By Brad Carroll
The New Year's Day marathon of college football is over, and while that is a sad time for fans, as it was the last full-slate schedule of the season, it does mean the big-time games are on the horizon. That is no different with Thursday night's Sugar Bowl, featuring a rare meeting between No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 3 Alabama, the defending champions. Here we preview and our college football experts pick the game against the spread.
No. 11 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Alabama, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Oklahoma +16.5; Alabama -16.5
Brad's Breakdown: This is just the fifth meeting between two of college football's most legendary program. The last time these two schools played was in 2003, when Oklahoma went into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama. All that is meaningless when these two teams take the field with the national spotlight focused squarely on them Thursday night. Alabama was the No. 1 team in the nation until it suffered a shocking loss to Auburn in the regular season finale, allowing 13 points in the final 32 seconds of the game. The end came on a 100-yard return off a missed field goal that sent the Tigers to victory and into the BCS national championship game. The Crimson Tide, who have won two straight national titles, just might be the best team in college football and are better at every area than Oklahoma. But motivation will be key for Alabama. Will this team be able to get excited for a game that won't be played for a national title? Alabama not has won two straight national titles, but three of the past four as well. Most of these players don't know what it's like not playing for the ultimate prize. The program does have stability, as coach Nick Saban agreed to a contract extension. Quarterback A.J. McCarron is as steady as they come, so he should play to win no matter the circumstance. For Oklahoma, this has been a down season, even though they are ranked 11th and have just two losses. The Sooners were blown out by Texas and Baylor this season. They did end on a high note, upsetting favored Oklahoma State in the regular season finale, ruining the Cowboys' conference title hopes. This game could come down to defense, where Alabama allows 11.3 points per game, second best in the nation. If the Tide defense comes ready to play, Oklahoma doesn't stand a chance. The point spread is huge, but Alabama should want to put on a show and prove just how good they are. We hope.
Brad's Pick: Alabama 38, Oklahoma 21
Craig's Pick: Alabama 32, Oklahoma 17
Glenn's Pick: Alabama 38, Oklahoma 20
Brad's Bowl Record: 13-16 (spread); 16-13 (straight-up); 3-5 (upset picks)
Brad's Season: 103-97-2 (spread); 147-55 (straight-up); 10-17 (upset picks)
Craig's Bowl Record: 15-14 (spread); 17-12 (straight-up); 3-4 (upset picks)
Craig's Season: 99-101-2 (spread); 148-54 (straight-up); 10-17 (upset picks)
Glenn's Bowl Record: 22-7 (spread); 20-9 (straight-up); 5-3 (upset picks)
Glenn's Season: 106-94-2 (spread); 146-56 (straight-up); 15-24 (upset picks)