WHO: No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (13-0)
WHAT: The 85th Capital One Orange Bowl (and the second College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl)
WHEN: 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Fla.
THE SKINNY: Tempting as it may be to center the game around Tua Tagovailoa‘s right knee, that is not the most important lower body injury heading into this game. That would belong to Oklahoma wideout Marquise Brown, who injured his foot/ankle in the Sooners’ Big 12 Championship win and did not return. While OU would still boast a good-to-great offense without its All-American wide receiver (75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns) at full strength, Brown’s speed provides a third dimension that pushes the Sooners’ attack from great to world class.
And make no mistake, Oklahoma’s offense will need to be at world class level to beat Alabama.
Remember, Oklahoma racked up 289 passing yards, 242 rushing yards and 41 points (seven came from the defense) in last year’s Rose Bowl, and it still wasn’t enough to hold off Georgia. Even if Tagovailoa doesn’t play (and it appears that he will) or isn’t at full strength (to be determined), Alabama will still likely move the ball on OU’s defense. While the Sooners have proven an ability to make the plays when they need them — recall the two touchdowns to beat West Virginia and the same-changing safety against Texas — they won’t match up well with Alabama’s offense even if Jalen Hurts is taking the snaps.
So the question becomes what do Lincoln Riley and Kyler Murray have up their sleeves for Nick Saban and his defense? The Heisman Trophy winner will be a challenge unlike the Tide have ever faced — a Johnny Manziel-like running ability, but quicker, and with a stronger, more accurate arm. Murray averaged 311 passing yards and 68 more on the ground. Those numbers may need to be closer to 350 and 100 — and it still may not be enough.
THE PICK: Alabama 45, Oklahoma 35
MetLife Stadium has been home to some awful NFL football this season but this past Saturday fans in the Tri-State region were at least treated to a far more interesting product on the field..
As we noted back in early October, this year’s Battle for the Cortaga Jug was going to be extra special because it was going to take place in the Meadowlands as Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland attempted to set a new Division III record for attendance. According to the Ithaca Journal, the pair did just that with 45,161 fans showed up to the game as the Bombers (that’s Ithaca) won their third straight Jug, 32-20.
“The electricity was unreal,” Cortland senior running back Zach Tripodi told the paper, “… When I scored, I don’t think I’ve ever felt something like that. You really felt the crowd.”
The final tally broke the previous D3 mark of 37,355 (from a 2017 matchup between St. Thomas and St. John’s at Minneapolis’ Target Field) by a considerable margin.
For what it’s worth, the D3 game at MetLife also had a bigger crowd than the ones that watched some of the FBS programs in New York, including the 16,286 down in Durham, N.C. that saw Syracuse thump Duke, the 8,450 that saw Buffalo lose at Kent State or the 25,747 in West Point that saw Army beat Virginia Military Institute.
Good football, it seems, is hard to come by in the Empire State but fans will come out for quality play no matter what level.
For some teams, reaching a bowl game — even those obscure dot com-sponsored ones — is quite meaningful. Such is the case at Louisville as they have embarked on one of the better turnarounds in the country this season under new head coach Scott Satterfield.
Following up a 2-10 disaster at the hands of Bobby Petrino last year, the new staff has revitalized the program and secured bowl eligibility on Saturday by beating N.C. State 34-20. That’s a cause worth celebrating around the city and Cardinals AD Vince Tyra certainly did not short himself on that front after the sixth victory of 2019 by donning a rather comical mask in the locker room and breaking out some very expensive whiskey to share with the head coach.
Tyra and Satterfield may indeed be the only ones to drink Pappy out of a Gatorade cup but it probably tasted even sweeter than it normally does given the accomplishment it’s celebrating. While some fans may scoff at reaching six wins in a season, the jubilation in Louisville is a good reminder that benchmarks like that have plenty of meaning for programs who sat at home in disarray last year.
Auburn may have lost the battle with Georgia in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry on Saturday but the Tigers at least made some progress on the facilities war.
According to the school, Walt and Ginger Woltosz made the largest gift to the athletic department in program history over the weekend thanks to a $10 million pledge that will help kickstart construction on a new football facility.
“We always tell our players to use their influence in a positive way,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “Walt and Ginger are a great example of that. Their gift will help us compete for championships and serve our student-athletes for generations. They represent everything that Auburn stands for. Hard work, concern for others and generosity.”
AU said that $31.5 million has already been raised for the new building in total, which has gone through a number of board approvals already and just needs to finalize a design and budget before shovels can hit the ground.
The primary motivation behind such a project is pretty clear as regional and conference rivals from Clemson to Alabama to the aforementioned Bulldogs have all added flashy new facilities in recent years while the Tigers’ current digs were built over three decades ago.
Voters are still struggling with what to do with Alabama after Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury but it’s pretty clear that the immediate effect for the Tide is to drop behind their SEC rival Georgia in the polls.
After doing so in the Coaches Poll earlier Sunday, the new No. 4 Bulldogs flipped places with the No. 5 Crimson Tide, following the example set by the CFP Selection Committee last Tuesday as well.
Elsewhere in the poll, previously undefeated Baylor and Minnesota dropped several spots after taking their first L’s of the year. The Bears were only down one place however to No. 13 while the Gophers were punished a little harsher by moving from No. 7 to No. 11. That latter spot is, it should be noted, two places behind the team it just beat a week ago in No. 9 Penn State.
No. 17 Cincinnati remained the top Group of Five team in the poll but there was some movement at the bottom of the rankings following a number of losses in the 20-25 range. No. 23 Appalachian State returns to the rankings after thumping Georgia State while No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 25 Virginia Tech also earned an appearance.
The full AP Top 25 entering Week 13:
- LSU (54 first-place votes)
- Ohio State (5)
- Clemson (3)
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
- Boise State
- Oklahoma State
- Appalachian State
- Texas A&M
- Virginia Tech