thanks to a three-game win streak to end the season. The Sooners are 3-5 in BCS games under coach Bob Stoops and .500 in 14 total bowl contests. A win over Alabama would ensure Oklahoma its fourth consecutive Top 15 finish in the final Associated Press poll.
Related: Complete SEC bowl game schedule
THE SKINNY: Alabama’s shot at a third consecutive BCS National Championship was dashed on the Plains after the Auburn miracle, but there’s still a chance to end this season and A.J. McCarron’s illustrious career on a high note. Alabama’s second in the country in points against (11.2) and Oklahoma’s Blake Bell isn’t the kind of passer equipped to shred the Crimson Tide secondary — the team’s weakness — through the air. The Sooners’ best bet is to try and get something going on the ground and take advantage of an Alabama front seven that’s down a player due to suspension. It was recently announced during bowl prep that linebacker Denzel Devall will take Xzavier Dickson’s place on the outside.
KEY PLAYER: McCarron got most of the Heisman buzz and finished a distant second in the voting to Jameis Winston, but sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon’s the playmaker in Alabama’s backfield capable of making this matchup a one-sided affair. Yeldon posted his second straight 1,000-plus yard season this fall with 100-yard efforts in each of his final three starts. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has scored 13 touchdowns.
WHAT TO WATCH: Could we see a 2008 Sugar Bowl repeat for the Crimson Tide? Alabama went into the SEC Championship Game that season 12-0 with a chance at clinching a national title berth against Florida. Instead, Tim Tebow snuffed out that dream and Nick Saban’s group appeared flat a month later against upstart Utah as the Utes finished unbeaten. Do Crimson Tide fans have reason to worry again versus a program without comparable talent? Alabama’s vulnerable against elite talent on offense, but there’s no Johnny Manziel and Tre Mason trotting from the sideline into the huddle for the Sooners.
FINAL SAY: Oklahoma doesn’t have the look of a BCS team after suffering double-digit losses to Texas and Baylor, but the Sooners’ final week upset of their rival has given this group second life on a marquee stage against an opponent some feel is still the SEC’s best football team. Alabama’s consolation prize is another BCS trophy, just not the one it intended to own. A win for Oklahoma would be a feather in the cap for Stoops whose comments toward the SEC are well-documented. He’s hoping to shake the moniker of his team not showing up to play in big games after the Sooners were embarrassed in last year’s Cotton Bowl by Texas A&M.
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