What: Allstate Sugar Bowl
Who: No. 4 Ohio State (12-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (12-1)
When: January 1, 2015 at 8:30 PM ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
New Years Day has finally returned to prominence for college football fans, and the marquee event of the day will come at 8:30 when The Ohio State Buckeyes faceoff against the Crimson Tide of Alabama. With Alabama being a near 10-point favorite, we take a look at what the Buckeyes can do to pull off the upset and prove to the world they can compete with the SEC.
Jones impressed in his first start of his career, which just so happened to be the Big10 Championship game, throwing for over 200 yards and three scores, and he may have to be just as impressive if Ohio State hopes to upset Alabama. This is not the same dominant Crimson Tide defense that has won the school three national championships in the last five years, and they are most vulnerable in their secondary. Getting Ezekiel Elliot going will be important, but it may take some sharp play by Jones, including shots over the top, to open holes in the Tide’s stout front seven.
The Buckeye secondary has proven to be among the best in the country at taking the ball away, as Ohio State ranks fourth in the FBS with 21 interceptions. That mark has helped Ohio State finish in the top 20 nationally in terms of turnover margin at +9. Alabama, on the other hand, has struggled a bit with turnovers, finishing the season at -1 in turnover margin. Forcing a turnover or two, and holding on to the ball themselves, will be huge for Ohio State.
Cooper has amassed an incredible 1,656 yards on 115 receptions this season and 14 touchdowns, which allowed him to rank third in the Heisman voting. Cooper has served as a security blanket of sorts for Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, and he is one heck of a security blanket to have, but if Ohio State can slow down Cooper, Sims will struggle to find other receivers. DeAndrew White is ranks second on the Tide with only 37 receptions and 439 yards. The Buckeyes cannot hope to eliminate Cooper completely, but forcing Sims to look elsewhere could turn out favorably for their ball-hawking secondary.
Buckeye Defensive Line
Led by consensus first-team All-American Joey Bosa, the Ohio State defensive line made Wisconsin hurt in the Big10 Championship. Not only were they effective in getting after the quarterback, but they bottled-up Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon and held him to fewer than 100 yards. Alabama will be ready for Bosa, Michael Bennett, and Adolphus Washington, but look for the emergence of Rashad Frazier to continue, as he will be given ample one-on-one opportunities, and his ability to win those battles could very well decide Ohio State’s fate.
Ohio State will fight hard and make this game closer than the point spread, but the Buckeyes may still be a year out from being a legitimate national championship contender, or at least one without their first or second-string quarterback.
Alabama Wins 30-27
Cover Photo: Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports
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