Jacksonville Sports Day

Auburn and Oklahoma to Meet in 83rd Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS – Auburn University, from the Southeastern Conference, and the University of Oklahoma, from the Big 12 Conference, will be featured in the 83rd annual Allstate Sugar Bowl on Monday, January 2, 2017, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. (Central) and will be televised by ESPN.

This is the second match-up of teams from the Big 12 and the SEC since a new agreement was signed by the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the two elite conferences. The Sugar Bowl will host the top available teams from each conference seven times in the next 10 years – in the other three seasons (2017, 2020 and 2023), the Sugar Bowl will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal. The agreement runs through the 2025 season.

“We’re very excited for the opportunity to host these great representatives of the SEC and the Big 12,” said Chuck Lapeyre, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “Both teams have had outstanding seasons and bring exciting styles of play to New Orleans. This will be another wonderful opportunity for us to welcome thousands of fans to this great city and show off all it has to offer – world-class cuisine, trend-setting music, outstanding gridiron competition and more. We look forward to showcasing our unique flavor of hospitality to the players, coaches, administrators and fans from these two great universities.”

“One of the Sugar Bowl’s primary objectives has been to preserve its great history while also ensuring a bright and healthy future,” said CEO Paul Hoolahan. “This year’s matchup will highlight one of the games from our past as Auburn and Oklahoma also played in our game 45 years ago. With our relationship with the Big 12 and SEC stretching through the 2026 game, we can confidently say the present and future look as good as our past.”

The Allstate Sugar Bowl is the designated destination for the champions of both the SEC and the Big 12. However, with Alabama qualifying for the College Football Playoff (CFP) based on its top-four national rankings, Auburn (8-4, 5-3 SEC) was selected for the Sugar Bowl based on owning the SEC’s second-highest CFP Ranking. Oklahoma (10-2, 9-0 Big 12), meanwhile, will be the 87th conference champion to play in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners were also conference champions in the Sugar Bowl in 1950 (Big Seven), 1972 (Big Eight) and 2004 (Big 12).

This will be the second all-time meeting between Auburn and Oklahoma. The first meeting was also in the Sugar Bowl as the two teams clashed following the 1971 season (January 1, 1972) when a potent Sooner offense, which came in averaging 566 yards per game, rolled to a 40-22 victory over the Tigers. Oklahoma tallied 450 yards, including a Sugar Bowl-record 439 on the ground, while Auburn, led by Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan, managed 290 yards (250 from the arm of Sullivan). After falling behind 34-0, the Tigers had little chance of recovering.

This will be the 13th meeting between teams that now make up the Big 12 and SEC. The first meeting came in the second Sugar Bowl in 1936 when TCU and Hall-of-Famer Sammy Baugh held off LSU and its own Hall-of-Fame quarterback Abe Mickal, 3-2, in a quagmire. Those teams split national championship recognition that season. The last Big 12-SEC meeting in the Sugar Bowl was last year’s game when Ole Miss cruised to a 48-20 victory over Oklahoma State. The Big 12 holds a 7-5 advantage entering this year’s game.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is making his third appearance in the Sugar Bowl (2004, 2014), all with Oklahoma; only nine coaches have more than three Sugar Bowl bids. The Sooners lost to LSU in the 2004 Sugar Bowl, which doubled as the BCS National Championship, while his team came into the 2014 game as an underdog but upended Alabama, 45-31. Gus Malzahn will be making his Sugar Bowl debut and will be the 95th different coach to direct a team to the annual New Orleans classic.

Auburn is making its sixth Sugar Bowl appearance with a 2-2-1 mark in its first five appearances, while Oklahoma is making its eighth visit to New Orleans with a 5-2 record. No other non-SEC team has made more than five Sugar Bowl appearances. Auburn’s last Sugar Bowl trip was following the 2004 season, when the Tigers capped an undefeated campaign with a 16-13 victory over Virginia Tech.

Both participants in this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl opened the season with 1-2 records. Auburn lost to No. 3 Clemson, which was selected for the College Football Playoff, and to nationally-ranked Texas A&M, while Oklahoma lost to No. 2 Ohio State, also a playoff selection for this year, and nationally-ranked Houston. Both then went on impressive winning streaks. The Tigers rattled off six straight wins before a rash of injuries knocked them off track. The Sooners posted nine straight wins, capped by their victory over Oklahoma State in the annual Bedlam-rivalry game on Saturday to clinch the Big 12 title.

Auburn has one of the top defenses in the SEC as it held nine of its opponents below 20 points this season; it ranks fifth in the nation with its 15.6 points allowed per game and its total defense of 348.4 yards per game is 20th in the country. The Tigers are also fourth in the nation in red zone defense (.711) and they are among the best in the country with 67 pass break-ups.

Oklahoma will counter Auburn’s defense with one of the most potent offenses in the country. The Sooners rank third in the country in both total offense (557.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (44.7 points per game) as well as 11th in passing offense (319.8 yards per game) and fifth in third-down conversions (.516).

On offense, the Tigers are led by sophomore running back Kamryn Pettway who has rushed for 1,123 yards and seven touchdowns this season despite missing multiple games due to injury. Classmate Kerryon Johnson has added 862 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns and he wasn’t fully healthy for the last month of the season. Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Sean White (129-of-198 for 1,644 yards and nine touchdowns with just three interceptions) missed the last two games of the regular season with a shoulder injury. All three are expected to be at full strength for the Sugar Bowl.

The Auburn defense is led by Rotary Lombardi Award semifinalists Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams. Lawson, a 6-3, 253-pound junior lineman, leads the team with 12.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and 24 quarterback hurries. Adams is a 6-4, 309-pound senior tackle with 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 15 hurries.

Oklahoma’s offense is led by a pair of stars in quarterback Baker Mayfield, a finalist for the Manning Award, and senior receiver Dede Westbrook. Mayfield, a junior, has completed 235-of-330 passes for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns with eight interceptions. His favorite target has been Westbrook who has 74 catches for 1,465 yards and a school record 16 touchdown grabs. The Sooners also have an impressive two-pronged rushing attack as sophomore Joe Mixon has 1,183 rushing yards with eight touchdowns and junior Samaje Perine has 974 yards and 11 scores.

Defensively, the Sooners are led by senior linebacker Jordan Evans, who has a team-best 89 tackles and four interceptions, and junior linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who has 67 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Junior cornerback Jordan Thomas has 44 tackles and 16 pass break-ups.

This will be Auburn’s 41st overall bowl appearance (23-15-2), while the Sooners will be going to their 50th bowl game (28-20-1).

Schools that are currently in the SEC have registered an all-time mark of 35-41-1 (.461) in the Sugar Bowl, while this will be the 21st appearance in the game by a current member of the Big 12, with an overall record of 12-8 (.600).

The New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association was founded in 1934 by a group of civic-minded businessman and professionals interested in promoting amateur athletic events for the purpose of bringing visitors to New Orleans during what had traditionally been a slow period for tourism. Now known as the Sugar Bowl Committee, the organization remains a voluntary group whose members serve without remuneration. A full-time staff is retained to assist the Committee in managing its affairs and is headed by CEO Paul Hoolahan and COO Jeff Hundley, who have over 40 years of combined experience running postseason college football games.

Since the first Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1935, the organization has hosted 27 national champion teams, 91 Hall of Fame players, 47 Hall of Fame coaches and 17 Heisman Trophy winners. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee is involved with various community initiatives through hosting and sponsorships of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through over 50 annual activities, the organization supports and honors over 25,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade.

For more information about the Allstate Sugar Bowl please log on to its website www.allstatesugarbowl.org.

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