Preview; All-State Sugar Bowl; Alabama vs. Ohio St.
TUSCALOOSA– Well fans, you’ve begged, pleaded, demanded and fought for this moment for years and now the time has finally arrived. For the first time in history, the college football world will finally have one true champion with the innagural college football playoff starting on January 1st. While some may believe that the rankings were unfair one thing is for sure true, the Alabama Crimson Tide have fought their way to the number one spot and will face the Ohio State Buckeyes in the All-State Sugar Bowl.
The Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) have proven to be the number one team in the country after their upset loss to Ole Miss. While it wasn’t an easy for the Tide, they managed to beat three top 10 teams on their way to third SEC Championship win since 2007. While this may seem great for the Tide, Alabama has struggled in the state of Louisiana come bowl season. In fact, the last two times Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl, they were favored by a substanital amount and lost big time. Alabama may of had a fantastic run this year, but that doesn’t mean this game is in the bag at all.
The Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1) might be the cinderella team of the year in college football…ok bear with me a sec. To start the year off, front-runner for the heisman trophy Braxton Miller goes down with a tear in his shoulder, forcing freshman JT Barrett to take over. From that momnet on Barrett made a name for himself and forced his way and the Buckeyes way into major award talks. As if luck wasn’t bad enough, Barrett went down with a leg injury against Michigan and forced three string quarterback Cardelle Jones to the Buckeyes in a major win over Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship. The Buckeyes look to continue their run under Urban Meyer and punch their ticket to Dallas.
Will Alabama fight their way into a 4th National Championship in 5 years? Will Ohio State continue their cinderella run? Which coach has the edge? Let’s dive in and see who will come out on top in the inaugural playoff season.
WHAT TO KNOW
When- January 1st, 2015
Time- 7:00 CST
Where-Mercedses-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Vegas Line- Alabama by 8 1/2
KEYS TO VICTORY: ALABAMA
> Prove Cardale Jones is weak
Preparing for a team is hard enough, but the preparation just got harder since there is very little film on Cardale Jones. There’s only been one game on Jones this season but thank god it was a good game. Alabama’s defense needs to put pressure on Jones quick and make him make those rookie mistakes like Virginia Tech did to JT Barrett. Alabama’s Jonathan Allen and Reggie Ragland will have to force Jones out of the pocket and hope that Landon Collins or Cyrus Jones is in position to make the interception.
> Protect Blake Sims
Alabama has been known this season for being great on the run defense but has been just as well with the passing game. No one would have ever probably guessed that Blake Sims would lead college football in passing completions this season. The reason; Alabama’s offensive line. However, there is a great defensive end in Joey Bosa who can destroy Sims if he gets the chance. Alabama’s line will be forced to contain the Buckeye’s defense so that Sims will be able to once again make big plays and get on the board early.
KEYS TO VICTORY: OHIO STATE
> Score Fast
Alabama has been favored the last two times against Utah and Oklahoma and both lost cause of early scoring by their opponents. Ohio State will have to make the statement early. Cardale Jones will be given the time to score thanks to his offensive line but he will have to be smart with throwing. If he can get them in Alabama’s red zone, just hand cut it to the outside and get on the board. If the Buckeye’s score early, Alabama may be back to square one like they were last year.
> Stop the Run
Alabama is known for a great run defense, but they also know a thing or two about running the ball. Arguably the best 1-2 punch running back duo in TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry. Both backs averaged more then five yards a carry and tore up SEC defenses. The one thing the Buckeyes have is a great defensive front and can put both Yeldon and Henry behind the line. If the Buckeye’s can stop the run and force Blake Sims to air it out; there might not be an answer for Alabama’s offense at all.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: ALABAMA
> A’Shawn Robinson
Alabama will have to get to the quarterback and that’s where the defensive line comes in. While there’s multiple people who could be named here, let’s go with A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson has been great on the line all year for the Tide but he really has excelled in pressuring a quarterback into making bad decisions. Robinson can be huge for the Tide if he makes Jones flustered all game and could possibly be the x-factor in the end.
> DeAndrew White
Of course Luke Fickell has been studying Amari Cooper all month and will more then likely have his DB’s all over him come Thursday night. What he probably hasn’t planned for is the resugence of the second wide receiver in DeAndrew White. White was a huge reason for the blowout against Missouri in the SEC Championship this year and will more then likely be a big part in the Sugar Bowl. If Cooper is covered all day, White will be more then ready to pick up the slack and help the Crimson Tide out as best as possible.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: OHIO STATE
> Joey Bosa
If there is one guy who can make a defense on the Buckeye’s defense, look no further than Joey Bosa. The Sophomore leads the Big 10 in tackles and sacks with 13.5 and has been consistent every game. Plain and simple; he’s the most accountable guy on the field. Bosa might be destroyed by Cam Robinson or Austin Shepard if both players are on point. If not, he may be the reason for Blake Sims to look like he did last year.
> Ezekiel Elliott
Since Cardale Jones only has one game under his belt, he may or may not have the best game with passing. Ezikiel Elliott on the other hand has been consistent for the Buckeyes since the start of the season. Elliott has averaged over six yards a carry this season and has a dozen touchdowns to prove for it. Alabama may be known for having a top notched run defense, but if Elliott gets his chance to shine, it might be Oklahoma all over again.
THE X-FACTOR: ALABAMA and OHIO STATE
> Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer
Alabama and Ohio St is already a great game due to the history and dominance of these two programs over the past decade. The matchup however is much more then that due to who calling the plays; Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. At one point not to long ago, these two coaches were projected to face off each other every year in Atlanta for the SEC championship. Meyer holds the record against Coach Saban 2-1, but Saban has held Meyer to low scoring games every time. It’s time to settle the score once and for all between probably the top two coaches in college football. No matter who comes out on top, these two coaches will be the reason they either move on or go home.
No matter who wins this game, fans can expect a game to remember for the ages to come. Both teams at the beginning of the season were written off to make it to the playoffs and had no chance of even being apart of the “New Years Six”. Now, one of these two teams will be making it into the final game of the season; the National Championship.
The fact of the matter is, luck will run out down in the south. Cardale Jones did have a great game against Wisconsin but one game isn’t enough to say he can beat the number one team in the nation. No matter how good that defensive front is for Ohio State, Alabama is equally as strong up front as well as in their linebacking core. Expect a big performance from Alabama’s run game as Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide continue their way to Dallas in the national Championship.
Prediction- Alabama-30, Ohio State-21
Cole Thompson is the Alabama Beat Writer for WVUA-FM. Follow him on Twitter at @ColeThompson32