Taylor (Kansas): OK, so I know I was a little down on my Sooners heading into Stillwater. And you offered some kind words of encouragement that eased my thoughts and lo and behold they pulled it off. Now, can you offer me some more support for the Sugar Bowl? I'm not sure they will score! Bama has a chip on their shoulder and I feel like they are going to take it out on anyone and everyone in their way.
Jake Trotter: The one thing OU might have going its way in this game is... does Bama care? The last time Bama just missed out on the title game, it lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. If Bama comes out flat, OU might have a chance. If Bama comes out ready to play with a chip on its shoulder…
Mike (Jacksonville): What are the chances Mack Brown steps down before the bowl game?
Jake Trotter: I would say better than 50 percent. But one thing the Texas brass needs to consider if they push for Mack's resignation is, who will they replace him with? If you're going to push a coach like Mack out, who's done a lot for the university and pulled it out of the doldrums in the '90s, then you'd better have somebody lined up.
Nick (Texas): The Big 12 will have a losing bowl record: Agree or disagree?
Jake Trotter: Agree. Gonna be very difficult for OU, Texas and Tech to win. One will need to to give the league a chance at a winning record.
Dave (Orange County): Who do you think has a better all-time program? OU or Alabama?
Jake Trotter: When ranking all-time programs, I go, 1. Notre Dame, 2. Alabama, 3. OU, 4. Ohio State, 5. Michigan.
Levi Farmer (Tulsa, OK): OU loses a lot of RB depth with the senior class. Who is in line to step up and start next year?
Jake Trotter: It will be the Keith Ford show.
JFB (DFW): How does [Bryce] Petty not get an invite when you compare his numbers and "character" to other invitees?
Jake Trotter: Petty's campaign was very similar to Brandon Weeden's back in 2011. Just when Weeden's candidacy was rolling, OSU lost to Iowa State. Just when Petty was getting into the top 3, Baylor was smoked by OSU. Petty has another year, and he will be on everyone's radar this time going into the season.
Dave (Atlanta): Any update on how Trevor Knight's doing?
Jake Trotter: He is fine. Dislocated shoulder on his non-throwing side. Will be back for the bowl.
Jason (Cincinnati): The last time we spoke, I mentioned how I was worried about the ISU visit to Morgantown and you mentioned WVU was a different team at home. Yet WVU suffered another meltdown after a 31-7 lead. We are making the Big 12 look really bad and this is not WVU football. Mountaineer nation is losing faith in the staff. What is really wrong in Morgantown?
Jake Trotter: Talent, coaching, mentality... it's a lot of things.
Ryan (Bear Country): Not that it matters anymore, but still don't understand how a two-loss Stanford team is ranked higher than a one-loss Baylor squad (granted, we did get blown out by OSU). Is it just the brand?
Jake Trotter: Stanford has seven Top 25 wins. Baylor has two.
Andrew (Houston): Do you think Lache Seastrunk is coming back? Early in the year it looked like there wasn't a chance... but late in the year he hurt his draft stock. I think he is back and BU is a top-5 team in the country again.
Jake Trotter: I think Lache comes back. That would be the best backfield in the Big 12 again, with Petty.
Tom (Dallas): Jake, would you please be so kind and remind Texas Tech and TCU that Baylor has a Big 12 championship and they don't.
Jake Trotter: Ouch.
Fred (Lubbock): Trotter, what's more impressive, our two-decades-plus of consistently winning or Baylor's miserable little Big 12 championship during a horribly down year in the conference?
Jake Trotter: Here we go again...
- With the school's first Big 12 title in hand, Baylor's Art Briles has his eye on making the College Football Playoff as one of the nation's top four teams next season, writes John Werner of the Waco Tribune.
- Texas head coach Mack Brown's status is unclear for a lot of different reasons, writes Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.
- Iowa State is preparing to hire a new offensive coordinator but will likely continue to run the "Pistol" offense, reports Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune. And what took ISU's latest commitment so long to pull the trigger?
- Nick Saban to Texas would transform the Big 12, making success against UT harder to achieve, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
- The Oklahoma State cheerleader who stuck his foot out as if he was trying to trip Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker will be disciplined, reports The Oklahoman's John Helsley. Meanwhile a controversial Bedlam tweet from an Oklahoma account was made by an non-OU employee according to a statement from the school.
- OU will be facing the team it wants to be when the Sooners take on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, writes John Hoover of the Tulsa World.
- Missouri, Oklahoma State's Cotton Bowl opponent, had lofty goals heading into the season, writes Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World.
- Could this be Baylor fans' worst nightmare? Art Briles should think twice if the Washington Redskins come calling, writes Mac Engel of the Fort Worth-Star Telegram.
- Here are some storylines for the Holiday Bowl from Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- West Virginia has gotten off to a good start on the recruiting trail, landing a four-star defensive back. ESPN.com's Craig Haubert with a Scout's take on the potential impact.
Deputy athletic director Dave Martin says the university does not condone physical or verbal abuse toward players or fans. In a statement to The Oklahoman, Martin said the cheerleader will see "consequences for his poor judgment and actions."
The male cheerleader is shown on video extending his foot while Oklahoma's Eric Striker celebrated his touchdown that ended the rivalry game. Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State 33-24.
He didn't make contact, and Martin said the cheerleader explained he was just extending his foot in a mocking manner.
OU’s offense had three passing first downs and was averaging 4.63 yards per play before that final drive. Yet, the Sooners matched their previous output with three first downs on the final drive, averaging 7.13 yards per play on an eight-play scoring march (they added a defensive touchdown on the game’s final play).
Here’s a closer look at five key plays, after a film study review of the game, that transformed the Sooners from a potential three-loss squad to BCS bowl participant.
Sterling Shepard’s 9-yard catch on the drive’s first play. A good play call and design got Shepard loose on a receiver screen pass. The sophomore faked outside on a swing pass then dipped inside to catch the ball with three blockers ahead of him. Only a terrific tackle by OSU linebacker Joe Mitchell kept the play from being a big gainer. It was the perfect way to start the drive because it gave Blake Bell and the rest of the Sooners’ offense immediate confidence.
OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert’s non-interception: After the Sooners had moved the ball to the OSU 30-yard line, Gilbert appeared to intercept Bell by outleaping Lacoltan Bester for the ball. But Bester continued to fight, pulling Gilbert’s right arm as the pair hit the ground, to knock the football out of Gilbert’s hands. It was a call that could have gone either way, so the awareness to go up tempo and the execution of a play immediately was the difference. That ability took the option to review the play and reverse the on-field call away from OSU coach Mike Gundy and the officiating crew upstairs. Even though OU hasn’t used it much in games this season, it’s unlikely a team that does not practice tempo, or is not prepared to execute in pressure situations, would have been able to eliminate a potential review. The quick recognition of the scenario and ability to run a play that quickly was easily the best thing OU did on the entire drive.
Bell connects with Saunders on third-and-10: The Sooners quarterback had plenty of time to simply stand in the pocket but scrambled anyway and found Saunders for 13 yards just before he passed the line of scrimmage. It was clear Bell was looking the entire way for Saunders, who has been a third-down conversion machine in the second half of the season. But it was actually his decision to scramble that forced the first level of OSU’s zone defense to react, allowing Saunders to get open and make the key reception. Even though there was no reason to leave the pocket with OSU rushing just three defenders, Bell’s decision to do so allowed the conversion to happen.
Saunders’ game-winning touchdown: Give Bell a ton of credit. He knew before the snap that he had the matchup he wanted with Jalen Saunders lined up in man-to-man coverage with OSU safety Lyndell Johnson. Saunders is a nightmare for the Big 12’s top cornerbacks so having him matched up on a safety with a play call that Bell knew would have Saunders running away from Johnson on a corner route took all thinking out of the equation. It was all about the throw at that point. Bell had a clean pocket, thanks to Brennan Clay and the offensive line, and made a perfect throw to the corner of the end zone.
The Boone Pickens Stadium crowd was stunned, Baylor rejoiced and the Sooners seized the opportunity to earn a BCS berth. The silence in the Cowboys’ home stadium -- outside of the section of Sooners fans -- can be matched only by the silence of the critics of Bell and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel after those critical moments. Bell and Heupel stepped up when the program needed them the most, Heupel with a couple of exceptional play calls and Bell with terrific throws and decision-making on the final drive. In less than two minutes, OU’s offense went from preparing to answer questions about why it didn’t show up to being the reason the Sooners are Sugar Bowl-bound.
As if an Allstate Sugar Bowl featuring two of college football's most prestigious programs wasn't intriguing enough, we get to rehash a good old-fashioned war of words in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 2 showdown in New Orleans between No. 3 Alabama and No. 11 Oklahoma.
Bob Stoops, the Sooners longtime coach, hasn't been bashful in his criticism of the Southeastern Conference, of which the Crimson Tide are a charter member. He's called it an overrated, top-heavy league with a history of overblown defensive prowess. And that's just what he's said on the record in the past year or so.
The Tide, owners of three of the last four national championships and arguably the best coach in college football, will represent the league in a game that many fans of the SEC hope shuts Stoops up once and for all.
Only don't count on it.
When Stoops was asked Sunday about his history of opining on the SEC it was as if he misunderstood the premise.
"What comments?" he asked in return.
Well let's see. You could start with the part about his seeing the SEC's dominance being sold as "propaganda." Or you could point to his comments about the league's poor defense in which he sarcastically mocked teams for struggling to defend Texas A&M, meanwhile neglecting how Oklahoma was blown out by the Aggies in the Cotton Bowl last season, 41-13. But instead the reporter in question noted how Stoops said that the bottom of the SEC was overrated.
"I'm not playing the bottom half," Stoops responded. "If the SEC is Alabama, there is nothing to talk about, right? If you want to say the SEC is Alabama, then sure, they're the ones that have won all the national championships, or most of them. Now, if you want to play in the bottom half, that's a different story. But we're not playing the bottom half, are we? So there's not a lot to talk about, is there? "
Stoops, however, failed to realize that when he initially made his disparaging comments about the bottom half of the SEC, Auburn and Missouri were included among that group after coming off dreadful seasons in which they combined for two wins in league play. But Auburn beat Alabama only a few weeks ago and on Saturday it bested Missouri in the conference title game. The bottom of the bottom half is now set to play Florida State in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif.
The last time Stoops went to the Big Game he lost to SEC champ Florida in 2009. In 2004 the Sooners lost to USC and the year before they lost to an SEC team again in LSU, who happened to be coached by Alabama's Nick Saban at the time.
Just don't look for Saban to take up for the SEC against Stoops and Oklahoma this time around. Providing bulletin board worthy quotes isn't a part of his M.O. He'll let the game on the field do the talking. The most you'll get from him was the blunt response he gave during the offseason: "I’ve got more important things to do than sit around and read what Bob Stoops has to say about anything."
But leave it to Bob's brother, Mike, who coaches the Sooners defense, to smooth the waters somewhat. Maybe he thought we'd had enough gossip already.
"I think they have great programs," he said of the SEC. "The athletes they have down there, the coaches they have down there, it's rated as the top conference in college football for many years, having won seven national championships, having a chance to win eighth. They've got great athletes. Every time you step on the field with a Southeastern Conference team, they're very well coached and they play very hard. They're very complete when you look at any of these top Southeastern Conference teams."
But one Stoops doesn't speak for all, and when brother Bob goes toe-to-toe with one of the SEC's best in Alabama, he'll either answer his critics or eat his words.
Each school can truly benefit from specific targets. Here is a look at some of the most important targets who could end up signing Big 12 national letters of intent.
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In 2012, Saunders had 10 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yard punt return, as the Sooners took out Oklahoma State in overtime, 51-48.
Saturday in Stillwater, Saunders didn’t have the same kind of numbers. But in Oklahoma’s 33-24 Bedlam victory, he did deliver the same big plays, taking a major role in the Sooners’ first three touchdowns.
Saunders returned a punt 64 yards for a score in the first quarter to put the Sooners on the board and tie the game, 7-7.
In the third quarter, he took a double reverse 37 yards around the edge to set up Oklahoma’s fake field goal touchdown, which evened the game again, 17-17.
Then with 19 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Saunders hauled in a pass from Blake Bell in the corner of the end zone from seven yards out, giving the Sooners a 27-24 lead.
Saunders’ two-game Bedlam career will go down in the annals: 15 receptions, 201 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns, 49 yards rushing, two punt return touchdowns -- and the hero in two dramatic, come-from-behind victories.
- As a kid you watch these and that's where you want to be." Sounds like Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty can't wait to get to the Fiesta Bowl. John Werner of the Waco Tribune has the story.
- Baylor seems ready for the spotlight, writes Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Why did Mike Gundy rank Oklahoma State ahead of Oklahoma, just hours after the Sooners defeated his Cowboys 33-24 in Stillwater? The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell has Gundy's explanation. And OSU will have to shake off the disappointing Bedlam result and move forward. The Cowboys are set to face a familiar foe in the Cotton Bowl, The Oklahoman's John Helsley reports.
- Oklahoma overcame a lot to earn a Sugar Bowl berth, writes Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman.
- OU and OSU have an opportunity against SEC teams in their bowl games, writes John Klein of the Tulsa World.
- Texas will face Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. What does Mack Brown think? "These guys are like Baylor." Sounds like the Longhorns have their hands full, writes Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News.
- Texas Tech is excited to get a invitation to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, writes Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Kansas State ended up in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl after a crazy weekend of chaos, writes Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- This Iowa State recruit plans to compete for the Cyclones' starting quarterback spot right away, writes Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register.
- Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis confirmed that he is turning the reins of the Kansas offense over to John Reagan, reports Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World.
OSU’s yards per play on third down: OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had his defense ready to go on third down as the Cowboys finished with negative yardage on third down. OSU ran 13 plays for minus-12 yards on third down, an average of minus-0.92 yards per play. The Pokes converted just 2 of 13 third down-conversion attempts. The Sooners secondary was so solid it held Clint Chelf to an raw QBR of 9 on third down after he entered the game leading the Big 12 with a 91.8 QBR on third down plays, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
OU won the turnover battle: The Sooners finished plus-1 in turnover margin after head coach Bob Stoops had repeatedly mentioned the turnover battle heading into Bedlam. True enough the Sooners got their final turnover on OSU’s final desperation play but to play OSU even in the turnover battle through 60 minutes of action changed the game. The Cowboys success this season was largely built upon forcing turnovers, and they fell way short of their four-turnover-per-game goal as the Sooners had one giveaway, a Kendal Thompson interception.
OSU’s 3 yard per carry average in the second half: OU’s run defense buckled down after halftime. OSU had 14 carries for 42 yards and one touchdown in the second half and really couldn’t regain the rhythm it had to open the game. Desmond Roland had nine carries for 34 yards (3.78 ypc) and one touchdown after amassing 12 carries for 110 yards (9.17 ypc) and one touchdown in the first 30 minutes.
OSU’s percentage of drives without a first down or touchdown: The Cowboys entered Bedlam with just 30.5 percent of their drives ending without a first down or touchdown. Against the Sooners, 46.7 percent of their drives ended without a first down or touchdown. Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor, three top 25 teams who suffered November losses to the Pokes, were unable to force more than 30 percent of the Pokes drives to end in that fashion. The Sooners did, and they headed home with another Bedlam victory.
Team of the week: Baylor was unranked to begin the season and picked to finish fifth in the Big 12. Instead, with a convincing 30-10 victory over Texas, the Bears won 11 games for the first time in school history to capture the program’s first outright conference title in 33 years. Baylor will cap its magical season against Central Florida in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Disappointment of the week: Oklahoma State had a chance at a second Big 12 title and BCS bowl berth in three years. And all the Cowboys had to do was beat Oklahoma in Stillwater as 10-point favorites. Instead, despite shuffling through three quarterbacks and not scoring an offensive touchdown until 19 seconds left in the game, the Sooners knocked off their instate rival yet again. The Cowboys have lost 10 of 11 to Oklahoma, but given the circumstance and the ending, this one hurt worst of all.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Cornerback K.J. Morton returned from an abdominal strain to deliver the exclamation point to Baylor’s season. Morton picked off Texas quarterback Case McCoy twice, returning the second 57 yards in the fourth quarter for an apparent touchdown. The score was nullified on his celebration penalty. But by then, the party had already begun in Waco.
Special teams players of the week: The field goal tandem of Grant Bothun and Michael Hunnicutt converted Bob Stoops’ first successful fake field goal attempt in 11 years. After their drive stalled at the Oklahoma State 8-yard line, the Sooners lined up for a field goal. Instead, Bothun, the holder, took off running with the ball left and threw the ball to Hunnicutt, the kicker. Hunnicutt backed into the end zone before getting belted by two Cowboys, tying the score 17-17.
Play of the week: Cornerback Justin Gilbert appeared to have ended Bedlam with an Oklahoma State victory, as he came down with an apparent interception on a jump ball to Lacoltan Bester. But instead of landing on the turf, Gilbert landed on Bester, who tapped the ball out of Gilbert’s hands at the last moment. Officials ruled it an incompletion, and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy inexplicably didn’t challenge the call. Five plays later, Bell hit Saunders for the game-winning score.
Stat of the week: As Oklahoma State’s head coach, Gundy’s record against Oklahoma is 1-8. Gundy’s record against the rest of the Big 12: 44-22
Quote of the week: “A defining moment for our program and one I think we'll be able to repeat many times." -- Baylor coach Art Briles, after the school’s first Big 12 championship
Baylor needed Oklahoma to top Oklahoma State in the annual Bedlam Series, but when Saturday came to an end, the Bears were the new Big 12 champion. While Baylor didn’t add to its recruiting tally for the 2014 class, TCU, West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas landed commitments throughout the week. The Cyclones picked up three pledges, while the Horned Frogs and Jayhawks added two apiece.
Here are some of this past week’s highlights:
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Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
4 Michigan State Spartans vs 5 Stanford Cardinal
January 1, 2014, at 5 ET on ESPN
Michigan State: First Rose Bowl appearance since the 1987 season and its first appearance in a BCS bowl. The Spartans have reached a bowl game in all seven seasons under head coach Mark Dantonio after making no bowl appearances from 2004-06.
Stanford: Second consecutive appearance in the Rose Bowl (def. Wisconsin 20-14 last season). The Cardinal are making back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances for the first time since 1970-71. Stanford has reached a BCS bowl in four straight seasons after making just one from 1998-2009.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
15 UCF Knights vs 6 Baylor Bears
January 1, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
UCF: First BCS bowl berth in school history. Won 11 games this season, tied for the most in school history (also won 11 in 2010).
Baylor: Like their opponents in the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears receive their first BCS bowl berth in school history. Baylor looks to extend a school-record 11 wins this season to 12 in this game.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
11 Oklahoma Sooners vs 3 Alabama Crimson Tide
January 2, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Oklahoma: Ninth BCS bowl appearance, second-most all-time. The Sooners are 3-5 in BCS bowl games, snapping a five-game losing streak with a win in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl vs Connecticut.
Alabama: Third straight BCS bowl appearance and fifth in the last seven seasons under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide will make their first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 2008 season (lost to Utah in that game).
Discover Orange Bowl
12 Clemson Tigers vs 7 Ohio State Buckeyes
January 3, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Clemson: First BCS bowl appearance since 2011, when the Tigers played in the Orange Bowl. Those two games mark the only BCS bowls in school history. Speaking of history for the Tigers, they will make a school-record ninth straight appearance in a bowl game.
Ohio State: Tenth BCS bowl appearance, most all-time. The Buckeyes will make their first Orange Bowl appearance since the 1976 season against Colorado. Their last BCS appearance came in a 2011 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.
Vizio BCS National Championship Game
1 Florida State Seminoles vs 2 Auburn Tigers
January 6, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Florida State: After beating Northern Illinois in last year’s Orange Bowl, the Seminoles return to a BCS bowl game. It marks their first back-to-back BCS bowl appearances since 2002-03. This will be their first BCS Championship Game appearance since 2000 and fourth overall.
Auburn: Second BCS Championship Game appearance, first since winning the national title over Oregon in the 2010 season. This marks the third BCS bowl appearance for the Tigers, who are unbeaten in such games thus far.
Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, New Orleans (ESPN)
OKLAHOMA SOONERS BREAKDOWN
Outside of his 2000 national championship, this season might constitute Bob Stoops’ best coaching finish.
The way the Sooners won Bedlam underscores just how improbable a finish it was. Oklahoma didn’t even score an offensive touchdown until the final 19 seconds of the game, yet somehow toppled the heavily favored, then sixth-ranked Cowboys, 33-24.
Unlike the Jason White, Sam Bradford and Landry Jones eras, the Sooners are not equipped to win in shootouts. But led by a veteran offensive line, a reliable running back in Brennan Clay and its mobile quarterbacks, Oklahoma does have a strong running game, ranking 18th in the country.
Even without a surefire all-conference player, the Sooners also have their best defense since 2009. They are undersized up front, but the pass defense is prolific. Aaron Colvin is a proven lockdown corner, and Eric Striker is one of the best blitzing linebackers in college football.
The true strength of this team, however, is special teams. Jalen Saunders, who had a touchdown return in Bedlam, is one of the most electric returners in the country. Roy Finch leads the Big 12 in kickoff returns. And Michael Hunnicutt is a reliable field-goal kicker.
It will be interesting, as it has been all season, to see what the Sooners do at quarterback in the bowl. Freshman Trevor Knight won the job late in the season and was terrific at Kansas State. But he suffered a dislocated shoulder just before halftime at Oklahoma State. Knight should be fine for the bowl. But Blake Bell, who struggled in the losses to Texas and Baylor, led Oklahoma on the game-winning touchdown drive in the final seconds of the fourth quarter that beat Oklahoma State. -- Jake Trotter
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE BREAKDOWN
The sting of losing the Iron Bowl remains. The Crimson Tide didn't expect to fall to the Tigers in the final week of the regular season, miss out on the SEC championship game and, as a result, a trip to Pasadena, Calif., for a shot at a third-straight BCS championship. All of which begs the question: How will Alabama respond now that it has been relegated to the Allstate Sugar Bowl? And does Oklahoma stand a chance?
But Alabama isn't the same team it was then.
On offense, Alabama is actually much better as Doug Nussmeier has guided UA to 38.8 points per game -- the most in the Nick Saban era. AJ McCarron might not win the Heisman Trophy, but he has a shot at making it to New York having thrown for 2,676 yards, 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The offensive line that was rebuilt after being the best in college football a year ago has actually allowed 12 fewer sacks this season than the last. And the running back tandem of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake hasn't disappointed either, combining for 1,857 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The defense, though, has endured its ups and downs. Against Texas A&M, it gave up the most yards in school history, and against Auburn, it allowed the most rushing yards since 2011 (296) and the most rushing yards by a quarterback (99) in the Saban era. Discipline was an issue in those games and the back end of the defense was a troublesome spot throughout as strong safety Vinnie Sunseri was lost to injury midway through the season and the cornerback spot opposite Deion Belue was a revolving door with John Fulton, Cyrus Jones, Bradley Sylve, Eddie Jackson and Maurice Smith all taking unsuccessful turns.
The Tide’s defense will be tested by Oklahoma. With a few QBs that can run, if Alabama doesn't come out ready to play, it could turn into a shootout as the Sooners possesses the kind of spread offense that has given the Tide trouble (http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/75890/alabama-at-loss-defending-spread-offenses). LSU had the best tandem of receivers Alabama faced this season, but Oklahoma might have the best receiver corps with three wideouts with 20 or more catches. Jalen Saunders has 615 yards and five touchdowns of his own and Sterling Shepherd, who has 428 yards and six touchdowns, is the kind of shifty receiver that can hurt you. -- Alex Scarborough
Alabama heads to the Allstate Sugar Bowl facing the same kind of challenge it encountered the last time the Crimson Tide played in this game.
They will need to stay motivated after their national title hopes have vanished.
Alabama was atop the polls all season and seemed headed toward a shot at a third straight national title before falling 34-28 to No. 2 Auburn. The third-ranked Crimson Tide (11-1) instead will face No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 at New Orleans.
These two storied programs will be facing each other for only the fifth time ever. Oklahoma leads the series 2-1-1 and beat Alabama 20-13 when they last met in 2003 at Tuscaloosa.
Two of their prior meetings came in bowl games. Oklahoma and Alabama tied 24-24 in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl. Alabama beat Oklahoma 17-0 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1963.
"Even though there is some disappointment in terms of how we finished our season this year, we're not disappointed at all in the opportunity that we have to play in the Sugar Bowl and to play against a great team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I'm hopeful that our team will look at this as a challenge and an opportunity for them to prove the kind of football team we can be."
Alabama faced a similar situation five years ago.
When it earned that Sugar Bowl invitation in 2008, Alabama had just lost the SEC title to Florida with a BCS championship game appearance at stake. Alabama fell behind 21-0 to Utah and went on to lose 31-17. The Tide had a more pleasant Superdome postseason memory when they capped their 2011 national title with a 21-0 victory over LSU in the BCS championship game.