2014 Sugar Bowl Preview

January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

The bowl season is winding down, and with only six games remaining I’m almost sure I cannot win my Bowl Mania group. It has been a fairly mediocre effort on my part this season (16-13 overall, fifth place in my group), but I have to admit that it’s nice when teams like UCF surprise you and result in a lot of lost points. We hadn’t too many major upsets, and the Knights definitely exposed Baylor’s defense.

At this point I have to recognize the current Von Hugendong group leader, my dad (Week 13 guest prognosticator). It’s unlikely that he’ll win either, but he hasn’t been mentioned as a leader yet.

For the first time in over a week, there is only one bowl game being played in a day. Here is the preview for the Sugar Bowl.

Allstate Sugar Bowl (Thursday, 8 PM ET – ESPN)

No. 11 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Alabama

If you were fairly excited about the potential for UCF to upset Baylor last night, then the Sugar Bowl may be your least anticipated BCS bowl on the slate. Oklahoma is a major underdog heading into this one, and people have brought up the Alabama loss to Utah in 2009 enough times that the Crimson Tide almost surely won’t come out flat. Plus, Baylor’s defense looked bad against Blake Bortles & Co., and the Bears held Oklahoma to all of 12 points. You’re welcome for effectively hyping this game…

All the previous comments aside, it goes without saying that Oklahoma will need to find a way to shut down the entire Alabama offense in order to have a chance in this game. The Big 12 leader in total defense probably isn’t intimidated, but Baylor’s run defense was fairly comparable statistically to Oklahoma’s and the Bears were gashed for 255 yards on the ground last night. And for as good as the Oklahoma pass defense has been this season, the Sooners will be tasked with slowing down one of the most experienced quarterbacks in history in BCS games. A.J. McCarron hasn’t lost a BCS bowl start, and will be looking to make it a perfect 3-0 mark for his career. The redshirt senior has transformed from “game manager” to “game-changer” and has looked good against strong defenses before.

Expect the Crimson Tide to be uber-focused in this one after being shocked in the Iron Bowl to end the regular season, and a chance at playing in Pasadena this coming Monday night. The run game is expected to be the preferred mode of attack for Alabama, and there will definitely be a healthy dose of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake in this one. But McCarron is the vocal leader of this squad, and Saban can trust that when his quarterback has the ball in his hands, good things will happen. Don’t be surprised if an air raid occurs in the Mercedes Benz Superdome with McCarron as the culprit. But Saban doesn’t take too many chances, and knows that the ground game should also produce in this one.

Bob Stoops ran his mouth about the SEC, and I’m sure that while Saban won’t admit it, he’s using that as fuel for the fire. I do not expect Alabama to come out flat, and I don’t expect the Crimson Tide to let up for 60 minutes, either. There aren’t many BCS bowls that I’d predict to be blowouts, but this one is primed to head in that direction. I have Alabama for 34 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 38-14 Alabama

If you’d like to share your opinion on Around The Corn for any of the upcoming bowls, shoot me an email with your thoughts and prediction to kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. Or you can like Around The Corn’s Facebook page or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. As long as you send your thoughts at least two games before the game is to be played, I can assure you that your thoughts will show up in an article.

– K. Becks

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