Thursday, January 1, 2009
Alabama vs Utah Prediction
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Utah Utes
January 2, 8PM FOX
New Orleans, LA
Line: Alabama -9.5
Surprise and disappointment meet the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Nobody would have said Alabama would have won 12 games and be in this bowl back in the pre season. But the Tide also had a chance to play for BCS Championship if they had beaten Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Their consolation prize is the undefeated Utah Utes who are looking for BCS respectability.
Keys to the Game:
1. Suspension of Alabama LT Andre Smith
The Junior offensive lineman was sent home from New Orleans earlier this week regarding an institutional matter, not an NCAA matter in the words of Alabama Coach Nick Saban. Smith was the best offensive lineman in the nation and is likely a top 5 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft if he chooses to forego his senior year. The only other game Smith missed this season was one of their worst played against Tulane. Alabama heavily favors the left side of the line when running the ball and Smith will definitely be missed.
2. Disparity on the Line of Scrimmage
Last year, a non-BCS team Hawaii was grossly over matched by Georgia's size on offense and speed on defense. A quick depth chart review of Utah's offensive line reveals all 5 starting offensive lineman tip the scales at 300+. Alabama's mammoth NT Terrance Cody was hobbled much of the 2nd half of the year, but has had time to heal now. Early in the season, Cody was a force in the middle taking up two blockers. Where Alabama will have an advantage is with their offensive line going against Utah's front seven which averages just 244 pounds. opponent in the Sugar Bowl.
Both of these teams are very good in the turnover margin category. Utah ranks 16th nationally at +.92 while Alabama is 22nd at +.62. Both teams have been good with interceptions - Utah picking off 17 passes and Alabama 15. Utah has to win the turnover battle to have a chance against a more talented and more physical Alabama team.
Utah has the advantage with nothing to lose in this game. If they lose then were expected too and many are expecting them to get blown out. Alabama is probably over their disappointment of not playing for the BCS title, but they probably would have liked to have had a bigger name opponent.
I think the loss of Smith will have an impact on Alabama's rushing game. I think eventually Utah's undersized front seven gets over matched by the Tide. Alabama fan favorite Julio Jones will pick up the offensive slack.
Alabama 31 Utah 17
Alabama Covers -9.5
Confidence Ranking (of34): 31
My confidence ranking of an Alabama win
Bowls: 6-5 ATS, 5-6 SU
Season: 37-35-3 ATS, 46-29 SU
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