Game Primer: OU vs. Alabama

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

4/4/4 Oklahoma
OklahomaAlabama
1/1/1 Alabama
Capital One Orange Bowl / Saturday, Dec. 29 / 7 p.m. CT / Hard Rock Stadium

OPENING KICK

• No. 4/4/4 Oklahoma (12-1, 8-1 Big 12) continues pursuit of its eighth national championship when it meets No. 1/1/1 Alabama (13-0, 8-0 SEC) Saturday at 7:10 p.m. CT in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl. The game will be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., and be televised by ESPN with Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Laura Rutledge and Maria Taylor announcing.

• Oklahoma is making its second consecutive College Football Playoff appearance and third in four seasons. Only Alabama (has qualified for all five CFPs) and Clemson (four) have more appearances than OU.

• OU is making its 20th Orange Bowl appearance, more than any other school (Nebraska is next with 17). The program's 12 Orange Bowl wins also pace the country (Nebraska ranks second with eight victories). Four of the Sooners’ seven national championships culminated with Orange Bowl wins.

• This marks Oklahoma's 52nd bowl appearance, seventh most nationally. Thirty-seven of those 52 have come in bowls that comprise the current New Year's Six (Orange [20], Sugar [8], Fiesta [5], Cotton [2], Rose [2] and Peach [0]). That does not include OU's BCS Championship Game appearance on Jan. 1, 2009.

• The Sooners own a 29-21-1 (.578) bowl record. Their 29 bowl wins are tied with Penn State for the fourth most nationally.

• OU is making its 20th consecutive bowl bid, by far the longest streak in school history (the previous record was eight from the 1975 through the 1982 seasons under Barry Switzer). The streak, which began in Bob Stoops' 1999 debut season as head coach, is the third-longest active bowl streak in the nation recognized by the NCAA (Virginia Tech 26, Georgia 22).

• OU owns a 109-47-8 (.689) record against teams currently in the SEC.

• This will mark the first AP top-5 matchup between Oklahoma and Alabama.

• The Sooners are 57-33-2 (.630) in AP top-10 matchups, and 18-8 (.692) since the start of the 2000 season. They are 20-13-2 (.600) as the lower-ranked team in such games.

• Oklahoma is 7-13-2 (.364) all-time against the AP No. 1 team. When the Sooners are ranked in the AP's top 10, though, they are 7-6-2 (.533) against the No. 1 squad. The last time they played the AP No. 1 team was in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game in Miami (Florida beat No. 2 OU 24-14).

• This will mark the fourth occasion for Oklahoma to face the AP No. 1 team in the Orange Bowl, with the Sooners owning a 2-1 record. No. 4 OU beat Maryland 7-0 in the 1954 game and No. 3 OU downed Penn State 25-10 in the 1986 game to claim the 1985 national title. In the 2005 game, which doubled as the BCS National Championship Game, USC beat the No. 2 Sooners 55-19.

• This marks the fourth straight season Oklahoma has won at least seven consecutive games heading into its bowl contest (seven in 2015, nine in 2016, eight in 2017 and seven this year).

• Only one OU team (51.1 in 2008) averaged more points per game for a season than this year's squad is averaging (49.5). And only one Sooners team (579.6 in 2017) averaged more yards per game for an entire campaign than this year's group is averaging (577.9). Oklahoma's 8.7 yards per play would set a single-season FBS record (OU's record of 8.3 was set last year).

• Oklahoma has scored at least 39 points in nine straight games (averaging 47.4 during the stretch). That's the longest same-season streak by a Power Five team since 2014 when Oregon also scored 39-plus nine games in a row.

• OU is the nation's only team this year with at least 40 rushing touchdowns (40) and at least 40 passing TDs (41). Only two other teams since at least 1996 have amassed at least 40 rushing and 40 passing TDs in a season heading into bowl play (2008 Oklahoma [49 and 45]; 2013 Florida State [40 and 41]).

Big 12 Champions

KEY STORYLINES

• The Orange Bowl will mark the sixth meeting between Oklahoma and Alabama, with the Sooners holding a 3-1-1 lead. OU's wins came in the last three meetings. In the most recent matchup, the Sooners posted a 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory over the third-ranked Crimson Tide to cap the 2013 season. OU also won 20-13 in 2003 in Tuscaloosa and 37-27 in 2002 in Norman. The teams played to a 24-24 tie in 1970 in the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, while Alabama notched a 17-0 Orange Bowl victory in the 1962 season in the first meeting between the schools.

• Oklahoma has played five games against SEC teams over the last six seasons and has gone 4-1. OU scored at least 31 points in each of those five contests, with the average score being 39-28. The Sooners downed No. 3 Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2013 season, beat Tennessee 34-10 in 2014 in Norman, outlasted No. 23 Tennessee 31-24 in double-overtime in 2015 in Knoxville, and handled No. 17 Auburn 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl to cap the 2016 season. Last year in the Rose Bowl (CFP semifinal), OU led Georgia 31-17 at halftime but lost 54-48 in double-overtime.

• This year's Orange Bowl game will feature the nation's top two offenses. OU ranks first in the country in scoring offense (49.5 ppg), total offense (577.9 ypg), yards per play (8.7) and passing efficiency rating (200.6). Alabama ranks second in scoring offense (47.9 ppg), yards per play (7.9) and passing efficiency rating (200.3), and seventh in total offense (527.6 ypg).

• Oklahoma has rushed for at least 300 yards and passed for at least 300 in a game a school-record five times this year (the previous record was two times in 2012), including in four of the last six contests. Entering this season, the feat had only been accomplished six times in school history. OU has recorded five of the eight occurrences this year by Power Five teams (one each by Ole Miss, Ohio State and Oklahoma State).

• Despite losing preseason All-Big 12 running back Rodney Anderson to a season-ending injury against UCLA on Sept. 8, Oklahoma leads the Big 12 and ranks 11th nationally with its 253.9 rushing yards per game. More impressively, the Sooners rank second nationally with their 6.7 yards per rush, which is 1.9 yards more than the next highest team in the Big 12 (Oklahoma State averages 4.8). Only one time (7.1 in 1971) has an OU team averaged more than 6.5 yards per rush for an entire season. Running backs Kennedy Brooks (92.8) and Trey Sermon (71.4), and quarterback Kyler Murray (68.6) rank fifth, sixth and seventh in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game, and have combined for 35 rushing touchdowns (Brooks and Sermon have 12 each and Murray 11).

• Brooks has carried the rushing load for OU over the last four games, running 71 times for 546 yards (7.7 per rush) and six touchdowns. That's an average of 136.5 yards per contest. The redshirt freshman, who was fifth on the depth chart to start the season, has run for at least 165 yards in three of the last four outings and is now leading the country with his 9.04 yards per carry on the year. For perspective, the NCAA single-season record (min. 115 attempts) is 9.63 yards per attempt by Houston's Chuck Weatherspoon in 1989. The OU record is 8.98 by Greg Pruitt in 1971, and the Big 12 record is 8.93 by West Virginia's Tavon Austin in 2012.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

• Oklahoma's last game against Alabama was one to remember. Redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight completed a Sugar Bowl-record 32 passes on 44 attempts (.727) for 348 yards and four touchdowns, and the No. 11 Sooners took down No. 3 Alabama 45-31 to cap the 2013 season. OU jumped to sixth in the final AP poll while the Crimson Tide fell to seventh.

• Alabama's AJ McCarron's threw two first-half interceptions, the second of which set up a Sterling Shepard 13-yard score around the right end that gave OU a stunning 31-17 lead going into halftime. The Sooners' advantage shrunk to 31-24 through three quarters, but they outscored the Tide 14-7 in the fourth.

• Oklahoma’s defense produced seven sacks, three by Eric Striker. His last sack came with OU leading 38-31 with less than a minute to play. Striker stripped McCarron and Geneo Grissom picked up the loose ball and returned it eight yards for the game-icing touchdown.

Knight, Sugar Bowl

UNPRECEDENTED OFFENSE

• Oklahoma's offense has achieved or is on pace to achieve accomplishments not seen for many years, if ever. Below are just some.

• OU is looking to become the first FBS team to ever produce a 4,000-yard passer (Kyler Murray has 4,053), at least two 1,000-yard rushers (Kennedy Brooks has 1,021, Trey Sermon has 928 and Murray has 892) and at least two 1,000-yard receivers (Marquise Brown has 1,318 and CeeDee Lamb has 1,049).

• This is the first season in school history in which five players have scored at least 10 touchdowns. Brooks and Sermon lead the way with 12 touchdowns (all rushing), Murray has 11 TD runs, and Brown and Lamb have 10 receiving scores each. Hawaii in 2006 is the only other team since at least 1996 that has had five players score 10 TDs each. OU's Lee Morris also has eight receiving TDs.

• This marks the first season in school history that three Sooners have each rushed for at least 10 touchdowns.

• Brown and Lamb represent the first OU duo to ever record at least 1,000 receiving yards each in a season.

• OU's eight-game streak (Sept. 29-Nov. 23) of scoring at least 45 points tied for the longest among FBS teams since at least 1980 (Baylor also did it over the 2011 and '12 seasons) and was the longest same-season streak in at least the last 39 years.

• The Sooners became the first team in FBS history to record at least 500 yards of offense in nine regular season conference games (also did it in Big 12 Championship vs. Texas).

• Murray has registered six games this year of at least 300 passing yards and at least 65 rushing yards, the highest single-season total since at least 1996.

• Including his freshman season at Texas A&M, Murray owns a career passing efficiency rating of 184.6, a mark that would set the FBS career record. The current career standard of 175.6 is held by former Sooner Sam Bradford (2007-09), while Baker Mayfield ranks second at 175.4. Murray's efficiency rating in his two seasons at OU is 209.8.

Calcaterra

MODEL OF EFFICIENCY

• Oklahoma ranks 107th out of 130 FBS teams with just 66.1 offensive plays per game, but it ranks first nationally with its 577.9 yards per contest (next highest average is 548.8). That's because the Sooners lead the nation with a staggering 8.7 yards per play, a figure that would break the FBS single-season record of 8.6 by Hawaii in 2006. The OU single-season record of 8.3 yards per play was set last year, and the program's second-best figure is 7.6 in 1971. Alabama ranks second this year with its 7.9 yards per play, and Clemson third at 7.4. OU also leads the nation by gaining at least 10 yards on 31.3 percent of its plays (269 of 859). Alabama ranks second at 29.3 percent (see "Big Gains" chart on page 2 of these game notes).

• Sixty-two of Oklahoma’s 80 offensive touchdown drives (78 percent) have taken less than three minutes of game clock. That excludes its overtime TD drive vs. Army that took two plays.

• The Sooners are averaging 0.70 points per offensive play this season. Going back to 1996, the highest end-of-season figure was 0.69 by Florida State in 2013. OU’s number in the first half of games this season is 0.80.

• OU has averaged 3.87 points per offensive possession this season, putting points on the scoreboard on 61 percent of its possessions, and scoring touchdowns 51 percent of the time.

• With Kyler Murray leading the offense, the scoring rate has been even higher. The Sooners have averaged 0.73 points per offensive play and 4.07 points per possession.

• Oklahoma opponents have run 966 plays this season to the Sooners' 859. That's an average of 8.2 more per game. Despite that, OU has outgained its foes by 1,688 yards on the year (+129.8 per contest).

MURRAY, OU MAKE HEISMAN HISTORY

• OU's Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy on Dec. 8, garnering 517 first-place votes and 2,167 points to claim the award over fellow quarterback finalists Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama (299 first-place votes; 1,871 points) and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State (46 first-place votes; 783 points).

• The Heisman for Oklahoma was its seventh, tied with Notre Dame and Ohio State for the most ever.

• OU has won four Heisman trophies since 2003, an average of one every four years.

• With Baker Mayfield winning last year's Heisman Trophy, OU became the first school to produce quarterback winners in consecutive seasons. It marked just the fourth time that a school won back-to-back regardless of position.

• Murray became OU's fourth quarterback to win the Heisman, more than any other school.

• Oklahoma is the only school to ever produce four Heisman finalists in a three-year span. Mayfield was a finalist in 2016 and '17, and receiver Dede Westbrook also was in 2016. OU boasts a nation-leading nine finalists since 2000.

Kyler, Heisman

MORE MURRAY

• Kyler Murray, who in addition to winning the Heisman Trophy has won the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Year Award and been named AP Player of the Year, leads the nation in total yards (school-record 4,945), points responsible for (306), passing efficiency rating (205.7; FBS record is 198.9) and yards per pass attempt (11.9; FBS record is 11.1). He ranks second in passing touchdowns (40), yards per completion (16.8) and completion percentage (.709; first among Power Five players), and is the only player in the country averaging at least 300.0 passing yards (311.8) and at least 50.0 rushing yards (68.6).

• Murray, whose 96.1 Total QBR is the highest by a player entering bowl season since ESPN began tracking the metric in 2004, has totaled more offensive yards this season (4,945) than 68 of the other 129 FBS teams, including six current AP Top 25 squads.

• Murray has thrown at least two touchdown passes in all but one game this year, and has thrown at least three TD passes in 10 of 13 outings. He had his school- and Big 12-record streak of eight games with at least three TD passes snapped in a Nov. 10 win against Oklahoma State.

• In Big 12 play, Murray led the league in total offense at 409.3 yards per game (next most was 335.1 by West Virginia's Will Grier), passing efficiency rating with his 208.2 mark (next best was 176.7 by Iowa State's Brock Purdy) and in total TDs with 37 (next most was 31 by Grier).

• A 5-10, 195-pounder, Murray has accounted for 51 touchdowns (40 passing, 11 rushing) against nine turnovers (5.7-to-1 ratio). He leads all Big 12 QBs with 892 rushing yards (7.3 per carry) and 11 rushing TDs.

• Only 10 times since the start of the Big 12 Conference in 1996 has a Sooner thrown for at least 300 yards and rushed for at least 65 in a game, and Murray has done it on six occasions this year. That's the highest single-season total by an FBS player since at least 1996.

• In OU's 66-33 win over Baylor, Murray finished 17 for 21 for 432 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 45 rushing yards and a score. His 348.0 passing efficiency rating set school and Big 12 records (as did his 20.6 yards per pass attempt and 25.4 yards per completion), and was the highest in the FBS since at least 1996.

HOORAY FOR "HOLLYWOOD"

• First-team AP All-American Marquise Brown, who hails from Hollywood, Fla., was one of the country's most explosive receivers last year, and 2018 is no different. Brown ranks ninth nationally in receiving yards per game (101.4) this season, and among players averaging at least 5.0 receptions per game he ranks second with his 17.6 yards per catch.

• Brown is tied for first nationally this season with 11 catches of at least 40 yards, his seven receptions of at least 50 yards and his four grabs of at least 60 yards. A Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, his long receiving plays this season have gone for 77 (TD), 75 (TD), 65 (TD), 65, 58 (TD), 51 (TD), 50 (TD), 48, 46, 45 (TD) and 40 yards (TD).

• Since the start of the 2017 season, Brown leads the nation with his 14 catches of at least 50 yards. The 14 grabs have gone for 87, 84, 77, 77, 75, 66, 65, 65, 58, 56, 52, 51, 50 and 50 yards. Ten of those 14 receptions have resulted in a TD.

• Brown has started his OU career with 132 catches for 2,413 yards (18.3 average) and 17 TDs. His 2,413 receiving yards and 17 receiving TDs are the most fourth most, respectively, in the first 26 games of a Sooner career.

SILENCED BY THE LAMB

• While Marquise Brown has turned heads with his home-run-play ability, sophomore CeeDee Lamb has also quietly put together one of the best two-year starts to a career by an OU receiver. The 6-2, 189-pounder from Richmond, Texas, has started 25 of his 27 games and has amassed 103 receptions for 1,856 yards (18.0 average) and 17 touchdowns.

• A freshman All-American by ESPN last year when he caught 46 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 contests (13 starts), Lamb has demolished those numbers this season. Through 13 games, he has 57 catches for 1,049 yards and 10 TDs. He has six career 100-yard receiving games, including four this year. His streak of at least one TD catch in seven consecutive games was snapped Nov. 3 at Texas Tech.

• Lamb's 17 receiving TDs are fourth most in the first 27 games of an OU career.

Lamb

OU'S 1-2 LINEBACKING PUNCH

• No duo in the Big 12 averages more tackles per game than Oklahoma sophomore Kenneth Murray and redshirt senior Curtis Bolton. Both linebackers, Murray ranks second in the Big 12 (15th nationally) with his 10.8 tackles per outing, while Bolton ranks third (22nd nationally) with 10.0.

• Over the last 10 games, Murray has 121 tackles (12.1 average) while Bolton has 108 (10.8).

• Murray has 140 tackles on the year, the most by a Sooner since freshman linebacker Travis Lewis logged 144 in 2008. The 140 stops are 62 more than his total last season (78) when he started all 14 games, earned freshman All-America honors from the FWAA and USA Today, and was co-Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. What makes Murray's 2018 tackle total even more impressive is the fact that he registered zero stops in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. His 28 tackles against Army were the most by an FBS player since at least 2000 (when the NCAA began tracking the record).

• Amazingly, Bolton's 130 tackles are 104 more than he had in his career (16) entering the year. Playing primarily on special teams and battling injuries prior to this season, his 13 career starts have all come in 2018.

• This marks just the second time in the last 16 years that two Sooners have recorded at least 100 tackles in the same season (linebacker Travis Lewis had 109 and defensive back Jonathan Nelson had 102 in 2010). It's just the fourth time in school history two players have each recorded at least 130 tackles in a season (last time was in 1978 [LB Daryl Hunt 157; NG Reggie Kinlaw 131]).

HERE'S THE KICKER

• Senior kicker/punter Austin Seibert, who ranks sixth nationally (third among kickers) with his 9.8 points per game this season, became OU's and the Big 12's all-time leading scorer Nov. 10 against Oklahoma State. Seibert, who has 489 career points, broke the previous school record of 450 by kicker Michael Hunnicutt (2011-14) and the previous Big 12 record of 451 by Baylor kicker Aaron Jones (2010-13) and TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom (2012-15).

• Seibert ranks second in FBS history among kickers with his 489 points, and needs just five points to tie the record of 494 points by Arizona State's Zane Gonzalez (2013-16). Two of Gonzalez's 494 points came when he caught a pass for a two-point conversion.

• In OU's Nov. 17 win over Kansas, Seibert saw his school-record streak of extra-point makes snapped at 162. The streak dated back to 2016. He broke the school record of 134 straight conversions, held by Uwe von Schamann (1976-78), on Oct. 20 at TCU.

• Seibert holds NCAA career records for extra points made and attempted (he is now 306 for 311).

ISN'T THAT SPECIAL

• Special teams have been a major positive for the Sooners this season. Among teams with at least 2.0 kickoff returns per game, OU ranks 18th nationally with its 23.4 average. That's thanks largely to sophomore cornerback Tre Brown, who ranks 32nd in the country with his 23.9-yard average. He has compiled 646 yards on 27 returns, including an 86-yarder in the first quarter vs. UCLA that set up the tying touchdown after OU fell behind 7-0.

• OU ranks 11th nationally with its 15.1 yards per punt return. Sophomore receiver CeeDee Lamb ranks ninth in the country by averaging 13.3 yards on his 16 returns. He's registered runbacks of 66 yards against UCLA, 65 yards against Oklahoma State and 34 yards versus Kansas. Junior receiver Lee Morris has one return for 28 yards.

• Last year, OU ranked 98th nationally in kick return average (19.3 yards) and 97th in punt return average (5.6).

• Opponents have only returned six punts this season and they have gone for a combined 21 yards (fifth fewest nationally). OU has also registered its first two blocked punts since 2013, and its first two blocked punt TDs since 2002.

• Eighty-seven of Austin Seibert's 104 kickoffs this season have resulted in touchbacks (his 83.7-percent rate is fifth best in the country).

Bledsoe block

OFFENSE HAS ROLLED UNDER RILEY

• Oklahoma owns the nation's most productive offense since the start of the 2015 season, which was Lincoln Riley's first year as OU's offensive coordinator. Riley called plays in 2015 and '16, and continues to as head coach.

• Since the start of the 2015 season, OU ranks first nationally in points per game (45.5), total offense (561.0; next most is 526.5), touchdowns from scrimmage (304; next most is 278), passing efficiency rating (190.6; next best is 159.5), completion percentage (69.6), and yards per pass attempt (10.8), and is fifth in passing offense (328.6) and 11th in rushing offense (232.4).

• In 53 games since the start of the 2015 season, OU has registered at least 500 yards of total offense 40 times, including in 30 of the last 37 outings, topped the 600-yard mark on 20 occasions and gone over 700 yards six times. Similarly, OU has scored at least 30 points in 47 of 53 games since Riley's arrival, at least 40 points 36 times, at least 50 points 22 times and at least 60 points seven times.

EXTRA POINTS

• No one since 1892-93 has won more games in his first two seasons as a college head coach than OU’s Lincoln Riley has won the past two seasons (24). Miami's Larry Coker (in 2001 and '02) and Oregon's Mark Helfrich (in 2013 and '14) also won 24 games in their first two years as a head coach.

• OU ranks fifth nationally by converting 51.2 percent of its third-down plays and is tied for eighth by converting 69.2 percent (9 of 13) of its fourth-down plays. The Sooners also rank second in the Big 12 and 18th nationally by allowing just 1.2 sacks per game.

• The Sooners' starting offensive line, which won the 2018 Joe Moore Award as the best O-line unit in the country, has logged a combined 151 career starts. Redshirt junior left tackle Bobby Evans has made 39 starts, senior left guard Ben Powers 34, redshirt freshman center Creed Humphrey 11, senior right guard Dru Samia 47 and redshirt junior right tackle Cody Ford 20.

• Redshirt junior receiver Lee Morris has 23 career catches and 10 have gone for touchdowns. The 43.5-percent touchdown rate ranks first in school history among players with at least 20 receptions. Eight of Morris's 21 receptions this year (38.1 percent) have resulted in a score.

• OU committed just 13 turnovers in its 14 games last year (six interceptions and seven fumbles lost). That marked the second-lowest total in school history (11 in 2008). The Sooners have 13 total turnovers in 13 games this season. Their 0.96 turnovers per game since the start of the 2017 campaign are tied for sixth fewest nationally.

• Kyler Murray has won five Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors, tying the single-season record set by Texas running back Ricky Williams in his Heisman Trophy-winning year of 1998.

• Senior Austin Seibert went 15 for 15 on field goals against Big 12 opponents this season.

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