Allstate Sugar Bowl Looks at Big 12-SEC 2015The Allstate Sugar Bowl secured its future through January 2026 with the announcement that it would host the champions of the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences in eight of the 12 years between 2014 and 2025. If the champion of either or both leagues is selected for the College Football Playoff, a replacement team from that conference will play in the Sugar Bowl. In the four seasons that the Sugar Bowl is not hosting the Big 12 and the SEC (2014, 2017, 2020, 2023), it will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
After last year’s Playoff Semifinal game, this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl will be the first as the official destination for the top available teams from the Big 12 and the SEC. To lead into the season, the Bowl is providing brief previews of each team in the leagues.
Alabama2014 Record: 12-2 (7-1, first in the SEC West)
Athlon: Orange Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. Baylor
Sporting News: Allstate Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor
Phil Steele: Cotton Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. TCU
ESPN (Schlabach): Peach Bowl vs. Clemson
ESPN (McMurphy): Allstate Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor
AP: Peach Bowl vs. Clemson
CBS: Allstate Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor
Derrick Henry (Jr., RB): 172 carries for 990 yards, 11 TDs
Cam Robinson (So., LT): Freshman All-American as a true freshman
Ryan Kelly (Sr., C): 21 career starts, top candidate for the Rimington Trophy
O.J. Howard (Jr., TE): 17 catches for 260 yards
Reggie Ragland (Sr., LB): 95 tackles, 9 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 PBU
Geno Smith (Sr., FS): 56 tackles, 3.5 TFL
Jonathan Allen (Jr., DE): 33 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 6 TFL
JK Scott (So., P): 55 punts for 2,640 yards, 48.0 avg., 31 punts inside 20
The Crimson Tide has won 10 or more games in seven straight seasons under head coach Nick Saban. Each of the last four years have featured at least 11 wins. A key challenge this year, however, will be replacing the stats of star wide receiver Amari Cooper, who tallied 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Key Early Games
Sept. 5 vs. Wisconsin (7 p.m. CT, ABC): The Crimson Tide is definitely not a team to shy away from early season challenges – the Badgers were 11-3 last year after upending Auburn in the Outback Bowl. This will be the fourth straight year that the Tide has opened with a neutral site game (Cowboys Stadium this year). Alabama won the first three by an average margin of 21 points.
Sept. 19 vs. Ole Miss (8:15 p.m., ESPN): The Rebels shocked the Tide last season, scoring two touchdowns in the final 5:29 to pull out a 23-17 victory, giving Coach Saban and his squad plenty of motivation. Alabama will also be looking for its 24th straight victory in an SEC opener.
Senior center Ryan Kelly is one of the most experienced players on this year’s Crimson Tide team. He was a redshirt freshman for the 2011 squad which defeated LSU in the Allstate BCS Championship in New Orleans. After seeing action in 10 games in 2012, he moved into the starting lineup in 2013 and enters this year with 21 career starts while being recognized as a top candidate for the Rimington Trophy, which is presented to the top center in the nation. Despite winning a pair of SEC Championships, Kelly is not remotely satisfied – the senior from Ohio has a national championship mentality and doesn’t mind the pressure. “You either live up to it or you just crumble underneath it,” Kelly said of the championship or bust expectations in a story in the Anniston Star. “I think one of the biggest things we’ve been able to do here is play to a standard. We set the bar for ourselves, so it’s not so much the fans putting pressure on us it’s putting pressure on ourselves. From 2009 to 2012 we had three out of four national championships and the last two years we haven’t finished. That being said, that bar’s been set before any of us even got here, before I got here. So that’s definitely reiterated before you come here, while you’re getting recruited, so every guy that’s on the roster is here because he wants to be. I think that’s one of the biggest things – this is a special place. I know a lot of people and everybody on this team understands that it’s a lot bigger than just one person. It’s something special.”
Alabama has developed itself into a running back factory in recent years with four backs selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft in the last five years – T.J. Yeldon (second round, 2015), Eddie Lacy (second round, 2013), Trent Richardson (first round, 2012), Mark Ingram (first round, 2011). This year’s featured back, Derrick Henry, is a 6-3, 241-pound bruiser with outstanding speed. In addition to his size and speed, check these highlights to see why it is expected that he will be the fifth Crimson Tide running back selected in the top rounds of the Draft.
Perhaps the toughest team in the SEC or Big 12 on which to determine a “Sugar Spotlight” is the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide has made a record 15 trips to the Sugar Bowl, with five of those teams being national champions. While many are worthy of being spotlighted, we’re going to look back at the 1979 game, which featured what most agree is the most famous play in Sugar Bowl history – and maybe the most famous sequence of plays.
Penn State was No. 1 in the country and Alabama was No. 2, but the Crimson Tide held a 14-7 lead late in the game. The Tide lost the ball at its 19 late in the fourth quarter, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to win or tie. After a Penn State first down at the Bama eight-yard line, Don McNeal made a touchdown-saving tackle at the one. On Third-down, Rich Wingo stopped Matt Suhey less than a foot away. Then on fourth down, Mike Guman tried the middle, but the Tide’s Barry Krauss stopped him short with a bone-crunching hit – the play that is most often recognized as the top moment in Sugar Bowl history.