Alabama will be competing against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl and they are no stranger to a couple of components this matchup has to offer: the Super Dome in New Orleans and head coach Urban Meyer. Nick Saban andMeyer are two of college football’s most successful coaches and each other’s biggest nemesis.
They have met most recently in the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championships, where they each had a win and a National Championship title come out of those matchups. Nick Saban however, leads the matchup at 2-1, with a regular season win over Meyer in 2010.
This matchup has to be the most controversial in the debut of the new playoff system. Ohio State, who jumped TCU and Baylor to make it into the playoff, will attempt to prove why they deserve to be here. Alabama on the other hand will try to prove that they, a one loss team, deserve to stay here.
The Buckeyes have the second longest winning streak in college football (behind FSU) and have a daunting task ahead of them if they want to extend that streak. This matchup is hard to pre-analyze because one of the biggest unknown factors in this matchup is at the quarterback position, where Cardale Jones will be making his second career start.
Ohio State has had some bad luck at this position this season, with Braxton Miller out and backup quarterback J.T. Barrett suffering a broken ankle against Michigan in November leaving him unavailable for the Sugar Bowl as well, they will look to Jones to fill this void. Jones is no stranger to victory, as he led his team to a 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
But tonight against the Tide, Jones, who put up 257 passing yards against Wisconsin, will have to face the nation’s fifth best defense in the country. Alabama has one of the best rush defenses in the country, so Ohio State will need to execute their passing game.
Blake Sims has made a huge statement this season and that is that he is the leader of this team. After the slow start to the season against West Virginia and much speculation on whether or not he could bare the load, Sims has proved time and time again that he’s more than capable. He has improved much of the season, most recently completing 23 of 27 passes for 262 yards in the SEC Championship. He is no stranger to big stages and is expected to show up big.
Running back T.J. Yeldon will be considered a game time decision, but if he can’t go the rushing load will fall on Derrick Henry. This should be no issue for Henry, as he rushed for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns in the SEC Championship against Misssouri.
Ohio State has to be on the lookout for the deep ball to DeAndrew White that Sims loves throwing so often. White averaged 25.3 yards on just 4 passes in his last game, his longest being a 58 yard reception. Aside from White, Heisman finalist Amari Cooper is more than capable of putting up over 200 receiving yards and should be seeing more playing time as he has had time to rest.
The biggest uncertainty for Alabama’s defense is not knowing what to expect from Cardale Jones, who only has one game of tape for the Tide to study.
“I know against us, he’s going to have to do a lot of processing and a lot of thinking,” Alabama safety Landon Collins told reporters. “We’re definitely going to confuse him as much as possible.”
*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Marvin Gentry, USA Today Sports