AJ McCarron will play in his final college football game on Thursday night when the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide take on the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners. The two teams are set to meet in the 2014 Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans in a battle of traditional powers.
In his third year as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, McCarron will finally not be playing in the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, he’ll be facing the Sooners, who finished tied for second in the Big 12 standings.
McCarron never won the Heisman Trophy, but he’s been a top signal caller in college football for a few years. He had another big season in 2013, throwing for 2,676 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. Even in Alabama’s one loss, he did more than enough to help the team keep their perfect record. Against Auburn, McCarron threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
While Oklahoma will have to worry about stopping the Heisman Trophy runner-up, the play of the Sooners quarterback may be more crucial to the outcome of the contest. Three different players have seen significant time at the position, and head coach Bob Stoops hasn’t announced who will get the start.
The most likely scenario has both Blake Bell and Trevor Knight seeing time under center. In Oklahoma’s final victory of the regular season, the two split time on the field. Knight only completed three of seven passes, but he ran the ball 11 times for 47 yards. Bell went 10-of-16 for 140 yards and a touchdown. His play down the stretch of the game, though, was crucial. He didn’t get the start, but led the final drive, which ended in a seven-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds remaining.
Bell and Knight will try to score on the second-best defense in the nation, which allows 11.3 points per game. Only twice did Alabama surrender more than 17 points in 2013. The Sooners offense struggled in their two losses, scoring 20 and 12 points, respectively, against Texas and Baylor.
The Crimson Tide are favored by more than two scores. However, Nick Saban has to beware of his team having a letdown. The club was ranked No.1 in the country for the entire season, and didn’t see their national title hopes get dashed until their last game.
"(Saban told us) we shouldn't let this loss bring us down to the point where we just keep hang-dogging and keep our heads down going into the game and lose (the Sugar Bowl), too," left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said.
The two football programs have a very rich history. Both Alabama and Oklahoma have won six Associated Press national championships in the pre-BCS era.
Player To Watch: Blake Bell
Time: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
Place: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Updated Betting Odds: Alabama by 17
Prediction: Alabama over Oklahoma, 27-17