The 80th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic will feature the University of Alabama, from the Southeastern Conference, against the University of Oklahoma, from the Big 12 Conference, on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game is scheduled to kick off at 8:30 p.m. EST and will be televised by ESPN. In addition to featuring two programs ranked in the top seven all-time in college football (FBS) victories, no game in history has featured more combined bowl victories (62) by its teams.
"We're very excited to be welcoming the University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl," said Sugar Bowl Committee President Jay Batt. "Each year, we have the pleasure of welcoming thousands of fans to this great city and showing off all it has to offer - world-class cuisine, trend-setting music, outstanding gridiron competition and more. We look forward to introducing our unique flavor of hospitality to all of the players, coaches, administrators and fans from these two great schools.
"We're very pleased to have the opportunity to host these two outstanding teams in this year's Allstate Sugar Bowl," Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said. "The Sugar Bowl Committee has worked hard over the years to present outstanding match-ups that produce thrilling games. This year's game features two of the winningest programs in the history of college football, not to mention two of the most successful coaches in the country. We have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl."
Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) will be making a record 14th appearance in the Sugar Bowl; the Crimson Tide's eight wins in the game is also a record. The last Sugar Bowl appearance for the Tide was following the 2008 season when they were upended by Utah, 31-17. However, Alabama was hosted by the Allstate Sugar Bowl for the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship game, when it upended LSU, 21-0, for its 14th national title. The Crimson Tide also secured national championships with wins in the Sugar Bowl in 1962, 1979, 1980 and 1993.
"We are excited and proud to be named to play in this year's Sugar Bowl against the University of Oklahoma," said Bill Battle, University of Alabama Director of Athletics. "These are two great universities with great academic and football traditions. The history of our previous games against each other has been very competitive and exciting. Our fans love New Orleans, and this is especially meaningful to me, as I have degrees from both institutions (bachelor's degree from Alabama, master's degree from Oklahoma)."
Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2 Big 12), meanwhile, will be making its seventh appearance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the most of any non-SEC school. The last time the Sooners came to New Orleans was for the 2004 Sugar Bowl, which doubled as the BCS National Championship, when they were stopped by LSU, 21-14. Oklahoma played in three straight Sugar Bowls under legendary coach Bud Wilkinson, winning in 1949 and 1950 before having a 31-game winning streak snapped by Kentucky in the 1951 game - the Wildcats were coached by a 37-year old up-and-comer named Paul "Bear" Bryant. The Sooners also picked up a pair of wins under Chuck Fairbanks, defeating Auburn in the Jan. 1, 1972 game and Penn State following the 1972 season (Dec. 31, 1972), giving them the distinction of being the only team to win two Sugar Bowls in one calendar year.
"Bowl games between longtime powers like Oklahoma and Alabama - schools with decades of championship history - are part of what makes college football so special," said OU Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione. "The Allstate Sugar Bowl and the city of New Orleans possess stellar reputations for providing a spectacular experience for student-athletes and college football fans, alike. I know our squad and our Oklahoma fans will enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to meet Alabama in a bowl for the first time in over 40 years, particularly in a contest with the storied reputation of the Allstate Sugar Bowl."
Schools that are currently in the SEC have registered an all-time mark of 34-38-1 in the Sugar Bowl, while this will be the 19th appearance in the game by a current member of the Big 12, with an overall record of 11-7. Alabama has an 8-13-2 (.391) all-time mark against Big 12 teams, while Oklahoma is 105-46-8 (.686) all-time against the SEC (current membership).
Alabama was the Sugar Bowl's first pick, selected to replace SEC Champion Auburn, the Bowl's anchor team, when the Tigers were tabbed for the BCS National Championship Game. Alabama, by virtue of its No. 3 position in the BCS Standings, was an automatic qualifier to a BCS Bowl. The Sooners, who are ranked No. 11 in the BCS Standings, were the Sugar Bowl's second at-large pick. This will be Alabama's sixth BCS bowl appearance - it has won three of its previous games, while Oklahoma is making its ninth BCS appearance with three victories. The Tide will also be making a record 61st bowl appearance (35-22-3), while the Sooners will be going to their 47th bowl game (27-18-1).
Despite the long histories for both programs, this will be just the fifth meeting between the two teams. In their first meeting, Alabama defeated Oklahoma, 17-0, in the 1963 Orange Bowl (following the 1962 season). In another bowl showdown, the pair posted a 24-24 tie in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. The Sooners swept a home-and-home series with the Tide in the early 2000s, winning 37-27 in 2002 in Norman and then 20-13 in 2003 in Tuscaloosa.
The two coaches for this year's Sugar Bowl rank among the best in the nation. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has an all-time record of 165-56-1 (.745) in 18 years, with his winning percentage ranking third among active Division I head coaches with 10 years of experience. He is just behind Oklahoma mentor Bob Stoops, who has posted a 159-39 (.803) mark in 15 years as a head coach. This will not be the first meeting between the pair as Saban was the head coach at LSU for the 2004 Sugar Bowl when the Tigers upended Stoops' Sooners for the national championship.
Saban has posted a 74-14 (.841) record in his seven years at Alabama; he also served as the head coach at Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99) and LSU (2000-04). A five-time National Coach of the Year, Saban is one of four coaches to win four national titles in the modern era of college football. Stoops, meanwhile, has spent his entire head coaching career at Oklahoma; he surpassed Barry Switzer to become the program's winningest coach this season. In his tenure, he has guided the Sooners to a school-record 15 straight bowl games and eight Big 12 titles. Saban (72) and Stoops (62) have won more games than any other FBS coaches over the past six seasons and they are the only coaches who have won 10 or more games in each of the past four seasons.
Both programs have exhibited balanced teams through the season. Alabama ranks No. 16 in the country in scoring with 38.8 points per game, while Oklahoma also averages over 30 points at 31.8. Over their last three games, all wins, the Sooners have averaged 40.7 points per game. The Crimson Tide's offense is split between a rugged rushing attack (212 yards per game) and a solid passing game (236.9 yards per game), while Oklahoma has posted averages of 235.8 rushing yards and 186.7 passing yards. Defensively, Alabama is among the best in the nation, ranking No. 1 in scoring defense (11.3 points per game) and No. 5 in total defense (274.7 yards per game), including just 108.3 rushing yards per game. Oklahoma allows 21.3 points per game (No. 23 in the nation) and just 336.3 yards per game (13th in the country).
Both teams are weighted with players from their own states as the Crimson Tide has 34 Alabama products on the roster and the Sooners have 30 players from Oklahoma on their team. Alabama also includes seven Louisiana players on its roster, including true freshman receiver Raheem Falkins from New Orleans and Carver High School. The lone Oklahoma player from Louisiana is sophomore Cortez Johnson, who prepped at O. Perry Walker High School.
The New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association was founded in 1934 by a group of civic-minded businessman and professionals interested in promoting amateur athletic events for the purpose of bringing visitors to New Orleans during what had traditionally been a slow period for tourism. Now known as the Sugar Bowl Committee, the organization remains a voluntary group whose members serve without remuneration. A full-time staff is retained to assist the Committee in managing its affairs and is headed by CEO Paul Hoolahan and COO Jeff Hundley, who have over 40 years of combined experience running postseason college football games.
Since the first Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1935, the organization has hosted 23 national champion teams, 86 Hall of Fame players, 46 Hall of Fame coaches and 15 Heisman Trophy winners. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee is involved with various community initiatives through hosting and sponsorships of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through more than 25 annual activities, the organization supports and honors over 13,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2 billion into the local economy in the last decade.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com give Alabama a 2.93-point advantage in the contest.