WHO: 11-1 Alabama (SEC) vs. 10-2 Oklahoma (Big 12)
WHAT: Sugar Bowl (80th Year)
WHERE: Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
WHEN: Jan. 2, 2014 at 8:30 p.m. ET
WHY: How much energy will Alabama have for this game after coming so close to playing for the SEC championship and a chance to play for their third straight BCS championship? That is the big question for the Crimson Tide, a program well aware of the perils that can come with a lack of interest in the Sugar Bowl. The last time Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl the Crimson Tide were upset by an inspired Utah team. That 2008 Alabama team was one win away form playing for the BCS championship but a loss to No. 2 Florida dropped No. 1 Alabama three spots in the polls and sent them to New Orleans to play the BCS busting Utah. Alabama dug an early 21-0 hole in the first quarter and was unable to climb out of it.
This Alabama team is on a different level from that past Alabama team though. That was Nick Saban‘s first true winning team since taking over the Alabama program. Now Alabama is a proven winner who knows how to prepare for all types of game situations. A lackluster start will not be allowed by Saban this time around as they hook up with Oklhaoma for just the fifth time in history. The Sooners will play the somewhat unfamiliar role of heavy underdog in the Sugar Bowl as well. Although they did not win the Big 12 championship, Bob Stoops and the Sooners are looking to carry the Big 12 banner after Baylor lost to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.
Given the history of verbal exchanges by Stoops and Saban this game has plenty of subplot behind it, but when it comes to X’s and O’s it looks as though Alabama has the advantage everywhere you look. The quarterback situation is much more stable for Alabama with Heisman finalist and Maxwell Award winner AJ McCarron. McCarron makes few mistakes and could benefit from a standout performance in his final game since he will skip out on the Senior Bowl. The duo of Blake Bell and Trevor Knight will give Oklahoma some options but Alabama’s defense can be difficult to fool. Auburn managed to find some holes but unless Bell or Knight transform in to Johnny Manziel it should not be expected either have a great night. The runnings games may be even between Alabama’s TJ Yeldon and Oklahoma’s Brennan Clay, which means this game will be determined mostly in the trenches. This is where Alabama’s advantages come in to play on offense.
If Oklahoma can avoid falling behind early on, the Sooners have a chance to hang with Alabama for a while, but the Tide should manage to pull away in the second half.
PREDICTION: Alabama 34, Oklahoma 17
The MAC title game isn’t the only bit of #MACtion that Ford Field will see in 2020.
The conference recently released their annual football schedule on Wednesday and among the notable league games is the rivalry contest between Central Michigan and Western Michigan. While this one figures to have division implications on Oct. 17, things are going to be slightly different this year.
Namely that it won’t be on either campus and will instead be played at Ford Field.
“Ford Field has been the location of many great experiences for CMU Football, and this is an opportunity to create another iconic experience for our program and our university,” athletic director Michael Alford said in a release. “CMU’s continued success means out-of-the-box thinking. Bringing this game — and the events surrounding it — to Detroit allows our athletics program to help engage thousands of people who are passionate about CMU.”
It’s an interesting move that will push CMU to over a decade without a win over their directional rivals in Mt. Pleasant. Still, the larger venue and the opportunity to make things an even bigger event in the state’s largest city seem to have won out.
The Detroit News reported on Tuesday that the Chips wanted to do a multi-year deal at the home of the NFL’s Lions but that WMU said no thanks.
The Broncos have won seven of the last nine meetings, including last year’s 31-15 win in Kalamazoo. Despite that head-to-head victory though, Jim McElwain’s squad got the last laugh by winning the MAC West in one of the biggest turnaround stories of the 2019 season.
They wound up playing at Ford Field in the conference title game where they eventually lost to Miami (OH) 26-21. The venue has been the home of the MAC championship since 2004 and will have the next edition played on either Friday, Dec. 4 or Saturday Dec. 5.
Georgia Tech is loving itself some #MACtion.
The school announced a pair of future schedule moves against teams from the eponymous league on Wednesday. Among the most immediate actions for the Yellow Jackets is that their 2021 contest against Northern Illinois will be shifted to become the season-opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 4.
GT will then play FCS Kennesaw State at home and conclude the early non-conference slate with a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 20, 2021. Their annual rivalry contest against Georgia will conclude the regular season the final weekend of November as usual.
Tech also added Bowling Green to their upcoming docket. The Falcons will head to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023. A trip to Ole Miss and the in-state rival Bulldogs coming to Atlanta will round out the Jackets’ non-conference schedule with one more opening still to be signed (likely against an FCS opponent).
Head coach Geoff Collins’ 2020 squad will have their attention on a conference opponent to open the upcoming season as they take on ACC opponent Clemson at home on Thursday, Sept. 3. The two programs will also meet again in city for the 2022 season opener at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium as well.
While those big name opponents will get more attention from fans in the region, don’t discount a bit of that #MACtion heading South either.
Keeping Clay Helton around wasn’t the only decision last year that upset USC fans. Now the school backtracking on a choice it just made has cost the program a pretty penny.
For those not in the know, cardinal and gold supporters up in arms last year when it was announced the program had agreed to a non-conference game with UC Davis for the 2021 season. Such a contest typically doesn’t draw much attention but it did in Los Angeles as it was the first FCS opponent the Trojans were to play in their illustrious history.
That would have left rivals UCLA and Notre Dame as the only two FBS programs not to play an FCS team.
Then things changed. The athletic director responsible for the deal, Lynn Swann, was shown the door. His replacement Mike Bohn has gone about trying to make amends and recently announced that USC had eventually backed out of the game against the Aggies.
In their place on the docket at the Coliseum that season is another Bay Area team, San Jose State. We already recounted how the Spartans made out quite nicely on the balance sheet as a result of this (and subsequent buyout from Georgia) swap. As it turns out though, they weren’t the only Northern California team to do so.
According to the Davis Enterprise, the buyout UCD was owed was only supposed to be $225,000. However terms called for that to jump to $725,000 after the start of the new year. Because the Trojans waited around they then had to pony up that extra half million for doing something they had been considering since the new administration came in.
“It’s pretty funny. We had every intention of playing that game,” Aggies senior associate athletics director Josh Flushman told the paper. “We just wanted to make sure (if there were) buyouts we were going to get the money.
“In December, (AD Kevin Blue) and I joking said, ‘Don’t take any phone calls from L.A. numbers until after the first.’”
The call didn’t come until February and the school is that much richer for it. On top of that they added a $400,000 guarantee game from Tulsa to replace Southern Cal on the schedule to boot.
Waiting may be the hardest part for some but it resulted in a nice seven-figure gain at UC Davis.
Fire up those calendars, the MAC has officially unleashed the 2020 football schedule. Indeed, #MACtion is here for all to see.
The conference announced dates and times for the upcoming campaign involving their football teams on Wednesday afternoon. You can find the entire slate here.
Among the many highlights for the league is that this upcoming season will serve as a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the MAC. While some specific festivities will be made public later on, it will nevertheless be a year-long nod to history for those in the Midwest.
Just as important to fans of teams in the conference? The football games themselves, which will be broadcasted across a variety of networks. This includes ESPN2, ESPNU and CBS Sports Network on the broadcast side. ESPN3/ESPN+ will handle things on the streaming side.
It wouldn’t be the MAC without mid-week games late this fall either. This year there will be 14 on tap in the month of November alone. Several more also dot the landscape to kick off 2020 in September as well.
In the non-conference portion, the MAC will again have a gauntlet to fight through. Teams will face a Big Ten opponent 11 times and travel to the SEC four times. In addition, the MAC will play four ACC programs, Notre Dame, BYU and plenty of other Group of Five teams.
Defending 2019 champion Miami (OH) open their season at Pitt and begins conference play at Akron on Sept. 26. Also keep an eye for the Redhawks’ home game against rival Ohio as key to the East Division race. The West side of the bracket could come down to a key Western Michigan-Central Michigan tilt on Oct. 17.
Either way, all roads lead to Detroit as the MAC title game returns to Ford Field again. While a time hasn’t been announced, it will be held on either Friday, Dec. 4 or Saturday, Dec. 5.