The Sugar Bowl usually takes the champion of the SEC and pits them against an At-Large BCS team. However with the 2008 SEC Champion, Florida Gators being selected to play for the national championship game, the Sugar Bowl selected two At-Large BCS teams. The bowl kept their traditional ties with the Southeastern Conference for the second consecutive year though, in selecting the Alabama Crimson Tide with an at-large selection.
In the 2009 edition of this bowl game, the No. 6 Utes pulled off an upset of the heavily favored No. 4 Crimson Tide by a score of 31–17. Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was named Most Outstanding Player of the game. With this win, Utah completed the 2008 season as the only undefeated, 13–0 Division I FBS team in the nation, along with becoming the first team from a non-BCS conference to win two BCS bowls. It was also Utah's first win over a Southeastern Conference school. Andre Smith(Alabama starting left Tackle and 2008 Outland Trophy winner) was suspended for the game because he declined to cooperate with an investigation by the school's compliance staff on the issue with his uncle's illegal contact with a sport's agent. A few days later, he declared himself for the NFL Draft and was the 6th overall pick.