Most of the media expect a Saturday night shootout when Bama takes the field against the 12-1 Oklahoma Sooners. Most Bama fans think it will be just another step on the path to glory. For once in forever, I think the media has it right.
Sooner QB Kyler Murray deserved to win the Heisman Trophy. So did the Tide’s Tua Tagovailoa but only one player can win it at a time and Tua did appear to be a mere human in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. Murray’s stats are better than Tua’s and yes, part of that fact is because Kyler played more snaps in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Tua was usually watching Jalen Hurts inflict his own brand of pain in the second half. Murray has more attempts, more completions, more yards per completion and more TD’s. But he also has more sacks and more INT’s—more on that in a moment or three.
Bama fans need to accept that a healthy Murray is a handful, especially with the corps of speedy, athletic receivers he has. Oh, and with a tandem of talented running backs. Any of the offensive guys Coach Lincoln Riley puts on the field could start and star for Alabama. They are going to score a lot of points against the Tide and by the time the 4th quarter gets into under 10:00 to play, Bama’s D will be tired of chasing Murray and tackling Sooner playmakers.
But I don’t believe Alabama will just have to outscore Oklahoma to beat them, because while the defense may get tired it’s just as likely that this won’t be as big a deal. The Tide defense continues to get better with each game. It practices against a high octane offense every snap, and has vanquished some not-too-shabby SEC teams en route to 13-0. Quinnen Williams is sure to be a disruptive force up front. Mack and Anfernee are terrors backing the line and Surtain has turned into a frighteningly good weapon in the secondary. There will be plays where Murray is running for his life and where Q blows up the whole Sooner OL.
And then there’s Tua, who also deserved to win the Heisman and who wouldn’t be wrong in making this game a statement to the voters who had him second. Unlike Murray, Tua won’t be facing the best defense in the SEC. He’ll be facing a DINO--defense in name only. In fact, in his game preview Tidefans’ Jess Nicholas notes that Oklahoma’s highly suspect strength of schedule is a reason to suspect whether OU’s offensive line can hold up against Q and the gang.
It’s worth noting that Oklahoma has had Bama’s number and owns the series record. Alabama is 1-3-1 in the series, with a three game losing streak and a 45-31 humiliation of a Nick Saban team after the 2013 season. Football is a funny game. Not funny hah-hah. Funny strange. Alabama can exorcise some old demons Saturday night.
I think they will, in a high scoring affair.
Alabama 52, Oklahoma 42