Sugar Bowl notebook: Tide prepares for both Oklahoma possibilities at QB
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Dec 27, 2013 | 1985 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama head coach Nick Saban is greeted by Sugar Bowl committee members as they return to their hotel from practice Friday night. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban is greeted by Sugar Bowl committee members as they return to their hotel from practice Friday night. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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NEW ORLEANS -- Less than a week away from kicking off the Sugar Bowl, Alabama still doesn’t know which quarterback it will face when Oklahoma takes the field in the Superdome.

Junior Blake Bell and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight have played significant snaps for the Sooners this season, but as of now, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops isn’t showing his hand.

So, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are preparing for both.

“Both guys are capable of running their offense very efficiently and very effectively. … I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference in terms of (the offense when one quarterback is in),” Saban said. “I think their skill-sets are a little bit different in terms of one guy being a big, physical runner (Bell) and the other guy being not as big, but very athletic (Knight). I think the players have to be aware of the two styles that those guys have.”

Knight started the team’s final regular season game against Oklahoma State, but left with an injury. Bell led the Sooners on a fourth-quarter comeback for a 33-24 victory.

Senior Bowl

Three Alabama players have accepted invitations to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 25.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley, punter Cody Mandell and wide receiver Kevin Norwood will use the opportunity to showcase their talents for NFL scouts.

“My main reason for accepting is because it’s back in my hometown,” said Mosley, a Mobile native. “It’s something I always watched growing up so it’ll be an honor that it will be my last (collegiate) game.”

The list didn’t include another Mobile native in Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.

“I don't know if I'm going to play in it,” McCarron said. “I'm going to wait until after the bowl game to decide. Sit down and see what's best for me.”

Tide curfew

In a city like New Orleans, there are a ton of distractions for football players in town for a bowl game.

Saban wouldn’t give specifics on the Crimson Tide’s rules and curfew, but noted players need to be responsible when having fun.

“We came here to play a good football game. That has to be the No. 1 priority,” Saban said. “You like for players to have a good time when they go to bowl games. It’s certainly a reward for the season that they had. I also think it’s imperative for guys to use good judgment in terms of how they represent themselves, their families, our team and the university.”

Mosley said the curfew for the first two nights will be 1 a.m. to allow players to enjoy the city, but that will change as the game gets closer. Mosley also said the message for younger guys is clear -- if you get in trouble, you’re going home. During last season’s bowl trip, freshmen linebackers Dillon Lee and Ryan Anderson were sent home for missing curfew.

“We kind of use 2012 as an example because a lot of players from this year were on that team,” Mosley said. “We just have to make sure everybody stays focused. The main thing is, when we get to practice, we focus on the right things and do what we’ve been doing all year.”

Underdog Oklahoma

Rarely does a program like Oklahoma have the luxury of playing the underdog. But with Alabama entering as a 15- to 15½-point favorite, the Sooners are flying under the radar.

"I feel like we've had a chip on our shoulder the whole season," Oklahoma defensive back Aaron Colvin said Friday during the Sooners’ welcome news conference in New Orleans. "A lot of people have kind of ruled us out of a lot of games. I feel the hunger from these guys. It's 100 percent business trip. It's nice that we came to New Orleans. It's a nice city, a beautiful city. But at the same time, we came here to finish business."

The Sooners are embracing the tough challenge ahead.

"Obviously, they're a great team – probably the best team in the country besides one crazy play," offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said. "We're very excited for the opportunity and realize how talented they are, the stats they've had the last five years. We've got a lot to prove in this game."
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