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Sooners vs. Crimson Tide Point Spread - Sugar Bowl Preview

Written by:
Carrie Stroup
Published on:
Jan/02/2014
Sooners vs. Crimson Tide Point Spread - Sugar Bowl Preview

Carrie Stroup here with your Sooners vs. Crimson Tide point spread for Thursday’s Sugar Bowl.  Be sure to claim your FREE $100 BET at Sportsbook.com here and remember you can wager on every play of this game right up to the final minute with LIVE IN-PLAY BETTING.

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Alabama -17 & 52

Opening Line & Total: Crimson Tide -16.5 & 51.5

No. 11 Oklahoma earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl after defeating in-state rival Oklahoma State off in the final week, but will be facing an angry No. 3 Alabama Crimson team in Thursday's matchup.

These are two of the most historic teams in college football history with crazy fan bases, so expect an incredible atmosphere. However, these two teams are coming into the game on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. For the Sooners, they appeared to be on their way to potentially the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl before defeating Oklahoma State. In that game, quarterback Blake Bell came in for the injured Trevor Knight and led the team on an impressive final drive to help secure the victory for Oklahoma (7-5 ATS). While the Sooners are happy to be in this game, the same cannot be said for the Crimson Tide. They are coming off one of the craziest losses in recent history when Auburn scored a game-winning touchdown on a 100-yard field goal return. Senior QB AJ McCarron will look to end one of the greatest college careers for a quarterback (36-3 career record, two national titles) on a positive note. The last time Alabama (7-5 ATS) was in the Sugar Bowl after being eliminated from the national title race in the 2008 season, the Crimson Tide were drilled 31-17 by Utah. For Alabama to avoid that same kind of result, the team must come out prepared and ready to match Oklahoma’s excitement and energy. 

The Sooners' rushing attack is one of the best in the country, ranking 18th among FBS schools with 235.8 rushing YPG. Senior RB Brennan Clay (913 rushing yards, 5.8 YPC, 6 TD) is the leader of the offense, and has proven that he is capable of taking a game over by himself. In a 41-31 victory over Kansas State on Nov. 23, he rushed for 200 yards (6.5 YPC) and two touchdowns, but was held to 70 yards (2.9 YPC) on 24 carries in the season finale. While the passing attack isn’t the most prolific in the country (186.7 YPG, 99th in FBS), junior QB Blake Bell (1,648 pass yards, 7.1 YPA, 12 TD, 5 INT) has played well at times, and figures to get the starting nod on Thursday ahead of QBs Trevor Knight (471 pass yards, 5.2 YPA, 5 TD, 4 INT) and Kendal Thompson (64 pass yards, 4.9 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT). Whoever is under center does have wide receivers that are capable of making big plays though. Senior WR Jalen Saunders (56 catches, 654 yards, 6 TD) and sophomore WR Sterling Shepard (44 catches, 540 yards, 6 TD) are both able to make big plays with the ball in their hands. In the win over Oklahoma State, Shepard had 112 yards on seven receptions, while Saunders caught the game-winning touchdown pass with less than a minute left in the game. The Sooners defense has once again been solid this season, allowing only 21.3 PPG (23rd in FBS). They give up 138 rushing YPG on 4.1 YPC, but hold opposing passers to a mere 198 YPG (6.3 YPA) on 54% completions. The secondary of the Sooners is one of the very best in the country, led by junior DB Julian Wilson (three interceptions) and senior CB Aaron Colvin (49 tackles and one interception). This duo has the ability to shut down the opposing receivers, and that will be key against Alabama QB AJ McCarron and his potent passing attack.

McCarron (2,676 passing yards, 8.8 YPA, 26 TD, 5 INT) deservedly gets a lot of the credit for his team's offensive success, but there are a lot of weapons on that side of the ball as well. His favorite receiver this season has been sophomore WR Amari Cooper (36 catches, 615 yards and 4 TD), who is one of the most electric receivers in all of the country. Against Auburn in the season finale, Cooper had six catches for 178 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown reception that gave the Crimson Tide a lead. While the passing game has been great this season, the focal point of the offense is sophomore RB T.J. Yeldon (1,163 rush yards, 13 TD). Yeldon is just another in the line of superstar running backs for the Crimson Tide, as he is a perfect combination of size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) and speed (6.1 YPC) at the running back position. He has rushed for more than 130 yards in each of his past three games, totaling 434 yards (5.8 YPC) and 3 TD during this stretch. Alabama ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (11.3 PPG allowed), but in that loss to Auburn, the team surrendered 296 rushing yards on 52 carries (5.7 YPC). For the season, the Tide hold opponents to 108 rushing YPG on 3.4 YPC, and limit opposing passers to 166 YPG (6.4 YPA) on 53% completions. Much of that is due to sophomore DB Landon Collins (58 tackles, 6 PD), who makes a lot of big plays in the secondary like his 89-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tennessee on Oct. 26. However, his biggest role against the Sooners may be trying and slow down the run. The biggest key in this game is whether or not Alabama is hungry enough to play with maximum effort following a demoralizing defeat to Auburn.

- Carrie Stroup, Gambling911.com Senior Reporter

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