With the 2018-19 NCAAF Bowl Season underway, we are one step closer to crowning this year’s national champion.
On Saturday, two teams will inch closer to that goal of winning the title as the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl (8pm ET Saturday on ESPN), contested between Alabama Crimson Tide and Oklahoma Sooners, play host to this year’s semifinal playoff games. This preview deals with the latter matchup.
Orange Bowl History
Played annually ever since 1935, the Capital One Orange Bowl is tied for the second oldest bowl game, behind only the Rose Bowl (played annually since 1916). It has always been played in Miami, FL and currently takes place from the Hard Rock Stadium.
Unlike many of New Year’s six bowl games, the Orange Bowl did not start out as having any direct conference tie-ins. That meant that there was no rule as to which teams could qualify for the bowl, though the bowl did often feature a southeastern representative taking on a northeastern one.
Starting in the 1950s, the Orange Bowl aligned with the Big Eight Conference, wherein the conference champion or runner-up was always invited to play in the game. This was the case until the dissolution of the Big Eight in 1996. About 10 years later, in 2007, the Orange Bowl became branded as the Home of the ACC Champion as one spot in the game was always reserved for the conference winner or if that team was in the national championship game, the second highest ranked team from the ACC.
In 2014, with the transition from the BCS to the college football playoff, the Orange Bowl joined the six-way rotation of bowls chosen to host the semifinal. Alongside the Cotton Bowl, the Orange Bowl plays host to a semifinal every three years.
Can Anyone Stop Alabama?
Four teams are taking part in this year’s playoff. One of them, Notre Dame, is making its first appearance. Two others, Clemson and Oklahoma are bowl game regulars. Only one team though, Alabama, has taken part in every college football playoff since its advent in 2014. Beyond that, the Crimson Tide have won two national titles and played in each of the last three title games in that span.
The defending national champions, Alabama entered this season with a bullseye on their back but it’s nothing new for the Crimson Tide. Their response to the pressure was nothing new either. Alabama recorded an undefeated season in which they held opponents to zero points in back-to-back games and never really played a close game all season until the SEC Championship against Georgia. Behind the efforts of Tua Tagovailoa, winner of both the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards, and more recently his backup Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s offense finished as the second top scoring offense in the NCAAF, averaging 47.9 points per game. No one was able to stop them. Although, there is one team that could and it just so happens to be the team Alabama is facing this Saturday.
Oklahoma finished the year as the NCAAF’s top offense, averaging 49.5 points and just blowing opposing defenses to shreds en route to their 12-1 record. The team’s only loss came against Texas in week six of the season. Since that loss, the Sooners were dominant, scoring over 50 points per game in five of their final seven games. They did allow their opponents over 40 points in four of those games, but Oklahoma’s offense won out and proved that in shoot out conditions, they are really tough to beat. Part of that was because of Heisman winning quarterback Kyler Murray.
A junior, Murray became the second Oklahoma player in a row following Baker Mayfield, to win the Heisman trophy and it was a well-deserved award at that. Murray finished the season with over 4,000 yards passing, 40 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. It was easily his best career year as a starter, having more than tripled his previous outputs from 2015 and 2017.
With Murray at the helm, Oklahoma’s offense was nearly unstoppable. It sets up a great clash against Alabama, a team that was quite literally unstoppable this year. These two teams both bring incredibly strong offenses to the table and if there is anyone that might be able to find the chink in Alabama’s armor, it would certainly be Oklahoma.
Our Preview’s Oklahoma Sooners vs Alabama Crimson Tide Predictions & Picks Verdict
Above, the question was asked “Can anyone stop Alabama?” The answer is no. However, Oklahoma has the best chance of any of Alabama’s prior opponents to out shoot the Crimson Tide in a high-scoring affair. It’s no secret that the Sooners have little to no defense. During the regular season they allowed opponents over 440 yards and 32 points per game, which ranks 108th nationwide. Their formula for winning was simple however, as they just outscored what their own defense allowed. In all but one game that formula was successful.
The problem for Oklahoma is that Alabama has both a great offense and a top-10 defense so finding a way to outscore them while also limiting them is certainly not going to be an easy task. Oklahoma does have the firepower to do so. They will just need to play the best football they have all season long.
Alabama enter this one as massive favorites with the best oddsmakers for Americans, 14 points on the spread to be exact. That’s a pretty huge margin given this is a playoff semifinal. That’s how head and shoulders above the rest the Crimson Tide has been. That even against a team that could match them touchdown for touchdown. It’s a tough spread to work with given Alabama’s average margin of victory this year well exceeds that number.
- All that being said, for the first of our Oklahoma Sooners vs Alabama Crimson Tide predictions, the pick is to stand by Oklahoma and what they’ve done all year as well. So taking everything into consideration, whether they win or lose, look for Oklahoma to best the 14 points favored to their opponents. Bet the Sooners +14pts @ -110 with Bovada, BetOnline or Intertops.
- As for the total points likely to be racked up, the only way Oklahoma wins and stays within that 14-point margin is in a bona fide shootout. The total is lofty, 20 points more than what is set for the other semifinal in the Cotton Bowl. That being said, with what both these teams average, it might even be a little low. Go over 76.5pts @ -110 betting odds with BetOnline. It is over 77pts with Intertops and Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.