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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM

It’s been awhile since Alabama appeared in a postseason game that didn’t mean anything. They’ve grown accustomed to playing in the SEC Championship game…and then for the BCS Championship. Can this group of players get up emotionally for a relatively non-threatening opponent that was handpicked for an easy win by the Sugar Bowl committee?

What’s the fun in winning when you’re supposed to win and there’s nothing at stake? Most perennial bowl teams are used to that. Alabama isn’t!

And, Alabama will be watching game films of Oklahoma’s 41-12 loss to Baylor, their 36-20 loss to Texas, and a few close wins that weren’t supposed to be close. Is that lethal Alabama defense going to be scared of an OU offense that rarely topped 200 passing yards while playing in a disappointing conference?

We’ll run the numbers…which will show you why Alabama is such a big favorite. JIM HURLEY knows the key to picking this game (like so many other bowls) is properly assessing the mindset of a big favorite…while looking for matchup dynamics that will allow an underdog to hang close.

 

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Oklahoma: 10-2 (#44 schedule in USA Today)

Alabama: 11-1 (#46 schedule in USA today)

Jeff Sagarin has the schedules rated almost dead even. That means you can trust that the stats you’re about to see are unpolluted. Oklahoma did manage to reach the coveted 10-in mark. But they had to sweat finishes against non-bowl teams West Virginia and TCU, and they need cheap points to steal the season finale at Oklahoma State where they were outgained. Alabama was a fluke FG-return for a TD away from running the table.

 

Yards-Per Play

Oklahoma: 5.8 on offense, 5.2 on defense

Alabama: 7.1 on offense, 4.7 on defense

Alabama was +2.4 in per-play differential even though they tend to call off the dogs early against the weakest opponents. Oklahoma was +0.6, which is solid enough against the schedule they played. What most sticks out is that Alabama is the team with the more potent offense. They topped 7.1 yards-per-play despite playing at three-quarter speed much of the time. Oklahoma couldn’t make it to 6.0 under a coach who generally runs up the score when he can.

 

Turnover Differential

Oklahoma: +5

Alabama: +6

Alabama’s conservative attack yielded only one bad turnover game all season (4 giveaways at Mississippi State the week after the highly hyped LSU showdown). It has to be said though that their defense took a step backward this year in terms of forcing turnovers. Oklahoma will need to execute with few miscues if they want to spring an upset. They can probably cover the tall spread with 1-2 giveaways.

 

Market Performance

Oklahoma: 7-5 ATS

Alabama: 6-5-1 ATS

It’s tough to cover pointspreads when the market always assumes greatness from you. So, it’s a tribute to both teams that they finished the regular season on the right side of break even.

 

Current Line: Alabama by 16, total 51.5

 

Frankly, the numbers show why Alabama is favored…but don’t show why they’re favored by THAT much. They’re the better team. They’re far from a sure thing to win a slaughter. And, Oklahoma is extremely talented for a dog of this size by normal bowl standards. This isn’t Ohio Univesity or Rutgers. Oklahoma covered their last two games as underdogs this season after the bad game at Baylor (getting the money at Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

Looks like it breaks down this way:

*If Alabama is flat, OU could definitely pull off a shocker

*If Alabama is ready, this could still be a game that stays within the number

*If Alabama is breathing fire in a bounce back spot off the Auburn loss, and Oklahoma turns the ball over because their QB isn’t well suited to playing from behind…THEN Alabama runs away and hides.

The Sugar Bowl is the only football game in town Thursday Night. JIM HURLEY knows how important a game like this is for your bankroll! He’s studied the game from all angles, and is convinced he has the winner! You’ll be able to purchase the final word any time before kickoff Thursday right here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a live person about “rest of football” options and value-priced seasonal basketball packages, call our handicapping office at 1-888-777-4155.

Here’s The NOTEBOOK preview schedule for the next few days:

Friday: Ohio State vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl

Saturday: New Orleans at Philadelphia in an NFL Wildcard game

Sunday: San Francisco at Green Bay in an NFL Wildcard game

Monday: BCS Championship (Florida State vs. Auburn)

We hope you had a great New Year’s celebration. Now it’s time to get back to MAKING MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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