The 1977 Alabama squad finished the regular season as SEC champions with a record of 10–1. The only defeat was a 31–24 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in week two. On November 19, bowl officials announced that Alabama would face Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The appearance marked the eighth for Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and their 31st overall bowl appearance. It was also the Tide's first bowl game against a Big 10 opponent, and their second overall game against a Big 10 opponent.
The 1977 Ohio State squad finished the regular season as co-Big 10 champions with a record of 9–2. Their only defeats were a 31–24 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in week three and a 14–6 loss to the Michigan Wolverines to close the regular season. On November 19, bowl officials announced that Michigan would play in the Rose Bowl and that Ohio State would face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The appearance marked the first for Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, and their 12th overall bowl appearance.
After a scoreless first quarter Alabama scored the first points of the evening on a one-yard Tony Nathan touchdown run to cap a 10-play, 76-yard drive. On their next offensive possession, Bama scored again on a 27-yard Jeff Rutledge touchdown pass to Bruce Bolton to take a 13–0 lead at the half. Rutledge had his second touchdown of the evening on a 3-yard pass to Rick Neal. Following a successful two-point conversion pass to Nathan, Alabama led 21–0 going into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes scored their only points of the game early in the fourth when Rod Gerald threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jim Harrell, and after a failed two-point try cut the Alabama lead to 21–6. Bama closed the game with a pair of touchdown runs. The first was scored by Major Ogilvie on a one-yard run and the second by Johnny Davis on a seven-yard run to make the final score 35–6.