Alabama Football: Jonathan Waldrop Prediction for Orange Bowl

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

There’s a level of calm I’ve felt leading up to Alabama football’s matchup with Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the case once the game begins.

The prevailing sentiment among Alabama football fans since the SEC Championship game at the beginning of the month is: “Man, I hope Tua’s going to be okay.” I’m not sure why considering the defense the Tide will be facing, but I do get it.

Jalen Hurts had a moment in the aforementioned conference title game against Georgia that will forever be etched in ‘Bama lore. In fact, I predict no matter the outcome of the 2018 season, we’ll be seeing a Daniel Moore painting of Hurts making his way towards the goal line in due course.

That still doesn’t change the fact that Alabama football QB Tua Tagovailoa is the superior signal caller and that his high ankle sprain can be a game changer if it affects the trajectory of his passes like they did for most of the Georgia game.

When Tua can’t plant his feet the way he wants to, the accuracy of his throws changes. You can feel his frustration as he tries to force passes he doesn’t need to force. Against weaker competition after a knee injury earlier in the season, it didn’t matter. Against UGA, it mattered greatly. One could intimate that had he not gone out of the game with a healthy Hurts to spell him, maybe Georgia ends up winning.

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Against an Oklahoma offense that nearly scores at will, we know that Alabama football’s occasionally leaky defense will give up yardage, possibly points. As a matter of fact, in true Saban defense fashion, this team will probably face an uphill battle after the first two to three Sooner possessions. What has always been the case, though, is that even a young squad like the 2018 defense, will adapt and make the stops it needs to make.

They have the athletes and just enough leadership to do so. This is the wonder of consistently recruiting four and five-star players. What’s going to be important is recognizing if an almost-fully healthy Tua can be smart with the ball against what should be an overmatched Oklahoma defense. With the suspension of starting left guard Deonte Brown, can Lester Cotton and the other four Tide linemen help establish the kind of run game that kept the ball out of the Sooners’ hands against Army?

Probably not to that degree, but allowing a streaking Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris and Najee Harris to do what they do so well could alleviate some of the pressure on Tua and, in fact, allow the Alabama football defense to remain well rested against an offense that will move at a quick clip.

This feels like a game where one defense is going to have to make a stop or two more than the other and that’s where, despite Oklahoma’s elite offense, I’m going to have to trust the better defensive squad.

Jonathan Waldrop Game Prediction: Alabama 45 Oklahoma 34

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Crimson Tide fans this is our next to last Orange Bowl game prediction. One more follows on GameDay. Try not to miss it.