How Alabama and Utah Met in the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl They came together almost out of the blue. Very much like the Sugar Bowl a year earlier, with familiar SEC challenger Georgia and newcomer Hawaii, so it was in the 2009 game with old-hand Alabama and the undefeated, untied Utah Utes, the "BCS Buster'' of 2008.
Coach Nick Saban was just in his third season of restoring the Crimson Tide to its former football stature, and coached Bama to 12 victories against no defeats in the regular season - and spent a month ranked as the No. 1 team in the country.
Then the Tide, winners of the SEC West, played Florida in the league's championship game. Leading the fourth quarter, Bama eventually succumbed. The Gators went on to win the national championship against Oklahoma. The Tide slipped only slightly to No. 4 in the nation with its 12-1 record.
For a squad that had legitimate aspirations at a title themselves, it was, of course, a disappointing downturn for Bama.
Still, the Sugar Bowl was a good nesting spot for the Tide, already far ahead of schedule under Saban, who had coached LSU to a national title in the 2004 Sugar Bowl.
On the other hand, the Utes had an unblemished season (12-0) under Coach Kyle Whittingham, who had spent time in New Orleans as a professional player, and rose to No. 7 in the land. Of course, the Utes came out of the Mountain West Conference, not a major league in the collective eye of college football.
In fact, Saban may have inadvertently thrown gas on the already fiery emotions of the Utes, who felt their accomplishments were generally disrespected by the BCS system and the media. After Bama's loss to Florida, Saban said his team was the only in the Sugar Bowl that had an undefeated regular season "in a real BCS conference.''
You just knew somebody was going to pay for a shot like that.
Preview by Sugar Bowl historian Marty Mulé, an award-winning sportswriter who covered college football and the Sugar Bowl for the New Orleans Times-Picayune for 33 years.