Thursday, December 26, 2013

Traditional powers collide in 80th annual Sugar Bowl

When it comes to the college football world, one would be hard-pressed to find two more tradition-rich programs than Oklahoma and Alabama. Marked by legendary coaches and legendary teams, the Crimson Tide and the Sooners are members of college football royalty.

Clashing in the 80th Sugar Bowl, Alabama and Oklahoma will enter the contest on very different emotional levels.

Oklahoma, having lost two games in the regular season, managed to upset in-state rival Oklahoma State on the final weekend of the regular season. The victory over the Cowboys essentially punched OU’s ticket to the prestigious, BCS aligned, Sugar Bowl. Having achieved possibly more than what was expected prior to the start of the season, the Sooners will arrive in New Orleans on a positive note.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, regardless of potential denials to the contrary, the 2014 Sugar Bowl is Alabama’s consolation prize. Having been upset on the final weekend of the regular season by the Auburn Tigers, UA’s quest for a three-peat had not only ended at the hands of an in-state rival, but ended courtesy of a missed field goal returned for a touchdown as time expired.

While Oklahoma fulfilled a goal by earning a spot in the illustrious Sugar Bowl, Alabama was forced to accept the raw hand of New Orleans after the goal of Pasadena had been derailed.

Although the faces on the field have changed, the 2008 Alabama team entered the 2009 Sugar Bowl with similar disappointed. Having been ousted by the Florida Gators in the 2008 SEC title game, the Crimson Tide entered the Sugar Bowl “hungover” after their national title hopes had been dashed one month prior. The result of being forced to accept an unwanted fate led to the Crimson Tide being “thumped” at the hands of an upstart and hungry Utah squad. Jumping out to a 21-0 lead, Alabama simply had no answer against the underdog Utes from Salt Lake City.

Given the well-documented stumble against Utah, one would be foolhardy to ignore the potential of a mental and emotional letdown by Alabama against the Sooners.
Removing all of the psychological clutter, the biggest point of “drama,” in terms of player personnel, is on the side of Oklahoma. Who the Sooners will trot out as quarterback has made for quite the guessing game, and by various media accounts, that game will continue until OU takes the field on offense for the first time. Blake Bell, Trevor Knight, and Kendal Thompson are Bob Stoops’ three options, most notably Bell and Knight.

Currently listed as 15.5-point underdog, the Sooners will obviously have a tough mountain to climb regardless of who takes the snaps against the Crimson Tide. Again, on the surface, the biggest threat to Alabama could very well be...Alabama.

If the Crimson Tide can overcome the tough pill that New Orleans is not Pasadena, and the Sugar Bowl trophy is not a crystal football, UA should be able to defeat the Sooners and cement yet another successful season.

As for the ill-fated Iron Bowl, UA’s only loss of the season, history will likely record that contest as not the day Auburn ended Alabama’s “dynasty,” but rather the day where Alabama dethroned Alabama. Ironic proof that, in the end, only the self-inflicted wounds by the nation's best team were able to take out the nation's best team.
When the Superdome goes dark on the night of Jan. 2, the nation will realize what could have been, and probably what should have been, because Alabama, in the eyes of many, will still be touted as the best overall team in the nation in respect to the 2013 season.

While it is only human nature to speculate on what would have happened had Alabama tangled with Florida State for the national title, the most celebrated senior class in arguably the history of college football will conclude a rather "sweet" career with a copious amount of high quality sugar.

Alabama 34
Oklahoma 14

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