Allstate Sugar Bowl preview

January, 2, 2009
1/02/09
7:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A quick preview of Friday night's Allstate Sugar Bowl between Alabama (12-1) and Utah (12-0):

WHO TO WATCH: Freshman receiver Julio Jones has been the 'X' factor all season for the Alabama offense. When teams insisted on cramming the line of scrimmage with defenders to stop the Crimson Tide's running game, quarterback John Parker Wilson simply found Jones, who's next to impossible to cover one-on-one with his size, strength and speed. Jones may have to play an even bigger role now that the Alabama running game has taken a hit with the suspension of left tackle and Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith. Look for the Tide to go to Jones early to spread out that Utah defense.

WHAT TO WATCH: With Smith out of the lineup, the Crimson Tide will go with junior Mike Johnson at left tackle. Johnson is normally the left guard and a very good player. Obviously, though, he's not Andre Smith. The key spot is at left guard, where sophomore David Ross will move into the starting lineup. The last time Smith didn't play, the Crimson Tide finished with just 172 yards of total offense earlier this season against Tulane, their lowest output in eight years. Think the Utah defense will test out that revamped left side of the Alabama offensive line?

WHY TO WATCH: The Alabama seniors said it best leading up to this game. It's been a great season, but it all goes for naught if the Crimson Tide stumble now. Great teams find a way to fight back from disappointment, and they also find a way to overcome adversity. The loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game was a bitter one, and losing Smith to a suspension was a shock. But lasting impressions are what count in college football, and the last thing Alabama wants to do is cap this magical ride with back-to-back losses.

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