The Alabama Crimson Tide and Oklahoma Sooners meet on Saturday in the most highly anticipated bowl game of the season down in Miami, Fl. Alabama is coming off one of the most dominating regular seasons of all time followed by a scare against Georgia in the SEC Championship, but ultimately made it to the CFB Playoff with a perfect record. The Sooners faced adversity all season, from losing Baker in the offseason to the OT game with then-unranked Army and a tough loss to Texas on a last second field goal. But they’re now sitting at 12-1 with a chance to play for a national championship right in front of them. But they’re not just happy to be here, they have a Heisman Trophy Winner and are making their third CFB playoff appearance in four seasons. They’re ready for a win and another National Championship.

Aside from it being two of the best brands in College Football, you’ll also get to see the two biggest names in college football as far as players go this season. Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa have had two of the greatest seasons in the history of college football (No really, they’re #1 and #2 in QBR for a season). Any other year, they’d both be a runaway with the Heisman. But Murray edged out Tua this season, thanks to a big conference title win over Texas while Tagovailoa watched his backup lead his team to a comeback win over Georgia.

None of the current players played in this game, but the 2013 Sugar Bowl that saw #11 Oklahoma upset #3 Alabama is still fresh in Nick Saban’s mind. When you only have a couple of losses, they really stick to you. That game saw Oklahoma as a double digit underdog come out and force Alabama into a high scoring game with lots of turnovers, similar to the gameplan they will be hoping for in this game if they wish to dethrone the defending national champs.

Between Saban’s revenge, Heisman Trophy winner vs runner up, high powered offense vs high powered defense, Alabama’s dynasty, Lincoln Riley’s upcoming one, and the fact that the other Playoff game is going to suck, there’s a lot of reasons to be excited for this one. But who has the edge in what department and what will each team have to do to win. Let’s take a look.

Alabama’s Keys To Victory:

  • Force Oklahoma Into Field Goals in the Red Zone
  • Keep the balanced attack
  • Don’t fall into a messy shootout

When trying to stop Oklahoma’s offense, you don’t do it by stopping them. You do it by forcing field goals. Oklahoma only struggled in the red zone one game this season, against Army. In that game OU drove down to the red zone twice in the fourth quarter and came up short both times, one on a missed field goal and one on a failed fourth and goal attempt. OU has a reliable kicker in senior Austin Seibert, so three points allowed is not a loss for Alabama.

For the Alabama offense, scoring on OU isn’t the most difficult task in the world. But making sure they have the ability to run and pass the ball at all points in the game will ensure an Alabama win. If they can score quickly and maintain their lead behind Damien Harris, Najee Harriss, and Josh Jacobs. Scoring on Oklahoma is one thing, but ball control and not giving Kyler Murray a chance to get momentum means everything for Alabama. Especially late when Murray has 7 TD’s and 0 INT’s in the fourth quarter and OT of games. After all, they wouldn’t be in the playoff if not for their late surge against Texas that saw them come back from a 21 point deficit in the second half to almost win the game.

Unlike 2014, Alabama needs to take care of the ball if they plan on getting in a shootout with the Sooners. Tua has been excellent at taking care of the ball this season, and OU’s passing defense that is 110th in interceptions this season. However, the Sooners defense has won them the last two games late against West Virginia and Texas. Sooners’ Tre Brown got a safety with eight minutes to go that led to a six minute touchdown drive, icing the game for Oklahoma. Against West Virginia, two fumble returns for a touchdown came up huge in a game that OU ended up winning by three. This is not Alabama’s type of game. This is not the game they’re looking for. They want a slower game with no turnovers, one that their defense and running game can take the stage. Alabama can win a shootout with anyone this year, but that hasn’t been their winning formula. So why change it now?

Oklahoma’s Keys to Victory:

  • Force Turnovers
  • Special Teams efficiency
  • The more drives the better

For the Sooners, turnovers are everything in this game. For a defense that struggles in getting stops, getting turnovers is their way of stopping them. Oklahoma and Alabama are tied for 13th in turnovers lost this season, but Alabama is 17th in margin and Oklahoma is 82nd. Winning the turnover battle is more important for the Sooners than it is Bama. Let’s say Alabama can win this game without forcing a turnover, but Oklahoma absolutely cannot.

For Oklahoma, a missed field goal by Alabama will be just as good as a turnover. As will a missed extra point. Alabama is 120th in XP attempts and 69th in field goal percentage. Special teams doomed the Sooners against Georgia. Will it be what prevails for them against the Crimson Tide who have been dominant on offense and defense the last ten years but have been lagging behind in special teams? Alabama is 57th in Kickoff Return coverage and Oklahoma is 26th in Kickoff returning. They have the edge on special teams, and it might come down to that if it’s close late in the game.

Oklahoma had just seven drives against Army. Four of which had four plays or less. That led them to having just 28 points in their lowest total of the year. That’s the kind of day Alabama’s defense and rushing attack will try to make them have. If Alabama’s gameplan is to win it with defense, then they’ll come out and take 10 minutes of the clock everytime. If not, then expect a shootout that everyone outside of Bama’s defense wants to see. Oklahoma has been playing in shootouts for two months straight, so it will be very familiar territory for the experienced team.

Not sure about you but I can’t wait for this one. The year long Tua or Kyler question will finally be answered and so will the future national champion. It doesn’t get much better than that. Tune in Saturday night to watch all the action.

caymenbishop

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