Alabama expected to finish the 2013 season in a BCS bowl, but the Crimson Tide had their sights set on a trip to Pasadena for the national title game. Instead, they'll compete in the Sugar Bowl against an Oklahoma team that finished strong to earn a BCS berth.
It's unclear who will start at quarterback for the Sooners, and GumpinOnSaturdays at Roll 'Bama Roll doesn't expect Sooners head coach Bob Stoops to make an announcement until close to kickoff. Both Blake Bell and Trevor Knight like to run, but they do it in different ways.
Knight, much like Bell, is a run first quarterback. The biggest difference, when it comes to their running styles, is that Knight relies more on his speed, while Bell is a bruising, between the tackles runner. And Knight's running ability was on display in the first two games of the season. Against Louisiana-Monroe, Knight ran for 103 yards on 13 carries and against West Virginia he totaled 42 yards on 7 attempts. But his throwing ability left much to be desired -- 11 completions on 28 attempts against Louisiana-Monroe (86 yards) and 10 completions on 20 attempts against West Virginia (119 yards). West Virginia, a relatively poor defense, was able to hold Oklahoma to only 16 points in Norman. But an injury to Knight late in that West Virginia game, coupled with his ineffectiveness, led to Bell regaining the starting job.
The 6' 192 lb. corner plays very aggressively, very much like Dee Milliner for the Crimson Tide last year. He is a tremendous boost in run support, showing great instincts and often making plays behind the line of scrimmage. In coverage, he uses his hands very well. Sometimes too well, occasionally drawing a PI flag. He has the speed to stick with most any receiver, and does well enough to shut down otherwise productive pass catchers. Expect to hear Colvin's name quite a bit during the Sugar Bowl, and again in the first round of the NFL draft in May.
Oklahoma will have to do battle against a tough Crimson Tide defense, but Alabama also has a solid offense, led by Heisman Trophy runner-up A.J. McCarron. Crimson and Cream Machine's M. Hofeld notes that the Tide quarterback has many positive attributes, including great execution of play-action fakes.
* He's a master at the play-action. Most quarterbacks stand tall through their play-fakes so that can maintain their down-field vision. McCarron actually ducks and pulls his shoulders in during his play-fakes. This helps to sell the fake and freeze the defense for that extra second or two. Multiple times you'll see McCarron throw to a wide open receiver off a play-fake and the reason why is because the safety, linebacker or corner bit really hard on it.
Or course, even the best quarterback needs some help from his receivers, and McCarron certainly receives a boost from his outstanding corps of playmakers on the outside. If Oklahoma isn't careful, the Crimson Tide could burn the Sooners with Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones.
The scariest part about Alabama's receivers is that Oklahoma has the tendency to play soft coverage and give the receivers a cushion and these guys can make you pay dearly for doing that. They're not really big enough where they're going to out-muscle you but they sure can out-run you. The Sooners may be better served by trying to get physical with them by pushing them around a bit and keeping tight coverage.
Don't forget, Sooners fans, Lane Kiffin is apparently working with Nick Saban and evaluating the Tide's offense. Everything Kiffin has touched in recent years has gone downhill, so maybe the OU defense will have an advantage after all.