The Sugar Bowl has been a bitter pill for the Alabama Crimson Tide under Nick Saban.
Twice Saban has led the Tide into Sugar Bowls as the favorite, and twice Alabama has been upended by the underdog team. Last season’s lesson in humility should give this season’s version of the Tide a little extra incentive.
Bear Bryant won his first national championship with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl with a win over Arkansas following the 1961 season, and his last national championship, again versus Arkansas, in the Sugar Bowl following the 1979 season. Bryant also won the famous “Goal Line Stand” after the 1978 season, in the Sugar Bowl. The 1977 season culminated in a 35-6 Sugar Bowl win over Woody Hayes’ Ohio State Buckeyes.
Gene Stallings’ Crimson Tide of 1992 ended a Miami Dynasty, defeating the heavily favored Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl game 34-13.
Saban’s Tide lost Sugar Bowl games to Utah following the 2008 season and to Oklahoma last season.
Both those games were consolation games. The Tide was not, as Saban would say, “The Beast” in those games. Alabama was ranked number one prior to both those losses, and had been knocked out of title contention. In 2008 the Tide lost to Florida in the SEC Championship. Last season, Alabama lost to Auburn and was deflated against the motivated Sooners.
Of course, the Sugar Bowl this season is a different breed of cat than the one Alabama couldn’t skin following the 2008 and 2013 campaigns.
This Sugar Bowl is a national championship semi-final. It’s not for all the marbles just yet, but the vanquished team will lose all the marbles it has left and go home. The winner plays for the jackpot in Dallas on January 12.
Saban has had success in New Orleans playing for national championships. In fact, Saban is undefeated in national championship games. He won the BCS National Championship with LSU in 2003. That game was a Sugar Bowl and a national championship game. LSU downed Bob Stoops and Oklahoma 21-14.
Saban has won national championships in Pasadena and Miami.
He also led the Crimson Tide to a BCS National Championship in New Orleans. That season, the actual Sugar Bowl game was a separate entity from the BCS Championship. In the BCS Championship, Alabama won the game many people believe is the reason we have a playoff today.
The 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes lost early to a middling Virginia Tech squad, but have been gangbusters ever since. Urban Meyer’s team throttled Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game to earn its chance to play Alabama.
Alabama’s stock has trended upward since losing to Ole Miss in October and surviving tough road trips to Arkansas and LSU. Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin showed they can play NASCAR football if they have to, with a 55-44 track meet against Auburn that was not as close as the final score. The Tide also hung 41 points on a good Missouri defense in the SEC Championship.
The renewed rivalry between Meyer and Saban will be a big story line for this Sugar Bowl. But with the Buckeyes down to a third string quarterback, and the Tide in its comfort zone, playing for the national championship with plenty of time to rest and prepare, this game shouldn’t be close.
It should be a lot like the Bear vs. Woody bowl.
Prediction: Saban and Company 35 Meyer and Pot Stickers 7