Valero Alamo Bowl: Arizona vs. Oklahoma
By Lee Wakefield
The 31st Alamo Bowl welcomes Oklahoma of the Big XII and Arizona of the soon-to-be-defunct (or severely reduced) Pac-12. The conference tie-ins for this game from 2024 onwards could be a little different from 2024 onwards. Of course, Oklahoma is taking itself to the SEC soon, so unless those tie-ins include the SEC, they’ll be making their final appearance in this one.
Oklahoma, usually one of the programs that like to think they sit at the top table of college football, comes into this one on a relative par with Arizona. It’s surprising because the Wildcats have not been awash with wins in recent times, which makes this one an intriguing matchup.
Where and When
Valero Alamo Bowl
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Date: 28th December 2023
Time: 9:15 pm (ET)
Story so far…
The Wildcats come into this ranked 14, the first time that the programme has been ranked since 2017. Jedd Fisch is 15-21 as Head Coach of Arizona in his third year, but when we take into account that in year one, they went 1-11, it’s clear to see the improvements that the programme has undergone under his leadership.
Third place in the final running of the Pac-12, with a 9-3 overall record is a fantastic showing for a team who were rated eighth (of twelve) in the preseason ranking of the Pac-12. Finishing above in-state rivals, Arizona State, last year’s conference champions, Utah, and high-profile conference deserters, USC makes their year particularly sweet.
As does six straight wins to finish off the regular season, which is what the Wildcats have rattled off. It’s not since October 7th and their game against USC that they have felt the cold hands of defeat.
Oklahoma has been a touch below their usual Big XII dominance, but Brent Venables’ boys have only been defeated twice. On the road in Stillwater, to their big Oklahoma rivals, the State Cowboys, and the week prior in Lawrence, Kansas to the Jayhawks.
The Sooners have been ranked from wire-to-wire throughout the whole season, peaking at number 6, the week that they beat UCF before their duo of defeats followed to drop them to 17.
Three wins have followed since meaning both teams come into the Alamo Bowl in good form.
San Antonio will see a battle of young passers, with Noah Fifita in line to play for Arizona. Fifita, a Freshman, saw off former Washington State QB, Jayden de Laura and took his starting job during the regular season. This caused de Laura to enter the transfer portal and at the time of writing, is still seeking his next stop.
Fifita is an undersized prospect whose 5 interceptions throughout the year point to the fact that he looks after the ball well. Given the undersized nature of his build, it is perhaps a little unusual, that he isn’t a great rushing threat – 31 carries for a net of 2 yards, is a testament to that.
Oklahoma has also lost its starting QB to the transfer portal; Dillon Gabriel previously of UCF, has announced that he is going to be suiting up for the Oregon Ducks in 2024. Probably feeling that college football, and its NIL benefits, will make a more lucrative move than to be selected on day 3 of the NFL Draft in April.
Due to Gabriel’s withdrawal, Freshman Jackson Arnold will be under center for the Sooners. Arnold is a former star recruit, so he has some pedigree, but he lacks any kind of experience, having thrown a grand total of 24 passes thus far in his college career.
Having such inexperience at the quarterback position will make this game an underpredictable one.
Prospects to watch…
Jacob Cowing, Wide Receiver –Cowing is a shifty, undersized slot receiver who has been super-productive during his time in Tuscon. Separation isn’t a problem for the former UTEP receiver, given he has sharp route running skills, Cowing also has strong hands and an innate feel for how to get into the endzone.
Tyler Guyton, Offensive Tackle – Every year, Oklahoma seems to send a tackle prospect to the NFL. This year’s is the massive Tyler Guyton, a 6’7, 328 lbs behemoth from Manor, Texas. Guyton, like many of the Sooners’ tackle prospects, is raw and unrefined, but his sheer power and ability to redirect defensive linemen is a trait that all line coaches will want to work with.
The lack of experience under center, plus a long list of withdrawals for both sides make this one difficult to call. The withdrawals also include Arizona offensive tackle, Jordan Morgan, who will likely be a day 2 pick, so the talent drain has been considerable. This means it could be high-scoring or a bit of a damp squib… I’ll remain positive.
Arizona 38 – 49 Oklahoma
NFL, CFB & NFL DRAFT
LEE WAKEFIELD IS A DEFENSIVE LINE ENTHUSIAST, CHARGERS SUFFERER, AND LONG-TIME WRITER AND PODCASTER WITH A NUMBER OF PUBLICATIONS. @WAKEFIELD90 ON TWITTER/X