Although Alabama's next game will be a national semifinal in college football's four-team playoff, it is also a bowl game, and a familiar one at that.
The Crimson Tide will be making their 16th appearance in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day, when they take on Clemson in New Orleans. The Sugar Bowl is easily Alabama's most frequent destination through its storied history, with the Orange Bowl in Miami and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas next in line with eight visits to each.
"The Sugar Bowl is something that's always been special to Alabama, and it's always been something that's special to the SEC," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama has an 8-7 record in the Sugar Bowl but has lost its last three appearances, falling to Utah 31-17 after the 2008 season, to Oklahoma 45-31 after the 2013 season and to Ohio State 42-35 after the 2014 season. The loss to Ohio State was in a semifinal of the first playoff in 2014.
The Crimson Tide did defeat LSU 21-0 in New Orleans after the 2011 season, but that was in the BCS championship game and not the Sugar Bowl. Alabama is the Sugar Bowl's most frequent visitor, with LSU next with 13 appearances.
Alabama had never met Clemson in the postseason until each of the past two years, when they played in the championship games of the four-team playoff. The Crimson Tide and Tigers split those meetings.
"This will be, by far, the best team we've played all year," Saban said. "We'll certainly need to play our best to have any kind of chance to be successful."
Each school will receive 13,000 tickets for the Sugar Bowl, with the winner getting 20,000 tickets to the championship game in Atlanta.
Bozeman a finalist
Alabama senior Bradley Bozeman is a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, which has been awarded to college football's top center since 2000.
Bozeman could be the third Rimington winner for the Crimson Tide, joining Barrett Jones (2012) and Ryan Kelly (2015). The other finalists this year are LSU's Will Clapp and Ohio State's Billy Price.
In his second year as the starting center, Bozeman has graded out at an average of 85.6 percent with 16 knockdown blocks and just seven missed assignments in 724 snaps (a 99-percent success rate). He has allowed just two sacks and four pressures all season and has blocked for six 100-yard rushing games this year, giving him 17 in his 28 career starts at center.
Alabama averages 265.3 rushing yards per game and leads the SEC in rushing yards before contact at 4.17 per carry.
Fitzpatrick team MVP
Junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick was recently voted Alabama's MVP by his teammates.
Fitzpatrick has 52 tackles, six tackles for loss, an interception and a forced fumble this season. He is also among the four permanent captains for the 2017 Tide, joining Bozeman and linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans. Hamilton suffered a broken kneecap against LSU on Nov. 4 and is out for the season.
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