Orange Bowl Preview

This game is full or storylines. We can start with Oklahoma having back-to-back Heisman winners that’ll be playing in the playoffs, but this time it’ll be Kyler Murray going up against an Alabama team that some people think was having the most dominant season in college football history before their game against Georgia in the SEC title game.

Then you have the health of Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tua had to leave the SEC title game with an ankle injury and even though that was nearly a month ago, there’s still concern over his health going into this game as he came out and said a couple days ago that he’s probably still only 80-85% when it comes to how healthy he really is. Clearly, if need be, Jalen Hurts can come in and get the job done as he showed his improvement when he was thrown into the SEC title game against Georgia and was able to lead the comeback.

Nick Saban will be looking to lead Alabama to it’s fourth straight national title game appearance. (Photo: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Alabama offense vs Oklahoma defense

A lot is made of Oklahoma’s offense, and deservedly so because they are one of, if not the best offensive unit in college football history, but Alabama has the second-best scoring offense in all of college football and they’ll be going up against a unit that is averaging to give up 32.4 points per game, which ranks 96th in college football.

Alabama will be without one of their starting guards as Deonte Brown was part of a group of players that has been suspended for a violation of team rules.

I don’t think that suspension will have too much of an impact because Alabama still has so much talent and they’ve been so balanced this season with the rushing attack that’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the season and then with the dynamic passing attack, lead by Tua Tagovailoa, throwing to receivers like Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle and Jerry Jeudy, among others.

There’s just no way I see Oklahoma being able to slow down this Alabama defense, even if Tua isn’t close to 100%. There’s just too many weapons and this Oklahoma defense has been bad this season.

Oklahoma offense vs Alabama defense

This is the much more interesting matchup. Of course the star is Heisman winner and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, but with Lincoln Riley calling plays and with the plethora of weapons that the Sooners have, it’ll be tough for even a defense as good as Alabama’s to stop or even slow down this offense.

I don’t think with guys like Quinnen Williams up front that Oklahoma will just be able to run the ball at will, even though they do have a very good offensive line, and I don’t think it’ll even be Kyler Murray just dropping back and throwing. What would make me nervous if I were Alabama would be the playmaking ability of Kyler Murray when things break down. Murray is the most dynamic player in college football this season and even when things break down he’s so good at making things happen either by taking off and running or by scrambling and finding one of his great targets downfield.

Now Oklahoma will need to establish somewhat of a running game with Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks, which I expect them to try and do because Lincoln Riley calls a really balanced offensive game. That will help give the Alabama front at least something else to think about, which could slow them down and give Kyler Murray more time to try and make some big plays happen.

The chances of Oklahoma winning this game though in my opinion will be how well Kyler Murray can find guys like CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown down the field when things break down. Over the years these are the types of quarterbacks that have given Alabama the most issues and I think Oklahoma can put up some points in this one.

Kyler Murray will likely need to have a historic game for Oklahoma to be able to beat Alabama. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Special teams

This is as close to a push as it could be. I think Alabama is better in the return game with Joshua Jacobs and Jaylen Waddle, but Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas hasn’t really had to make pressure kicks this season, but he has been pretty good overall. However, the punting game has been spotty for Alabama.

On the flip side, Austin Seibert is the best non-return man special teams player in the country in my opinion. He’s 15-17 on field goals this season and he also does the punting and averages 41 yards per punt. Him being able to direct his punts well could be huge, because Oklahoma can’t afford to give up anything big in the return game.

Overall

This game should be high-scoring, but the offenses are pretty equal and the defenses are a complete mismatch. While I do think Oklahoma will be able to move the ball and score on the Alabama defense, Alabama will be able to put together more stops over the course of 60 minutes and Alabama should come away with the win in this one.

Pick: Alabama

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Author: Jared Woodcock

I am the founder and owner of Sports Daily Gameday Insight. I am also currently a business student at the University of Oregon

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