The 1985 Alabama squad finished the regular season with losses to Penn State and Tennessee and a tie against LSU to compile an 8–2–1 record. Following their victory over Auburn, the Crimson Tide accepted an invitation to play in the Aloha Bowl on November 30 after Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt to clinch a birth in the 1986 Sugar Bowl. The appearance marked the first for Alabama in the Aloha Bowl, and their 38th overall bowl game.
The 1985 USC squad finished the regular season with losses to Baylor, Arizona State, Notre Dame, California and Washington to finish with a record of 6–5. Following their victory over UCLA, the Trojans accepted an invitation to play in the Aloha Bowl on November 25. The appearance marked the first for USC in the Aloha Bowl, and their 29th overall bowl game.
In a first half dominated by both defenses, both the Crimson Tide and the Trojans traded field goals resulting in a 3–3 tie at the half. Van Tiffin hit a 48-yard shot in the first for Alabama and Don Shafer hit a 24-yard shot in the second quarter. Craig Turner scored the first touchdown of the contest on a 1-yard run to complete a 10-play, 58-yard drive in the third quarter. The Crimson Tide closed out the game with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. The first came on a 24-yard pass from Mike Shula to Clay Whitehurst and the second on a 14-yard Al Bell run. For their performances, running back Gene Jelks and linebackerCornelius Bennett were named the game's co-MVPs.