Sugar Bowl: Storied programs face off for just the fifth time ever

Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)
Thursday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Line: Alabama by 14.5

How Oklahoma got here: It wasn’t always easy, but the Sooners did what it took early in the season and looked good at 5-0. Then a shocking 36-20 loss to rival Texas made everyone take another look at Boob Stoops’ squad. OU rebounded to win five of its final six, but a 41-12 loss to Baylor was another blemish. The Sooners are in the Sugar Bowl because they beat rival Oklahoma State 33-24 in the final weekend of the regular season.

How Alabama got here: Everything was lining up just right for the Tide to play in the SEC title game and then get a shot at another BCS crown. But 11 straight wins meant very little when Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards with no time on the clock to knock off Bama. It was still another great season for Nick Saban’s group, which included wins over Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, LSU and Mississippi State.

For Oklahoma to win: The Sooners need either Blake Bell or Trevor Knight to have the game of their life at quarterback. Or maybe they both have big games.

For Alabama to win: The Tide must show up ready to play and not repeat what the 2008 squad did in the 2009 Sugar Bowl and lost to Utah. Alabama is more talented on both sides of the ball, so just show up to play.  

Key Player (Oklahoma): Aaron Colvin, CB. Colvin is the Sooners’ most talented defender and could shut down any of A.J. McCarron’s main targets. He has one interception, 49 tackles and 11 stops for a loss.

Key Player (Alabama): A.J. McCarron, QB. The Heisman finalist is making his final appearance for the Crimson Tide. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns. He enters the Sugar Bowl with 8,632 career passing yards and 75 career TD passes.

Key Stat: 2-1-1. Despite the storied history of these two football teams, they have only met on the actual field four times. The 2-1-1 is Oklahoma’s record in this brief series, and the Sooners own two wins in the last two meetings.