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2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview: Alabama vs. Kansas State

This Saturday will be a tale of two teams in the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl.  The Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2) had a significantly underwhelming college football season by not making the CFP despite having elite playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Kansas State Wildcats (10-3), on the other hand, surpassed expectations for a fantastic 2022 season. Kansas State was able to shock the #3 TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Championship game 31-28 in overtime.

Alabama and Kansas State will meet on the football field for the first time in program history. This game has all of the makings for a huge potential upset against Alabama. Kansas State is going into the game more determined and has the talent to match the Tide.  Alabama traditionally does not perform well in the Sugar Bowl when they are not contending for a championship. The Tide are looking to change that as they have a huge boost with the return of quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson Jr.  These are players that could have easily opted out for the 2023 NFL Draft. These two players are game-changers that can turn the tide for Alabama in an instant in a game where they are already impacted by previous opt-outs.

2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview: Alabama vs. Kansas State

Where: Caesar Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

When: December 31st, 2022; 12 Eastern

Line: Alabama -6.5

O/U: 56

Opt-outs Have Impacted the Tide’s Offense in the Sugar Bowl

Having Young return for one more game for Alabama is a huge boost for the Tide’s offense. While his return benefits the Tide, other player departures impact the offense. Most of the opt-outs have left the team early to join the NCAA Transfer Portal. Among the biggest skill position players for Alabama that have opted out of the game are receivers JoJo Earle and Traeshon Holden. They are receivers that have played well throughout the season, but not at the high level that Alabama has had in the past couple of seasons. They are also among the most experienced players offensively for the Tide. This will be a huge boost for Kansas State’s defense which ranks 56th in passing yards allowed per game.

Perhaps the biggest impact among the opt-outs for Alabama is at the offensive line, which will lose a couple of starters. The Wildcats have a tenacious defense that can crowd and attack the line of scrimmage. One player for Kansas State is edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who accounted for 44 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks this season. He is a player that can create a consistent pass rush on Young in the backfield. The defensive line for the Wildcats has a chance to limit the offense for the Tide if the offensive line cannot create a running lane for running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs, however, can be a great weapon for the Tide’s dynamic offense as he can catch the ball in short passing situations and gas the opposing defense.

Deuce Vaughn Could Be a Key Difference for Kansas State Against Alabama

The defense for the Crimson Tide has played against several efficient running backs. On Saturday, they will be forced to slow down Wildcats star running back Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn has rushed for 1,425 yards (13th most in FBS) and eight touchdowns on 271 carries. He also caught 42 receptions for 378 yards and three touchdowns.

The defense for the Tide will not only have to contain Vaughn at the line of scrimmage and on outside runs but also in short passing situations. This will be a game where they will need extra support from their safeties like DeMarco Hellams, Brian Branch, and Jordan Battle, who are first, third, and fourth on the team in total tackles respectively. Alabama has accounted for 82 tackles for loss this season.

Predictions

This will be a game of how prepared, physically and mentally, Alabama is going into this game. If the Tide come out mentally flat, they will be late to cover Vaughn in key short-passing situations. There will be no doubt that the Tide’s offense can create a solid scoring rhythm, especially if this is the last game for Bryce Young. The key for Kansas State will be for them to overpower Alabama with intensity and effort. This was something they have gotten a boost from with the win over TCU. Young and Anderson will be the impact players of the game in, potentially, their final collegiate games before the NFL.

Alabama 38-31

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