2015 College Football Playoffs – Semifinal
Allstate Sugar Bowl
#4 Ohio State Buckeyes vs #1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Mercedes Benz Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana
Thursday, January 1, 2015, 8:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Alabama -9 1/2 (-115)
Current Line: Alabama -9 (+105)
Opening Total: 58
Current Total: 59
Opening Money Line: Alabama -330 / Ohio State +270
Current Money Line: Alabama -300 / Ohio State +250
The Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes are two of college football elite programs. The two schools have combined for 22 national titles, 65 conference titles and 8 Heisman Trophy winners. The 12-1 Crimson Tide and 12-1 Buckeyes meet in the second semifinal in the inaugural college football playoff Thursday in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The winner will play either Oregon or Florida State in the championship game January 12 in Arlington, Texas.
Alabama leads the series 3-0 against Ohio State, including 24-17 in the 1995 Citrus Bowl in the last meeting. All three meetings have occurred on neutral fields and both teams were ranked in the top 15 in all three meetings.
Alabama went 7-1 in the SEC West. The Crimson Tide beat Missouri 42-13 in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta to clinch the #1 seed in the playoffs. Ohio State won the Big Ten East Division with an 8-0 record and crushed Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes were picked as the #4 seed in the playoffs over Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU for the final spot.
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Ohio State is 19-24 in bowl games all-time. The Buckeyes have played in bowl games in every year but 2013 since 1979. The Buckeyes have lost 2 straight bowl games including 40-35 to Clemson in the Orange Bowl last season. Ohio State is 1-3 all-time in the Sugar Bowl/BCS Championship games in New Orleans. Ohio State lost to Alabama is the 1978 Sugar Bowl.
Alabama is 34-23-3 all-time in bowl games. The Crimson Tide are playing in a bowl for the 10th straight season. Alabama is 9-6 all-time in the Sugar Bowl/ BCS Championship game in New Orleans. Alabama lost to Oklahoma last year 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide are seeking their fourth national championship since 2009.
Ohio State is coached by Urban Meyer. The only loss for the Buckeyes came at home to Virginia Tech 35-21. Ohio State has won 11 straight games since then. The Buckeyes have home wins over Kent State 66-0, Cincinnati 50-28, Rutgers 56-17, Illinois 55-14, Indiana 42-27, and Michigan 42-28. Ohio State has road wins over Navy 34-17, Maryland 52-24, Penn State 31-24 in double overtime, Michigan State 49-37 and Minnesota 31-24. The Buckeyes are 8-5 ATS and the total is 11-2 this season. Ohio State was a 4 point favorite against Wisconsin and the total was 54.
Alabama is coached by Nick Saban. Alabama has won 8 straight games since a 23-17 loss at Ole Miss in early October. The Crimson Tide have a win over West Virginia 33-23 in Atlanta, and home wins over Florida International 41-0, Southern Miss 52-12, Florida 42-21, Texas A&M 59-0, Mississippi State 25-20, Western Carolina 48-14, and Auburn 55-44. Alabama has road wins over Arkansas 14-13, Tennessee 34-20 and LSU 20-13 in overtime. The Crimson Tide are 5-8 ATS and the total is 6-6 this season. Alabama was a 14.5 point favorite against Missouri and the total was 49.
Ohio State is outscoring teams 45-21 this season. The Buckeyes are #5 in scoring and #20 in points allowed nationally. Ohio State is averaging 508 yards per game on offense including 247 passing and 261 rushing yards. The Buckeyes are #9 in total offense and #11 in rushing. On defense, OSU is allowing 328 yards per game including 188 passing and 140 rushing yards. The Buckeyes are #14 nationally in both total and pass defense and #34 in rush defense. Ohio State is +9 in turnovers with 29 takeaways. The Buckeyes average 51 penalty yards per game and opponents average 44. Ohio State is 95/184 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 78/202. The Buckeyes have forced 40 sacks and allowed 24 this season. OSU is 54/65 scoring in the red zone with 46 touchdowns and opponents are 31/37 with 26 touchdowns. The Buckeyes have a punt return for a touchdown and 5 defensive touchdowns, and have allowed 2 pick sixes.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller missed the entire season with a shoulder injury. Freshman J.T. Barrett did well as his replacement and even generated some Heisman buzz. However, Barrett broke his ankle in the regular season finale against Michigan. Cardale Jones started the game against Wisconsin and led the rout over the Badgers. Barrett threw for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and rushed for 938 yards on 171 carries with 11 touchdowns. Jones has thrown for 375 yards with 5 touchdowns and has 34 carries for 215 yards.
Running back Ezekiel Elliot has 217 carries for 1,402 yards with 12 touchdowns, plus 26 catches for 208 yards. Curtis Samuel has 56 catches for 376 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 10 catches. Rod Smith has 4 rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. Dontre Wilson has 3 receiving touchdowns but is out for the season with a foot injury.
Receiver Devin Smith has 30 catches for 799 yards and 11 touchdowns. Michael Thomas has 43 catches for 680 yards and 8 touchdowns. Jalin Marshall has 28 catches for 392 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 20 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown. Marshall also has a punt return for a touchdown. Nick Varnett and Evan Spencer have combined for 7 touchdown catches.
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Alabama is outscoring teams 37-16 this season. The Crimson Tide are #16 in scoring and #3 in points allowed. Alabama is averaging 488 yards per game on offense including 280 passing and 209 rushing yards. The Crimson Tide are #35 or better in all three categories. On defense, Alabama is allowing 312 yards per game including 224 passing and 88 rushing yards per game. The Crimson Tide are #10 in total defense and #1 in rush defense. Alabama is +1 in turnovers with 19 takeaways. The Tide average 41 penalty yards per game and opponents average 38. Alabama is 108/196 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 79/217. The Crimson Tide have forced 29 sacks and allowed 13 this season. Alabama is 51/60 scoring in the red zone with 41 touchdowns and opponents are 33/40 with 15. The Crimson Tide have a fumble return for a touchdown and have allowed a kick return and a fumble return for touchdowns.
Alabama quarterback Blake Sims has completed 64.8% of his passes for 3,250 yards with 26 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, along with 73 carries for 321 yards and six touchdowns. Jake Coker has thrown for 403 yards and 4 touchdowns in limited action this season.
Running back T.J. Yeldon has 184 carries for 932 yards with 10 touchdowns, plus 15 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. Derrick Henry has 159 carries for 895 yards and 10 touchdowns, plus 3 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kenyan Drake has 4 rushing touchdowns this season but is out for the year with an ankle injury. Receiver Amari Cooper was a Heisman finalist. He has 115 catches for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. DeAndrew White has 37 catches for 439 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Ohio State is 4-0 ATS after allowing 100 rushing yards or less, 4-1 on turf and after a straight up win by 20 points or more, 6-2 in non-conference games, 5-2 against teams with winning records, 35-14-2 after allowing less than 275 total yards, 27-11-2 after allowing less than 20 points, and 36-15 after gaining more than 450 total yards.
Alabama is 4-0 ATS against Big Ten teams, 4-1 in bowl games and in January, 9-3 in neutral site games, 17-8 after scoring more than 40 points, 5-11-1 overall, 3-7-1 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, 2-5 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 1-4 after a cover, 16-1 after gaining more than 450 total yards, and 0-7-1 in non-conference games.
You can argue if Ohio State deserved to be in the playoffs over Baylor or TCU but the fact is the Buckeyes were selected. Meyer and Saban are two of the best coaches in college football and this should be a better game than the Vegas oddsmakers think. I still like the Crimson Tide to win in what could be a defensive struggle.