Since the victory over Georgia, the Alabama Crimson Tide have been preparing for their biggest test of the season. The Tide will face the most explosive offense in the nation in the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2018 Orange Bowl on December 29th at 8pm. Alabama’s defense has a huge task ahead of them against Oklahoma and their Heisman trophy winning quarterback in Kyler Murray. The offense led by Heisman Trophy runner-up in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has a tough task throughout the match-up as well.
Tagovailoa and The Tide’s Passing Offense Must Be Consistent
The Crimson Tide are one of the most explosive offenses in the nation by ranking 2nd in the nation in points per game (47.9) and 7th in total yards per game (528). Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the leader of an offense that is one of the best in the nation due to their consistency. The Crimson Tide encountered nine games where they scored 40 or more points.
However, an elite quarterback isn’t much of a playmaker without a great slate of receivers to help account for a high amount of yardage. Alabama has four receivers that have accounted for seven or more touchdowns. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is the most explosive receiver in the group and in the nation. The Fred Biletnikoff Award winner caught 59 receptions for 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a unit, the Sooners have a terrible defense but they do have talented defensive backs.
Alabama faces one of the most inconsistent pass defenses in the nation in the Sooners. They rank 129th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (291.4). Sooners CB Parnell Murphy has accounted for 10 pass breakups and can match most talented receivers. Murphy will have a tough battle with Jeudy throughout the game.
The real factor that Alabama will have are the multiple options that Tagovailoa can take with his many receivers. TE Irv Smith Jr. is an excellent short ranged to mid-ranged target for Tua. WR Henry Ruggs III and freshman WR Jaylen Waddle are excellent mid-range to deep threat receivers. The Tide must be able to avoid any mistakes through predictable calling or through Tagoavailoa’s rare mistakes. Scoring in every quarter is also a trait that the Crimson Tide are suited for.
The Offense Must Be Stout in Pass Protection and Run Blocking
One trait of Alabama’s efficient and explosive reputation is their offensive line led by OT Jonah Williams and C Ross Pierschbacher. The O-line has only given up 13 sacks throughout the season, which is tied for 119th most in the nation. Their offense is one of most talented units in the nation as they do not allow much pressure from the outside the tackle’s shoulders. They are also a huge indication on why they are ranked 7th in total offense.
Overall, the Tide are also ranked 7th in passing yards per game (325.5) and 37th in rushing yards per game (202.3). Most of the offensive line is solid and consistent, but there have been some rough patches late in the season. Injuries and health scares have hit the Tide offense hard with Tagovailoa’s high knee sprain that he suffered in the SEC Championship Game.
There was also a concern about the turf toe injury to starting left guard Deonte Brown when he also left the SEC Championship Game with an injury. Brown was on the verge of coming back until he was suspended from the Orange Bowl game due to a violation of team rules. Lester Cotton is projected to take over, but he will need to play more consistent than in the past.
The Sooners have a defense that is ranked 92nd in defensive efficiency but they have a talented pass rush. Their defense tied for 53rd in the nation in sacks accounted for with 28. Their outside linebackers are players that can easily get to the backfield and disrupt the play. The Tide’s interior offensive line must step up and avoid any pressure to Tua as well as set up running lanes for many of the Tide’s backs.
Tide’s Defensive Back Unit Face Toughest Task Yet Versus Sooners QB Kyler Murray
This Alabama defensive back unit has come a long way since the beginning of the season. The young but more experienced defensive backs units will face the 1st overall total offense and 8th passing offense (324 passing yard per game). The Sooners are led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Kyler Murray, who is an explosive passer and runner. Murray passed for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns on 241 completions out of 340 attempts (averaging 11.9 yards per attempt). Not only does Murray have the arm strength to account for long yardage but he also possesses the durability. Murray is by far one of the most talented and gifted passing quarterbacks the Crimson Tide will play all season. The real key to stopping the elite passing of the Oklahoma Sooners is locking down their top receivers.
The Tide’s defensive line most of the praise for their 13th passing defense (178.4) but the defensive backs a lot of credit as well. Even with the season-ending injury to CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama’s defensive backs were just as effective. This is due to the impact of freshman CB Patrick Surtain II, who took over the starting position midway through the season. Surtain and CB Saivion Smith will need to slow down the impact of the Sooners high-power offense.
Alabama’s defense will need to lockdown Sooners Marquise Brown (75 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns) and CeeDee Lamb (57 receptions for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns). The Tide will stop the deep passing game of Murray and the Sooners with S Deionte Thomson, S Xavier McKinney, and star Shyheim Carter deep in the secondary.
Tide’s Defense Have to Ready Themselves for Ground Attacks
Oklahoma’s offense took a serious hit early in the year with the season-ending knee injury to RB Rodney Anderson. Throughout the season, the Sooners found three players with the same impact in the run game as Anderson. QB Kyler Murray rushed for 11 touchdowns and RB Trey Sermon rushed for 12 touchdowns. RB Kennedy Brooks rushed for 1,021 yards and 12 touchdowns. Alabama has a defense that ranks 19th in rushing yards allowed per game (117). The Tide defense experienced more trouble from difficult offensive line schemes than the actual players. Oklahoma’s rushing game is more simplified but they’re still durable and explosive by being ranked 11th in rushing offense (253.9). The extra variable is the running capability of Murray as a dual-threat quarterback.
The Tide’s defensive line is one of the most talented units in college football as they fall just short of the top overall units behind Clemson Tigers’ defensive line. DT Quinnen Williams accounted for 66 total tackles, 42 solo tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and eight sacks this season. Williams is a wrecking ball against offensive lines. Even when double teamed, he can easily disrupt plays in the backfield. DE Isaiah Buggs has accounted for 12.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks this season.
Stopping Oklahoma’s run game at the line is critical, but Alabama must avoid key mistakes in their pass rush. If a bandit linebacker or defensive end overpasses Murray while he is in the pocket, it will give him running room for a potential first down. The Tide’s defense must contain Murray in the pocket and not give him running opportunities.
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