OU gets set for Sugar Bowl

OU FOOTBALL (Blake Bell, Brennan Clay)

By Kyle Salomon

Big opportunities don’t come around very often, but the Oklahoma Sooners have one looking them right in the face as they prepare to play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

OU will face the Crimson Tide at 7 tonight in the All-State Sugar Bowl in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome. The Sooners enter the game with Alabama ranked No.11 overall in the nation, while the Tide is ranked No.3.

Oklahoma has a record of 10-2 overall and a mark of 7-2 in Big 12 Conference Play. The Crimson Tide employs an 11-1 overall record and an 8-1 mark in the Southeastern Conference this season.

It will be the second time in the Bob Stoops era that the OU head coach has faced Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Stoops and Saban met in the 2003 BCS National Championship game when Stoops’ Sooners played Saban’s LSU Tigers. Saban got the better of Stoops in that game as LSU defeated Oklahoma 21-14. Ironically, that game was played in the exact same building this game will be played.

Oklahoma and Alabama come into this game from completely different positions. Before the season began, the Sooners would have been more than happy to be playing in a BCS game as this year was labeled a rebuilding season for Stoops and his program. Alabama was the consensus pick to win the national championship in the preseason and they held that ranking all the way into the last week of the regular season when they were upset by in-state rival Auburn on a last-second fluke play.

Alabama is heavily favored as the line on the game is sitting at 15.5 points in the Tide’s favor. Oklahoma was the underdog in its previous two games against Kansas State and Oklahoma State, both of which the Sooners came out on top, which earned them the spot in the Sugar Bowl.

This will only be the fifth meeting between the two storied programs. Oklahoma owns a 2-1-1 record over Alabama.

Saban and Stoops have more history than just one national championship game against each other as both coaches refer to the other as a “very close friend.” Saban knows the Stoops family from a long time ago as he recruited from the high school where Stoops’ dad was the head coach for years.

“I have known Bob and Mike (Stoops, Bob’s younger brother and OU defensive coordinator) for a long, long time,” Saban told reporters at his pre-Sugar Bowl press conference. “We have kept in touch for a number of years talking about things and discussing ideas. We have a very good relationship with the Oklahoma staff, and a tremendous amount of respect for them.”

Stoops echoed Saban’s comments in his pre-Sugar Bowl presser in Norman.

“Coach Saban is a very good friend,” he said. “We have always shared ideas and talked throughout the years. There is no question how successful he has been where he has been. He’s got it rolling down there. I respect the way they play the game. The attention to detail, the physicality, the talent, it’s all just very impressive.”

Oklahoma comes into the game offensively having scored 382 points this season, an average of 31.8 points per game. OU has amassed 5.070 total yards for an average of 422.5 yards per contest.

The Sooners have rushed for 2,830 yards this year for an average of 235.8 yards per game. They have passed for a total of 2,240 yards this season for an average of 186.7 yards per game.

Oklahoma has picked up a total of 256 first downs and committed 15 turnovers this season.

Running back Brennan Clay leads the team in rushing with 957 yards and six touchdowns on 158 carries, averaging 76.1 yards per game.

Quarterback Blake Bell is leading the Sooners in passing with 1,648 yards on 140 completions out of 233 attempts, with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Bell has a passing efficiency of 132.2 and averages 149.8 pass yards per game.

Quarterback Trevor Knight has totaled 471 yards passing this season on 47 completions out of 90 attempts, with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Knight has a passing efficiency of 105.6 and averages 67.3 pass yards per contest.

Receiver Jalen Saunders has caught 56 passes this season for 654 yards and six touchdowns. Saunders averages 11.7 yards per catch and 54.5 receiving yards per game.

Receiver Sterling Shepard has caught 44 passes this season for 540 yards and six touchdowns. Shepard averages 12.3 yards per catch and 49.1 receiving yards per contest.

Linebacker Frank Shannon leads Oklahoma in tackles this season with 85 on the year. Shannon also has one interception for the Sooners.

Linebacker Dominique Alexander is second on the squad with 75 tackles, while safety Quentin Hayes is third in line with 70 tackles on the year.

Defensively, the Sooners have allowed 256 points this season for an average of 21.3 points per game. Oklahoma has allowed 4,036 total yards for an average of 336.3.

OU has allowed 1,660 rush yards this season for an average of 138.3 yards per game. The Sooners have allowed 2,376 pass yards for an average of 198 yards per contest.

Oklahoma has allowed 213 first downs and has forced 20 turnovers this season on defense.

The Sooners opened up the season with Louisiana Monroe in a shutout win, 34-0. They then defeated West Virginia 16-7. In their third game they pounded Tulsa 51-20. They got their fourth win of the season with a 35-21 victory at Notre Dame.

Oklahoma beat TCU in week five, 20-17. The Sooners were handed their first loss of the season with a 36-20 beat-down at the hands of Texas. They rebounded the following week with a 34-19 victory over Kansas. OU handed Texas Tech its first loss of the year with a 38-30 beating.

The Sooners suffered their second loss of the season with a 41-12 smashing from Baylor. OU responded with a 48-10 victory over Iowa State. Oklahoma defeated Kansas State 41-31 on the road and then finished up with a bedlam road upset over Oklahoma State, 33-24.

Alabama comes into the Sugar Bowl match-up with the Sooners offensively totaling 437 points this season for an average of 39.7 points per game. The Tide has totaled 4,892 yards this year for an average of 444.7 yards per contest.

The Crimson Tide has rushed for a total of 2,326 yards this season for an average of 211.5 yards per game. Alabama has passed for 2,566 yards for an average of 233.3 yards per contest.

The Tide has picked up a total of 263 first downs this season and has committed 12 turnovers.

Running back T.J. Yeldon leads the team in rushing with 1,063 yards on 164 carries and 12 touchdowns. Yeldon averages 102.2 yards per game rushing this season.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron has passed for 2,399 yards on 190 completions out of 277 attempts, with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. McCarron has a passing efficiency of 165.13 this season and averages 218.1 yards per game.

Receiver Amari Cooper leads the Tide in receiving with 437 total yards on 30 receptions with three touchdowns, and averages 43.7 yards per game.

Linebacker C.J. Moseley leads the team in tackling this season with 88 tackles on the year. Linebacker Landon Collins is second on the roster in tackles with 51 on the year, and defensive end Trey DePriest is third with 47 tackles.

Defensively, the Tide has allowed 103 total points this season for an average of 9.3 points per game. Alabama has allowed 2,903 total yards for an average of 263.9 yards per contest.

The Crimson Tide has allowed 1,004 rushing yards this season for an average of 91.3 yards per game. Alabama has allowed 1,899 pass yards for an average of 172.6 yards per contest.

The Tide defense has allowed 148 first downs and has forced 17 turnovers this season.

Alabama opened the season with a 35-10 victory against Virginia Tech. They defeated Texas A&M 49-42 in their second game. The Tide beat Colorado State 31-6, and shut out Ole Miss 25-0 in their fourth game.

The Crimson Tide beat Georgia State 45-3 in its fifth game of the year. Alabama crushed Kentucky 48-7, then smashed Arkansas 52-0. The Tide then beat Tennessee 45-10.

Alabama hammered rival LSU 38-17, then beat Mississippi State 20-7. They dismantled Chattanooga 49-0, and then were upset 34-28 by Auburn on a missed field goal that was returned for a touchdown as the seconds ticked off the clock as well as a national championship bid for the Crimson Tide.

OU center Gabe Ikard said the Sooners will be ready to play come game day.

“We respect them, but we’re not scared to play them,” he said. “They’re extremely talented and we realize that. You have got to be confident going into a football game or else you are going to get blown out.”