Game Week: The Orange Bowl (Alabama)

You always want games like this.

Nobody gets hyped to see your team thump some hapless scrubs from a directional college or the resident conference cellar dweller. At a school like Oklahoma, especially during a run like this, you almost expect to win every game. We are just cut from a different cloth than most programs.

Alabama is not one of those programs.

The Sooners and Crimson Tide can go toe to toe on almost any category. These two programs are as prestigious as any you can find in the sport. We are the big boys, the bullies, the despised schools that roll into town and ruin your tailgate and laugh at your upset hopes.

Alabama, however, hasn’t just been the bully of the SEC; they’ve dominated the sport for a decade and look to be far from finished. Kyler Murray and the Sooners have a unique opportunity ahead of themselves to have a chance to defy the odds, topple the Tide and prevent the dynasty from consuming yet another season.

Ever since the Sooners took out Alabama in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, there has been an underlying sense of longing for a rematch on a championship level stage. Considering that Alabama struggles against great quarterbacks, the thought of seeing a Lincoln Riley offense unleashed on Bama made OU fans salivate. Yet every year since the stars failed to align – until now.

You want Bama? You got them on Saturday.


Meet the Crimson Tide:

Alabama football under Nick Saban has put together a decade of success the likes of which we’ve never seen before in this sport. The Crimson Tide have not just been good; they’ve been transcendent. Cold, calculating and systematic, they acquire number one recruiting classes and national championships in droves.

With a ruthless offense to match their deadly defense, Alabama is a team with few flaws. While their schedule hasn’t been the toughest, the way they dispatch opponents with ease turns the legs to jelly. I don’t need to say much about these guys other than they are firmly the real deal.


Who to Watch For:

QB #13 Tua Tagovailoa

Has there ever been a more obvious “who to watch for” than Tua Tagovailoa? Throughout most of the season, Tagovailoa was the clear clubhouse leader in the Heisman Trophy race before our very own Kyler Murray nudged out ahead of him in the final weeks of the season. Tagovailoa might be one of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen in college football in a long time, with elite size, arm strength, and all-time great efficiency.

While Tua had a bit of a dip in production in his final few games, he was hindered by an ankle injury, which he had surgery on following the SEC Championship. From all available reports, he should be healthy and ready for the Orange Bowl, but it’s always hard to tell considering the long layoff. Backup Jalen Hurts, who led the Tide in their comeback against Georgia, is a solid quarterback. However, their trump card has been played: OU will have a game plan for both quarterbacks in place (not that it might mean much).

Alabama has a juggernaut in nearly every facet of the game (seriously, how can’t they get a kicker?) for years, but Tua puts them over the top, leading an offense that can stack up with the cream of the crop in the Big 12.

WR #4 Jerry Jeudy and WR #17 Jaylen Waddle

As deadly as Tua is, Alabama’s backbreakers come in the form of an electric receiving duo in freshman Jaylen Waddle and Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy. Their game film is absolute nightmare fuel for the Oklahoma secondary as they are not only technically good but also blazingly fast. Waddle, a former OU recruiting target, is deadly in the open field and will make keying in on Jeudy nearly impossible.

Series History (Oklahoma, 3-1-1)

Despite Oklahoma and Alabama’s rich individual histories as two of the top five all-time college football programs, the Sooners and Tide have only met five times, with Saturday’s meeting being the first with national championship implications.

JFK orange bowl

Alabama’s lone win came in the 1963 Orange Bowl, which was also the first meeting between the Sooners and Tide. Despite the game being as star-studded as possible with all-time great coaches in Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bud Wilkinson, an eventual NFL legend in Joe Namath and freaking John F. Kennedy in attendance, the game was a dud with the Crimson Tide blanking OU 17-0.

After a mediocre 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl matchup that ended in a tie and nobody cared about it would take another 32 years for the two teams to meet again. While 2002 was only sixteen years ago, things are wildly different. Back then, Bob Stoops was starting his fourth season as head coach, Alabama was in the middle of probation and trapped in mediocrity and Nick Saban just a year away from winning his first national championship at LSU.

In the first game of a historic home and home, the Sooners survived a late comeback bid under a sweltering Norman sun, 37-27. In between games, Alabama fired not one, but two coaches after new hire Mike Price was caught in a Pensacola, Florida strip club. In the second game, the Sooners once again staved off an Alabama upset bid with help from an OU fake punt. Both games had strange atmospheres as both teams invaded each other’s stadium, with the visiting team wearing white for contrast.

The most recent meeting between Oklahoma and Alabama was easily the most memorable one: the 2013 Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide entered the game one kick-six removed from making a third straight national championship, while Oklahoma weaseled their way into the game after upsetting Oklahoma State in Stillwater after a legendary final drive. On paper, this OU team was beyond outmatched; we didn’t know who would they would play at quarterback until the first snap. Through excellent offensive play design, an inspired defensive performance that seems decades ago and one of the most inexplicably fantastic games from quarterback Trevor Knight, the Sooners pulled off a massive upset over one of the best teams in Alabama history.

Once again, the odds are against Oklahoma. If they want to take that next step and get back to the national championship for the first time in ten years, they will need to pray for a little old school Sooner Magic.

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