The Crimson Tide’s Houdini-like escape from Georgia in the SEC Championship Game was the test that validated Alabama is capable of defending the national title it won in January against the Bulldogs.
The two-touchdown comeback led by reserve quarterback Jalen Hurts put Alabama into the CFP bracket opposite No. 4 Oklahoma. The Tide and Sooners will square off at 7 p.m. on ESPN Saturday, Dec. 29, at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
The Crimson Tide and Sooners will meet for the sixth time in a series that dates to 1963. The Sooners own the series advantage, 3-1-1, and came away with a 45-31 victory in the most recent matchup in the 2014 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
“They’re (Oklahoma’s offense) a pretty dynamic group,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. They make a lot of explosive plays. We played against him (Kyler Murray) a little bit when he was at A&M, and he is a very dynamic guy in terms of his athletic ability, his quickness, his ability to make plays with his feet, and he’s turned into a really, really efficient passer who has good skill guys to make good plays to go along with the rest of their weapons.”
This CFP semifinal pits Heisman Trophy candidates against one another in Oklahoma’s Murray and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. The trophy will be presented Saturday, Dec. 8.
The winner of the matchup between Alabama and Oklahoma will meet the winner of the contest matching the No. 2 Clemson Tigers and the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who will play in the CFP Semifinal Game at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 29. The 2019 CFP National Championship Game is Monday, Jan. 7, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
The game kicks off at 6 p.m. CST and will be nationally televised on ESPN. The matchup is the only bowl game outside of the New Year’s Six to feature two conference champions against one other.
This will be UAB’s third bowl game in program history and its second straight after playing in last year’s Bahamas Bowl. UAB (10-3) and NIU (8-5) have never met on the gridiron and the Blazers look to register their first-ever bowl victory.
“We are thrilled to play a quality opponent such as Northern Illinois in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl,” head coach Bill Clark said. “We look forward to an incredible challenge and will be eager to finish off our historic season with a bowl victory.”
Tallying a program-best 10 victories, the Blazers are coming off a 27-25 victory in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, over Middle Tennessee to claim the 2018 C-USA title. Sophomore running back Spencer Brown was named the game’s MVP as he ran for 156 yards and a touchdown. Brown ranks sixth nationally in rushing touchdowns with 16, and 20th nationally in rushing yards with 1,149.
Northern Illinois defeated Buffalo 30-29 in the MAC Championship Game to win its fifth conference title. The Huskies finished 6-2 in conference play and boast a strength of schedule of 65 after having played Iowa, Utah, Florida State and BYU in 2018. The Huskies beat BYU 7-6 at Provo, Utah, but fell to FSU 37-19, to Utah 17-6 and to Iowa 33-7, all on the road.
Other state-connected bowl games include:
The game is at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
“We are excited to be heading to the Music City Bowl and making our sixth consecutive postseason appearance,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “Nashville is a great city, and we will be facing a very talented and well-coached Purdue team. We look forward to enjoying the bowl experience while working to send our seniors out with a victory.”
This will be the first-ever meeting between the Tigers and the Boilermakers on the gridiron. Tickets are available.
The fifth annual Camellia Bowl will be at historic Cramton Bowl. It is one of five bowl games to air on ESPN networks on the opening day of the college football bowl season.
Tickets to the Camellia Bowl are on sale at www.espnevents.com/camellia-bowl/tickets. Tickets are $30 for reserved seats and $20 for general admission seating.
Georgia Southern tied the school record for wins at the FBS level this season with nine. The Eagles beat No. 25 Appalachian State 34-14 on Oct. 25. Eastern Michigan beat Purdue 20-19 on the road early in the year and closed the season with three straight wins to post the third-highest total in school history.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two schools. Each has won twice.
The Birmingham Bowl is Saturday, Dec. 22, at 11 a.m. at Legion Field. The game will air on ESPN and Red Voice Radio.
“We are excited to have Memphis and Wake Forest in Birmingham for the 2018 Jared Birmingham Bowl,” said Mark Meadows, Birmingham Bowl executive director. “We look forward to a great matchup at historic Legion Field. Both teams are within driving distance, and we look forward to having their fans in town for bowl week to experience the unique Southern hospitality that Birmingham has to offer.”
The Tigers ended their regular season in first place of the American Athletic Conference West Division. Mike Norvell is in his third year coaching the Tigers.
This will be Memphis’ second appearance in the Birmingham Bowl. The Tigers fell 31-10 to Auburn before a record crowd of 59,430 in 2015.
The Demon Deacons ended their regular season in sixth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Dave Clawson is in his fourth year coaching Wake Forest. This will be their first appearance in the Birmingham Bowl, but not the Deacons’ first visit to Birmingham, having played in the 1948 Dixie Bowl.
Tickets to the Birmingham Bowl may be purchased by phone at 877-464-9529, online at www.birminghambowl.com or at the Legion Field box office. Corporate packages, which include premium ticket locations, hospitality benefits and corporate branding, are available by calling 205-733-3776, ext. 102, or by emailing [email protected]
Dollar General Bowl: The University at Buffalo (10-3, 7-1 Mid-American Conference) will face Troy University (9-3, 7-1 Sun Belt Conference) in the 20th annual Dollar General Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 22, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN.
The Troy Trojans, led by head coach Neal Brown, will make their third appearance in the Dollar General Bowl (2010, 2016). As the sixth-youngest head coach in the FBS, Brown has led the Trojans to a Sun Belt championship, two bowl victories, the nation’s best turnaround and the first top-25 ranking in school and Sun Belt history.
“We are excited about our third straight bowl appearance and returning to the Dollar General Bowl,” Troy Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain said. “The bowl staff and the city of Mobile roll out the welcome mat as well as anyone in the country during bowl season. The Dollar General Bowl is a first-class event for not only our football players and staff but also for the fans, and we anticipate another strong contingent of Troy faithful visiting Mobile later this month to help cheer on the Trojans to our fourth straight bowl win.”
This season, the Trojans finished second in the Sun Belt in scoring and rushing defense, while leading the conference with 17 interceptions for 304 yards. B.J. Smith leads the conference in rushing with 1,093 yards and 12 TDs and joins 22 of his teammates on the All-Sun Belt Conference team this year.
Buffalo will be making its first appearance in the Dollar General Bowl. Lance Leipold, this year’s MAC Coach of the Year, is in his fourth season with Buffalo and has led the program to its first 10-win season and first appearance in the MAC Championship game since 2008.
This season, Buffalo ranked second in the MAC in total defense and interceptions (14 for 94 yards). Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson, who was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, is the first quarterback in school history to earn All-MAC honors. He has thrown for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.
Dollar General Bowl game and event tickets can be purchased online at http://dollargeneralbowl.com/tickets/ or by calling the Dollar General Bowl office at 251-635-0011. Tickets are $45 for sideline seats and $15 for general admission.