MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — No. 1 Alabama (13-0, 8-0 SEC) will face No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1, 8-1 Big 12) tonight in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. Here is the most pertinent information, as well as BOL staff predictions, before the College Football Playoff semifinal.
Alabama’s defense vs. Oklahoma’s Kyle Murray
All the talk leading up to the Orange Bowl has been about Alabama and Oklahoma’s defenses, and rightfully so. The Crimson Tide and Sooners lead the nation in scoring while quarterbacks for both teams finished first and second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Leading the charge for Oklahoma is Murray, who has totaled more offensive yards this season (4,945) than 68 of the other 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, including six current AP Top 25-ranked squads.
Containing the dual-threat signal caller will be a top priority for Alabama. But its defense is no slouch. The Crimson Tide boasts the nation’s No. 4 scoring defense, only allowing opposing teams to score 14.8 points per game, as well as the No. 10 total defense, the No. 13 passing defense and the No. 18 rushing defense. The Sooners present the CFP’s top seed with its top challenge to date, but if Alabama slows down Murray, it has a great chance to win this game.
Charlie Potter: Alabama 49, Oklahoma 35
This will be a battle of the nation’s top-two scoring offenses. But it won’t be a matchup of two of the best defenses. Oklahoma doesn’t make the top-50 cut in any of the four major categories (scoring, rushing, passing or total defense) and ranks dead last in passing defense, giving up more than 290 yards per game through the air. With Alabama’s high-scoring offense and solid defense, the Crimson Tide starts to wear down the Sooners in the second half in South Florida.
Travis Reier: Alabama 48, Oklahoma 31
Kind of hard to feel good about a score prediction when the health statuses for two elite offensive performers — Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown — figure to be at less than 100 percent. One thing I’m certain of is that Alabama’s receivers will get open against the worst pass defense in all of FBS.
Kirk McNair: Alabama 45, Oklahoma 28
Think too much about this and it gets more and more difficult to figure. My thought is that Oklahoma’s No. 1 offense in the nation wouldn’t have been No. 1 in the SEC West, where Alabama played and had the No. 2 offense. No matter where they played, Alabama’s defense looks better than Oklahoma’s.
Hank South: Alabama 59, Oklahoma 28
Tua Tagovailoa and company won’t have any trouble finding the end zone early and often in this contest. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Crimson Tide get points every time they have the ball on offense Saturday night. And while giving up 28 points on defense isn’t necessarily a great outing, against an offense like Oklahoma’s, it is.
Tim Watts: Alabama 45, Oklahoma 31
A lot of offense on both sides of the ball. There will be plenty of fireworks and big plays, but Alabama will control the tempo and hold off a late OU push.
INFORMATION TO KNOW
Kickoff time: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Miami Gardens, Fla.
Venue: Hard Rock Stadium
Television: CBS (How to watch)
— Play-by-play: Chris Fowler
— Color analyst: Kirk Herbstreit
— Sideline: Laura Rutledge, Maria Taylor
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network
— Play-by-play: Eli Gold
— Color analyst: John Parker Wilson
— Sideline: Rashad Johnson
Satellite radio: CTSN on Sirius / XM 84
National radio: ESPN
— Play-by-play: Steve Levy
— Color analyst: Brian Griese
— Sideline: Todd McShay
Series record: Oklahoma leads 1-3-1
Last meeting: Jan. 2, 2014
— Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Point spread: Alabama -14 (VegasInsider.com)
AROUND THE NATION
Saturday, Dec. 29 — 11 a.m. CT — Florida vs. Michigan (ESPN)
3 p.m. CT — Clemson vs. Notre Dame (ESPN)
Tuesday, Jan. 1 — Noon CT — LSU vs. UCF (ESPN)
4 p.m. CT — Washington vs. Ohio State (ESPN)
7:45 p.m. CT — Georgia vs. Texas (ESPN)
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