The 1976 Alabama squad finished the regular season with a 9–3 record. The Crimson Tide opened the season ranked #6 only to lose to Ole Miss in their opening game, to eventual conference champion Georgia and to Notre Dame. Following their victory over Auburn, Alabama accepted an invitation to play in the Liberty Bowl. The appearance marked the third for Alabama in the Liberty Bowl, and their 30th overall bowl game appearance.
Entering their final regular season game against rivalUSC, the Bruins were ranked #2 with their only blemish on the season coming in a tie against Ohio State. With a berth in the Rose Bowl Game at stake, UCLA was upset 24–14 resulting in the Bruins accepting a bid to play in the Liberty Bowl. The appearance marked the first for UCLA in the Liberty Bowl, and both their 8th overall bowl game and their first away from the Rose Bowl.
After forcing a UCLA punt on the opening possession, Alabama took a 3–0 lead on a 37-yard Bucky Berrey field goal on their first offensive possession. On the ensuing UCLA drive, Bama linebackerBarry Kraussintercepted a Jeff Dankworth pass and returned it 44-yards for a touchdown. The following kickoff was fumbled by Wally Henry of UCLA with Alabama recovering. Five plays later Johnny Davis scored on a run from two yards out and the Crimson Tide were up 17–0 after the first quarter. The only points of the second quarter came on an Alabama trick play. Jack O'Rear took the snap and tossed the ball to halfbackTony Nathan who proceeded to pass it back to O'Rear who made the reception and took it 20 yards for a touchdown and a 24–0 lead. Alabama extended their lead to 30–0 with a pair of Berrey field goals before UCLA got on the scoreboard. Theotis Brown scored the Bruins' only points on a 61-yard touchdown run. Alabama responded with their final points with only :22 seconds remaining in the game on a 1-yard Rick Watson run making the final score 36–6.