Nick Saban is in his second season at Alabama with a 19-7 (.730) record and 15th overall with a record of 110-49-1 (.691). The Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator is Jim McElwain and the defensive coordinator is Kirby Smart.
Kyle Whittingham is in his fourth season at Utah and overall with a record of 36-14 (720). The Utes' offensive coordinator is Andy Ludwig and Gary Andersen serves as the defensive coordinator.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN ALABAMA HAS THE BALL
Glen Coffee moved into fourth on the Crimson Tide's single-season rushing chart with 112 yards against Florida in the SEC Championship Game. He now has 1,347 yards on 220 carries, which 124 yards shy of the single-season record held by Bobby Humphrey, who rushed for 1,471 yards in 1986. Julio Jones holds all of the Alabama freshman receiving records. His 847 receiving yards and four touchdowns rank fifth on the single-season chart while 51 his receptions this season rank tied for eighth. Andre Smith won the 2008 Outland Trophy. John Parker Wilson has passed for 2,096 yards while completing 57.7 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns this season. Antoine Caldwell is a first-team All-American by the America Football Coaches Association.
Three of Utah's starting linemen won all-conference honors, led by first-team all-MWC sophomore end Paul Kruger (56 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks). Junior end Koa Misi (63 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks) was named to the second team and senior tackle Greg Newman (46 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) earned honorable mention acclaim. Stevenson Sylvester ranks second on the team in tackles with 66 from his rover position. He has 5.0 TFL, an assisted sack, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Strong safety Joe Dale leads the Ute secondary and is fourth on the team in tackles with 63. He had a season-high nine tackles against TCU. Dale has 6.5 tackles for loss (which leads the defensive backs), three interceptions, a forced fumble and four pass breakups.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN UTAH HAS THE BALL
Rolando McClain is the leading tackler for an Alabama defense. In 13 games, McClain leads the team with 91 tackles and 11.0 tackles for loss (-44 yards). He has 3.0 sacks (-22 yards), five pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. McClain has also recovered two fumbles - one he returned for a touchdown - and one interception this season. Rashad Johnson ranks tied for 31st nationally in interceptions (.38 per game) and tied 21st in passes defended (1.23 per game). His 82 total tackles rank second on the team while his five TFL are tied for fifth. Terrence Cody required double teams from opposing offensive lines all season while accounting for 23 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Dont'a Hightower ranks fourth on the team with 62 tackles headed into the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Utah. He started 12 games and has 2.5 tackles for loss (-6) and five quarterback hurries. Hightower also recovered two fumbles and forced one fumble.
Brian Johnson was selected as the 2008 MWC Offensive Player of the Year and the first-team all-MWC quarterback. Johnson is the winningest quarterback in school history. He is 25-7 as the starter. Carrying the ball the bulk of the time for the Utes are junior Matt Asiata (133 carries, 678 yards, 11 TDs, 5.1 average) and senior starter Darrell Mack (119 rushes, 533 yards, 3 TDs, 4.5 yards per carry). Freddie Brown, a second-team all-MWC selection, is Utah's leading receiver with 65 catches for 775 yards (64.6 average). He averaged 76.6 yards a game in eight league games. Brown's seven touchdown catches is tied for third in the MWC. Colt Sampson is Utah's top receiving tight end with 10 catches for 74 yards and five touchdowns (tied for second on the team).
P.J. Fitzgerald is averaging a career-best 41.11-yard per kick to rank fifth in the SEC with 14 punts inside the 20. Fitzgerald has been outstanding in eight SEC games, averaging 41.6 on 39 punts with 12 inside the 20-yard line. Javier Arenas is averaging 12.86 yards per punt return for his career (1,186 yards on 92 returns). Leigh Tiffin has connected on 19 of 26 field goals this season and 44 of 45 extra points. He is second in the SEC and 21st nationally in field goals per game at 1.46. Tiffin also ranks fifth in the league in scoring at 7.77 points per game.
Louie Sakoda is just the second player ever to be named a finalist for both the Lou Groza (kicking) and Ray Guy (punting) awards in the same season. He is the first player in Utah football history to be named a first-team All-American at two different positions—winning FWAA and CBSSports.com first-team honors as a punter in 2007 and earning unanimous Consensus All-America status as a kicker this year. He is the first Ute ever to be named a first-team All-American on all five of the consensus teams.
Record: First Meeting
The University of Alabama football team returns to the Sugar Bowl for the first time since its win in the 1993 Sugar Bowl against Miami that captured the school's 12th national title... The Alabama Crimson Tide and Utah Utes will meet for the first time in the 2009 Sugar Bowl... Utah's No. 6 BCS ranking ties its best in school history - which is also the best BCS ranking ever by a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference... Utah is 12-0 for the second time ever, tying the school mark set in 2004... Utah owns the longest win streak in the nation at 13 games... Utah and Alabama were tied at 13 before the Tide's loss to Florida on Dec. 6. Utah has won 20 of its last 21 games... With the invitation, Utah becomes the first team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play in two BCS bowl games... Utah was the original BCS Buster in 2004 - beating Pittsburgh in the (2005) Fiesta Bowl to complete an undefeated season at 12-0.