Orange Bowl – Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (-14)
Sat., December 29, 4:00 p.m. ET
1. Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide have gone 8-6 against the spread in bowl games. Alabama has won the national championship in two of the last three years, and the Tide deservedly opened their game against the Sooners as gigantic favorites. One impressive Saban trend that stands out when looking at this game is that Alabama is 5-1 against the spread when playing on a neutral field as a favorite of 10.5 to 14 points. It’s also worth noting that the Crimson Tide survived a major test against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama trailed 21-7 and 28-14 in that game but battled back behind backup quarterback Jalen Hurts—who came in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa. It was big for Alabama to win a close game like that even though it didn’t cover. Overcoming a tough challenge—and getting their worst performance of the season out of the way—gives the Tide momentum heading into the College Football Playoff.
2. The quarterback situation for Alabama will be interesting in this semifinal game. Tagovailoa has been the best player in college football this season, but the sophomore’s ankle injury forced him out of the Georgia game and required minor surgery. Tagovailoa will be out for the two weeks leading up to this game, which could hamper his performance. Even if Tagovailoa isn’t 100%, Hurts played extremely well against the Bulldogs, and no matter who is out there for Alabama, it’s hard to imagine the team struggling to move the ball against Oklahoma. The Sooners had the worst passing defense in all of college football this season, and they allowed more points per game (32.4) than all but 34 teams. Alabama also dominates games on the ground, with a stable of talented runners playing behind one of the nation’s better offensive lines.
3. Kyler Murray is exactly the type of quarterback that has given Nick Saban’s teams trouble over the years. Like other do-it-all quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel and Deshaun Watson, Murray has the ability to beat opponents with his arm and his legs. On the year, Murray has thrown 40 touchdowns and added 11 more on the ground. With wide receivers like Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb, the Sooners won’t make life easy for Alabama. But the Crimson Tide have the fourth-best scoring defense in the country and the defense is packed with future NFL players. Alabama might not be able to completely shut the Sooners down, but the Tide will get enough stops in the end. On the other side, Oklahoma can’t say the same.
Pick: Alabama -14
Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)