Written by Brandon Clearwaters
Miami Gardens, Florida- On Saturday, December 29th the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide will prepare for battle with the #4 Oklahoma Sooners. The winner will advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Levi’s Stadium on January 7th, 2019.
When looking at the Sooners, one may wonder do they play any defense at all? That question is warranted give the fact that the Sooners are ranked 108th in total defense. Don’t let these statistics fool you however into believing that Alabama should be able to take down the Sooners by a large margin. While the Oklahoma defense may not be good, the offense more than makes up for it as it’s ranked 1st total offense.
When asked if his program’s running game was being overlooked and how important it is to be going over 300 yards in both departments in a game like this, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said “it’s definitely important for us every week. It’s not any more important this week than it always has been. It’s always a huge part of our offense. We always believe in running the football, helping that set up the rest of our game. It’s been a big recipe for success for us.”
Alabama is looking to capture its sixth national title under the leadership of head coach Nick Saban. Not only are the Crimson Tide the favorite in this game, but they are also enter the weekend as the reigning and defending National Champions. Alabama is one of the most well-rounded teams in the country. They rank 7th in the country in total offense and 9th in total defense. They also are 2nd in the country in scoring offense and 4th in scoring defense. Needless to say, they are an extremely formidable team.
Heading into the Orange Bowl, the biggest question for the Crimson is if their star quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, will play after suffering an ankle injury a few weeks ago in the SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Tagovailoa has been an integral reason behind Alabama’s offensive success this season. He has passed for 3,353 yards, 37 touchdowns and only four interceptions this season.
When asked if Tagovailoa would play, Saban stated “I’m not really a medical expert. The medical staff makes the decision about whether a guy is capable of playing and going out there and doing his job, and then I think the player has to sort of have to input on that, as well. In other words, medical staff can say he’s fine, but if the player doesn’t think he’s fine, then he’s not fine.”
This still leaves many wondering if Tagovailoa will play in the Orange Bowl. Tagovailoa said, “I’m 80-85% I mean, we’re still making progress. Feels great. You know, we’re still doing rehab at the moment. You know, hopefully leading up to the game it’ll feel a lot better.”
Kickoff for the Orange Bowl is slated for Saturday, December 30th at 8:00PM EST and can be seen nationally on ESPN.