The Orange Bowl is part of the College Football Playoff this season, as the Oklahoma Sooners and Alabama Crimson Tide battle for a spot in the National Championship. Kyler Murray already won the individual battle for the Heisman Trophy, but Alabama and Tua Tagovailoa would much rather win the war. They enter as big favorites against the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
Murray will have to do what Heisman Trophy winners are supposed to do. Put the team on his back, which he’s been doing all season long, and upset the Crimson Tide. He’s also going to need a little bit of help from his defense. When I say a little, I mean more than a little. Oklahoma’s defense have been walked over by teams who do not have the offensive punch that Alabama possesses.
Murray should be able to put some drives together, but he’s going to need some help from the defense. Oklahoma will move the ball. However, it may not happen at the same clip as Alabama. While Oklahoma will move the ball, Alabama will get stops as well with their defense.
Trusting the Sooners to not break defensively against Jalen Hurts and Tua is a tall order. Tua appears to be at 85% heading into the playoff, but Nick Saban is going to keep Oklahoma guessing. It’s almost guaranteed that we see both Hurts and Tua taking snaps for Alabama.
That’s not exactly a bad thing. An already underwhelming defense is going to have to prepare for two different quarterbacks. And oh yeah, they have to account for a bruising Alabama running game. If the Crimson Tide get momentum early, they may never punt the ball in this game.
It’s imperative that Oklahoma gets an early stop to gain some confidence. I don’t feel so confident in that happening, so the onus is going to be on the Sooner offense to match Alabama series to series. Head below for our free Oklahoma vs. Alabama pick in the Orange Bowl of the College Football Playoff below.
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Orange Bowl Betting Odds:
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Oklahoma vs. Alabama Pick:
Kyler Murray of course won the Heisman Trophy this season, while Tua who many believed deserved it more, had to watch Kyler accept the Heisman. Reaction was pretty swift from some current and former members of the Crimson Tide on social media. I can tell you that Alabama have had December 29th circled for weeks now. Keep in mind that Tua was often pulled in the second-half of games this season.
Not because of poor play, but because the score was out of hand already. Despite not getting a full work load, Tagovailoa still passed for 37 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He also galloped for 190 yards and 5 touchdowns. Tua is more of a scrambler than pure runner. Hurts will take off and run more often if things break down.
Alabama concluded the regular season with an average of 528 yards per game for 5th in the FBS. They also scored 47.5 points per game in 2018. The scary part is that their offense could have done better than that. It’s just that games were out of reach for their opponents rather quickly that all Alabama had to do was kill clock in the second-half.
Oklahoma is 1st in the FBS with 578 yards per game and 49.5 points per game. With their defense, they couldn’t afford to slow the game down and stop scoring, though. Alabama had the benefit of having a defense to help out. Oklahoma did not have that luxury on the other hand.
The Sooners got throttled for 448 yards per game in 2018. That makes them worse defensively than teams like Rice, Hawaii, and Arizona. It puts them in 108th overall. When they have to defend the pass, it gets even uglier. Oklahoma have surrendered a whopping 291.4 yards per game through the air, which is a tie with Houston for the 130th pass defense in the FBS. I don’t think Tua is going to need a fully healed leg to exploit the Oklahoma secondary.
Murray has put together some staggering numbers, as he’s thrown for 40 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His ability to gash defenses with his legs is probably his greatest asset, though. Murray has rushed for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Trevor Knight ran and passed all over Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, a 45-31 win for OU. Oklahoma and Alabama haven’t played since that game. This version of the Crimson Tide are 10th in the FBS with 295 yards allowed per game. They’ve been better in the past, but I am certainly more confident in them getting stops than I am Oklahoma.
The Sooners’ defense shouldn’t present many problems for Alabama through the air or pounding the ball up the gut. I said that Oklahoma will move the ball, yeah, but not enough and not as consistently as Bama. I’ve put money on Kyler Murray and Oklahoma this season, but they haven’t played a team like Alabama. Oklahoma struggled to put away Army, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and a loss to Texas. Heck even Kansas made it interesting in a 55-40 game in November.
None of those teams are remotely close to Alabama in any aspect. Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma if they make one more play, and Army was a bounce or two away from winning. Don’t expect Saban to let up, either. He’s frustrated as anyone over Tua missing out on the Heisman. If they are in a position to run the score up don’t be surprised if the foot doesn’t come off the gas pedal. I took the points with Georgia in the SEC Championship and felt confident about it. I’m not getting the same feeling about Oklahoma here. 52-31 in favor of the Crimson Tide is my outlook, so I will lay the points with the best team in the nation in the Orange Bowl. Big 12 meet the SEC.