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Sugar Bowl: 4 winners and losers from Alabama blowing out Kansas State

Sugar Bowl
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

New Year’s Eve brought a matchup between the Alabama Crimson Tide vs the Kansas State Wildcats in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Certainly a battle no one saw coming at the start of the year. Alabama in a big bowl game, sure, what’s new? But Kansas State?

The Wildcats hadn’t won ten or more games since 2012. But head coach Chris Klieman has steadily improved the program in his four years at the helm, leading a 10-3 record this season.

The Crimson Tide came into the matchup as -8.5 point favorites but quickly found themselves in a losing battle to begin the day’s bowl game. Yet, the Wildcats weren’t able to maintain their momentum after getting out to a ten-point lead in the first quarter and ultimately came up short against Nick Saban’s team.

Recapping one of the bigger bowl matchups thus far, we dive into four winners and losers from the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

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Sugar Bowl loser: Kansas State Wildcats’ aggression handicaps team

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Texas Christian at Kansas State
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On three separate occasions, the Wildcats attempted to go for it on fourth down on their final drive of the first half. The first two attempts were successful, but the final, was not. It came at a crucial moment, on fourth-and-2, where a field goal would have decreased Alabama’s lead to 21-13.

Alas, Wildcats QB Will Howard couldn’t connect with Ben Sinnott, causing a turnover on downs. Still, Kansas State’s defense had a chance to make things difficult, with Alabama needing 98 yards for the score. Bryce Young made this look easy, driving his team all 98 yards on seven plays, concluding with a 12-yard pass to Jermaine Burton.

Later, coming out of the half trailing 21-10, Kansas State’s aggression once again came back to bite the Wildcats. Coach Klieman elected to try an onside kick, hoping to catch Alabama slipping. Yet, running back Roydell Williams was prepared, immediately rushing forward to recover the failed attempt at stealing an extra possession by Kansas State.

Coach Klieman may have entered the game knowing he’d need to be aggressive against a program that has much more high-end talent on their deep roster when compared to Kansas State, but he saw today how gambling doesn’t always pay off.

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Winner: Bryce Young caps off college career in style

NCAA Football: Austin Peay at Alabama
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Playing in the final game of his career, Alabama QB Bryce Young’s decision to play ended up being a great choice. Typically players who are potential top-five picks in the NFL draft are hesitant to continue putting their bodies at risk of injury, knowing their professional football future is the biggest priority going forward.

But Young didn’t care about any of that, choosing to stick with his teammates, knowing that another strong performance would only continue boosting the Crimson Tide player’s draft stock. Not only for him but also for his offensive linemen and skill position groups.

Young managed to stay healthy, throwing for 321 yards and five touchdowns while avoiding turnovers in a convincing victory. Not a bad way to put a bow on the former Heisman winner’s college campaign. Next up, the 2023 NFL Draft.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings: Bryce Young leads best quarterback prospects in NFL Draft

Loser: Felix Anudike-Uzomah fails to boost draft stock

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Texas Christian at Kansas State
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from forcing a holding call while causing Bryce Young to escape the pocket on back-to-back plays in the third quarter, potential first-round sack artist Felix Anudike-Uzomah was mostly quiet. He came into the matchup with 11 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, taking on a strong Alabama offensive line.

While few expected Anudike-Uzomah to take over in this matchup, draft analysts are always paying close attention to which prospects step up in the biggest games of their careers, especially against top programs like Alabama.

Luckily, Anudike-Uzomah didn’t do anything to hurt his draft stock, but he also didn’t quite flash like several members of the Alabama defense.

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Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide’s defense stifles

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Kansas State at Alabama
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

The Crimson Tide routinely send multiple players to the NFL. This season’s crop of talent is no different.

From edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., who could also be a top-five pick, to cornerbacks Brian Branch and Malachi Moore, the first of which hopped in front of a Will Howard pass to reel in an interception, the skill of Alabama’s potential first-round prospects were on full display. Branch also later added a sack in the fourth quarter while finishing with a career-high 12 tackles.

Sure, running back Deuce Vaughn got his work in, but most of his 133 yards came in the first half on an 88-yard touchdown in what became a second-half blowout. Once the ground attack was taken away, forcing Kansas State to pass, the game was over.

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