Allstate Sugar Bowl 2014: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oklahoma Sooners: Then and Now

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

The last time Nick Saban and Co. went to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, it wasn't a pleasant trip. They'll try to avoid a similar upset this time around

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

We all remember what happened the last time Alabama was in this bowl*, but in case you've forgotten: Then, as now, the Tide were the huge favorites in the game. Then, as now, the Tide were seen as front-runners for the national title until losing one of their last games of the season.

Of course, there are differences as well. It's not at all clear that this Oklahoma team is as good as that Utah team. The 2008 Utes were undefeated; this Oklahoma team has ugly losses to Texas and Baylor, who spent the bowl season getting rocked by Oregon and UCF, respectively. Utah was a more balanced team offensively -- which doesn't take much, seeing as how Oklahoma ranks 99th in passing yardage in the FBS -- and ranked slightly better defensively in 2008 than Oklahoma ranks this season.

And this Alabama team is probably a little bit better than that Alabama team. After all, the Tide might very well be playing in Pasadena on Monday were it not for one of the more bizarre plays in a very bizarre year for the SEC, And you know all the particulars of this edition of the Tide: AJ McCarron is ruthlessly efficient even if his numbers aren't gaudy, T.J. Yeldon ran for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns on 190 carries, and the only two teams to score more than 17 points against Alabama were Auburn and Texas A&M.

The Sooners, to their credit, are averaging 31.8 points and 422.5 yards a game. (Neither number is quite as high in the rankings as you might think in what has been an offense-happy year in college football, checking in at 49th in scoring offense and 52nd in total offense.) And while the defense isn't quite as good as Alabama's, it's still pretty good, allowing more than 24 points to just four teams and ranking 14th in total defense to the Tide's 4th. For all the talk of a blowout in this game, the Sooners defense could keep them in the game for a long time, and perhaps until the end.

But the two-quarterback system of Oklahoma hasn't produced a lot of success in the passing game, and the running game is nowhere near as prolific as the only team that really gave the Tide serious heartburn on the ground; Auburn averages 99.9 more yards that the Sooners per game. It might not start out like the blowout everyone's expecting, but the Tide should cruise to a pretty comfortable win.

Alabama 27, Oklahoma 10

*Alabama visited New Orleans again in 2012, of course, but for the national championship game.

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