The 1983 Alabama squad finished the regular season with a 7–4 record and losses against Penn State, Tennessee, Boston College and Auburn. Following their loss against Boston College, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Sun Bowl. The appearance marked the first for Alabama in the Sun Bowl, and their 27th overall bowl game appearance.
The 1983 SMU squad finished the regular season with a record of 10–1 and as SWC runner-up with their only loss coming against Texas. The appearance in the Sun Bowl marked the second for SMU in the game, and their 10th overall bowl game appearance.
Coming into the 50th annual Sun Bowl, the Mustangs were heavily favored over the Crimson Tide. Alabama dominated play in the first half and took a 28–0 lead into halftime. The Crimson Tide scored touchdowns in the first quarter on a pair of Ricky Moore runs from one and eleven yards respectively. In the second quarter, Bama scored touchdowns on a one-yard Walter Lewis run and on a 19-yard Lewis pass to Joey Jones. In the second half, both defenses were dominant with the only points coming on a 15-yard Lance McIlhenny touchdown pass to Marquis Pleasant in the third to bring the final score to its 28–7 margin. Entering the game, the Mustangs had only allowed four touchdowns all season only to see the Tide score three on the ground in the first half and outgain the Mustangs in total offense 303 to 105 yards. For his performance, Alabama quarterback Walter Lewis was named the Sun Bowl MVP.