On Saturday, the fifth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will face the Big 12 champions, the ninth-ranked Kansas State Wildcats, in the 89th annual Sugar Bowl, the first-ever meeting between the two schools. While the matchup between the two programs is something new, the Crimson Tide is no stranger to New Orleans, as this will be their program-high 17th Sugar Bowl appearance. The Sugar Bowl matchup is set to be one of the biggest games of bowl season outside of the College Football Playoffs, with both teams expecting zero opt-outs and both teams eager to end their season on a high note.

Here are five things to look for against #9 Kansas State:

  1. Quarterbacks

Alabama's Bryce Young may not have had the same numbers this season as he did in his Heisman Trophy-winning season last year, but he still finished as one of the best passers in the nation, passing for more than 3,000 yards for the second consecutive season in a row. Young also added 27 touchdown passes with a 64.1 completion percentage. In multiple games this season, Young had to put the team on his back to carry Alabama to victory, and he very well might have to do it one more time in Saturday's Sugar Bowl.

On the opposing sidelines, Kansas State quarterback Will Howard, despite not having as gaudy of numbers as Young, still proves to be a formidable opponent. Howard started the season as the backup, but after Adrian Martinez went down, he was thrown into the fire and succeeded by passing for more than 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns in just six games of action this season. If Kansas State wants to have offensive success, it will require Howard to balance the offense with more of a passing threat in the run-heavy Kansas State offensive scheme.

  1. Jahmyr Gibbs

The most electric play-maker on the Alabama offense, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, has done it both on the ground and through the air for the Crimson Tide, totaling more than 1,200 all-purpose yards. Gibbs has rushed for 850 yards this season, but the more impressive stat is that he leads the Crimson Tide in receptions with 42. Kansas State has a mediocre run defense that averages giving up 150 yards rushing per game, which is exactly how many yards Gibbs needs to hit 1,000 on the season. This weakness for the Wildcats could lead to more carries for Gibbs, and if he has a special day, he could reach that milestone of 1,000 rushing yards in a season.

  1. Pass Rush

With the news of Will Anderson deciding to play in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama will have its leading pass rusher back, and he will be greatly needed as the Alabama front seven will face one of the best offensive lines they have seen all season long. Kansas State is not a pass-heavy offense, dropping back to pass just 27 times per game on average, but are very efficient when they do pass the ball. Anderson and company will need to make sure to put pressure on the quarterback when he does drop back to pass while maintaining gap integrity defending the run.

  1. Run Defense

The matchup between the Alabama rush defense and the Kansas State running game could be the determining factor in the game's outcome. Kansas State's bread and butter is the run game, led by running back Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn eclipsed the 1,400 rushing yard mark for the second consecutive season, leading the Wildcats to a rushing attack that averages 209 yards per game, ranking them 16th in the nation. The Crimson Tide defense only allows 125 rushing yards per game, ranking them 32nd in the nation. Something will have to give in this matchup of good versus good, but with Anderson playing and Alabama having already shut down a featured running back earlier in the year, Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who is even more talented than Vaughn, Alabama should be able to draw up a similar defense to be successful.

  1. Wide Receivers

One of the biggest disappointments this season was the lack of big plays and stretching the field from the wide receivers. Some of the blame was put on the offensive playcalling, while the rest of the blame was on inexperienced receivers. Jermaine Burton and Ja'Corey Brooks were the only Crimson Tide receivers to cross the 500-yard receiving plateau this season, with Bryce Young's third-best option being running back Jahmyr Gibbs. To add insult to injury, the wide receiver room has thinned out a bit, with four Alabama receivers in the transfer portal. Alabama will need someone besides Burton and Brooks to step up and help stretch the field against a Kansas State team that led the Big 12 in interceptions with 16.

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.