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2018 Bowl Coverage

Orange Bowl First Look: Oklahoma’s Good On Offense, But Alabama’s Good Everywhere

An early look at the numbers should tell you why Alabama is such an early favorite. Oklahoma’s no scrub, though.



Getty Images - Kevin C. Cox

Alabama and Oklahoma meet for the first round of the College Football Playoff in the Orange Bowl on December 29th, and here we take a first look at the matchup between two of the best teams in college football.

The outcome of this game will tell us whether or not it’s possible to win on a national stage by being unbelievably good on only one side of the ball.

That’s a fitting description for head coach Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma Sooners, who have one of the best offenses in the history of college football.

The Sooners average 8.6 yards per play (the FBS record for a season is 8.58), and they seem to score almost at will.

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On the other hand, 2018 has not been a good year for Oklahoma defensively. The Sooners rank in the bottom quarter of all FBS in multiple statistical categories on that side of the ball. Their yards per play allowed is 93rd in college football and points per play ranks 81st.

Contrast that with the Tide, who’ve built a dynasty on defense. Alabama is among the top ten percent of all FBS teams in most defensive categories, including fourth in the nation in points per play allowed.

The most likely the reason that Alabama’s undefeated on the year? That probably has to do with how stingy they are in terms of giving up points – the Tide have held opponents to two scores or less in more than half the games they’ve played this season.

Alabama also gets turnovers at a higher rate than the Sooners, averaging over one per contest.

Points Per Game 49.5 47.9
Points Allowed/Game 32.4 14.8
Yards Per Game 577.9 527.6
Opp. Yards Per Game 448.1 295.4
Points Per Play .736 .690
Opp. Points Per Play .424 .213
Yards Per Play 8.6 7.6
Opp. Yards Per Play 5.9 4.3
3rd Down Conversion % 51.2 52.8
Opp. 3rd Down Conversion % 45.2 31.4
Turnovers Gained 11 21
Turnovers Lost 13 13
Average Time of Possesion 29:28 30:28

Both of these teams are talented on offense, but the quarterbacks steal the show.

Tua Tagovailoa is Alabama’s true sophomore quarterback who’s just been phenomenal in a year where he was a Heisman finalist. His 11.4 yards per pass is impressive, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio is more so at over nine-to-one.

While the Tide have a Heisman finalist, the Sooners have this year’s winner in Kyler Murray. Murray’s stats as an efficient passer are definitely impressive, and he’s 205.7 quarterback rating is currently the best of all time.

His ability to throw the ball downfield, however, is complimented by an elusiveness and elite running ability that make him practically impossible to contain, but it doesn’t necessarily show up in the statistics.

OU – K. Murray 241/340 4,053 11.9 40 7 205.7
ALA – T. Tagovailoa 199/294 3,353 11.4 37 4 202.3
OU – K. Brooks 113 1,021 9.0 12
ALA – D. Harris 126 771 6.1 7
OU – M. Brown 51 1,126 17.6 10
ALA – J. Jeudy 59 1,103 18.7 12

One Alabama skill player that Oklahoma will try to keep in check is sophomore Jerry Jeudy, who’s accounted for 26.1 percent of the Tide’s total receiving yards in 2018. Jeudy’s been one of Tagovailoa’s biggest targest this season, and he will likely get opportunities against a vulnerable Oklahoma pass defense.

On paper, it’s easy to see why the Tide would be favored by two full touchdowns. Alabama has the most complete team in this game, and they’re better than most any team in college football on both offense and defense. Oklahoma’s primary advantage is their ability to put up points with Murray at the helm, but this semi-final will be a test of how many points they can put up against the best defense they’ll have faced all season.

We only have a week to wait to find out how well they do in that department, as the two meet at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fl and kickoff at 7:00 p.m.

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