The 1975 Alabama squad finished the regular season as SEC champions with a record of 10–1. The only defeat was a 20–7 loss to the Missouri Tigers in week one. On November 17, bowl officials announced that Alabama would face Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. The appearance marked the seventh appearance for Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and their 29th overall bowl appearance.
The 1975 Penn State squad finished the regular season with a record of 9–2. Their only defeats were a 17–9 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in week three and a 15–14 loss to the NC State Wolfpack in week ten. On November 17, bowl officials announced that Penn State would face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The invitation for Penn State was controversial as Alabama's Bryant personally selected Penn State as their opponent instead of the Big 8 runner-up, which would be ranked higher than the Nittany Lions. Bryant was miffed that the Orange Bowl, which was committed to hosting the Big 8 champion, had snubbed the Crimson Tide in favor of the Big 10 runner-up (which would be eligible to pay a bowl other than the Rose Bowl for the first time in history). In Bryant's view, this effectively killed Alabama's chances for a national championship. The appearance marked the second for Penn State in the Sugar Bowl, and their 14th overall bowl appearance.
After Penn State's Chris Bahr missed a 62-yard field goal, Alabama scored on a 25-yard Danny Ridgeway field goal to take a 3–0 lead. After a scoreless second quarter, Penn State tied the game at 3–3 on a 42-yard Bahr field goal in the third. Bama responded on the following drive with the lone touchdown of the game on a 14-yard Mike Stock run to take a 10–3 lead. After cutting the lead to 10–6 on a 37-yard Bahr field goal, the Crimson Tide responded with an extended drive resulting in a 28-yard Ridgeway field goal in bringing the final score to 13–6. For his 210 yards passing after completing ten of twelve pass attempts, Alabama quarterbackRichard Todd was named the games Most Valuable Player.