It was a bittersweet end to the Alabama season, as the Tide went out with a resounding victory. It was both enjoyable and frustrating, as the team showed off the vast potential that had them ranked at the top of the preseason polls. After a slow first quarter the Alabama offense took over the game and it was over for all intents and purposes with 25 minutes left to play. Just how good was the offense, you ask?
Alabama's Bill O'Brien-coached offense finishes with 496 total yards in the Sugar Bowl. It averaged 9.0 yards per play, the second-highest for a bowl game in program history after it averaged 10.6 in the 1935 Rose Bowl.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) December 31, 2022
A few impressions:
Bryce Young went out with a bang
I don’t know if this was Bryce’s best game in Crimson, but it was close. Like the rest of the team, he started slow before blowing the Wildcats’ doors off. In the end, he tied an Alabama bowl record with five TD passes, and they went to five different receivers. As they noted on the broadcast, he only had one more incomplete pass than touchdown among his 21 passes for 321 yards. Best of all, he got the ball out on time better than usual and even hit some deep balls, which has been an issue for him. Bryce very likely solidified his top 5 draft status in this one.
There were several to choose from, but this had to be the prettiest throw of the day.
Brian Branch, too!
Branch flat out killed it. He was quite active in the run game, managed a sack and even added this gorgeous interception.
Alabama’s Brian Branch is the best safety in the 2023 NFL Draft and he’s playing like it in the Sugar Bowl.— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) December 31, 2022
Already has 2 TFLs and now does a great job playing the slot with his body and reading the QB to jump the dig for an interception. pic.twitter.com/jQUK0ZDf4z
Brian probably made more money in the game than anyone else. His draft reel is going to be full of Sugar Bowl.
The running game got the job done
It wasn’t a spectacular performance on the ground, but the running backs ended up with 189 yards on 30 carries. Jahmyr Gibbs led the way, but Jase McClellan did some dirty work and Jamarion Miller busted one late. It was good to see some holes open up front, and the pass protection was as solid as it’s been all season as well.
After a tough start, the defense adjusted and dominated
The first half was not great for the Alabama defense. Kansas State opened the game with a 44 yard drive on seven plays before Jordan Battle picked off Walker Howard. The next four Kansas State possessions netted a field goal, touchdown, and 18 play drive that ended in a goal line stand. Fortunately Alabama took the ball inside the 5 and marched for a TD before the half, then doubled up to open the second half and create some separation on the scoreboard.
From that point forward, it was lights out for the K State offense until the game had been decided. The next five possessions netted a total of 71 yards and three points, and the Tide built a 45-13 advantage. Whatever halftime adjustments the staff made worked wonderfully.
The returning receiving production will set up the new QB nicely
For years, returning offensive line starts were viewed as the best predictor of team success in the college game, but recently analysts have looked toward returning receiving production. Makes sense if you think about it, since building chemistry between QB and receivers is the difference between a decent offense and an unstoppable one. Alabama started off the season with the former, but in the last two games it looked more like the latter. If next year’s QB is already on the roster, he will have had first team reps with a receiving corps that returns its top two options outside and top two producers in the slot.
They will of course need to replace Tyler Steen and Emil Ekiyor Jr. on the offensive line, but there should be good internal options there and of course the portal is always there as well.
There will be plenty of time to dissect next year’s team, of course. For now, enjoy a Sugar Bowl blowout from this team that was so maligned because they lost two games, on the road, on the last play of the game. It’s a long time until we get to see them suit up again.