No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1 SU, 4-8-1 ATS)
AllState Sugar Bowl Preview
Date and Time: Thursday, January 1st 2015. 8:30PM EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome New Orleans, L.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OSU +10/ALA -10
Over/Under Total: 58
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The AllState Sugar Bowl has been among the most prestigious bowl games throughout college football history and its reputation will be put on center stage again this year as one of the prime components to the inaugural college football playoffs. This year the AllState Sugar Bowl will house the 2nd playoff matchup on New Years Day when the 4th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes collide with the no. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide inside the Superdome in a battle that will send the winner to the National Championship Game.
The college football playoffs was supposed to remove all of the controversy surrounding the BCS system that attempted to pick the top two teams to partake in a National Championship Game. Extending the field to a 4 team playoff system was designed to give college football fans an end to a broken formula that arguably failed to pair the top two teams in the country. However just like with any new system, controversy has erupted from the new playoff system and that controversy was derived mostly from the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes were thought to be out of the playoff picture during the week of conference championships as the Big 12 appeared poise to put one or possibly two teams into the playoffs between Baylor and TCU. However Ohio State leaped both Big 12 teams after demolishing Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes were mere 4 point favorites in that game against the 13th ranked Badgers and were faced with the difficult task of turning the keys to the offense over to sophomore Cardale Jones after losing star quarterback J.T. Barrett for the season with an ankle injury. Instead of regressing, Jones threw 3 touchdowns and the Buckeyes posted the biggest victory in Big Ten Championship history.
As a result, the Buckeyes punched their ticket to the Superdome as the final team in the playoffs. Still, many do not feel like Ohio State is deserving of their Sugar Bowl appearance and we will soon see how deserving they are when they face top ranked Alabama on New Years Day. The Buckeyes are currently listed as 10 point underdogs at betting shops against the top seeded Crimson Tide. The point spread may seem rather large at first glance especially after the way Ohio State dismantled Wisconsin. However, the Buckeyes are still primarily a rushing offense as they average 260 yards per game on the ground. While that average is the 11th best mark in the FBS, Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones and tailback Ezekiel Jones (1,402yds, 12TDs) will now have to prove their worth against a very talented Alabama run defense.
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Defense, has been the foundation for coach Nick Saban throughout his tenure at Alabama which has resulted in 3 National Championship rings to date. This years version of the Alabama defense is just as solid as any of its predecessors. The Crimson Tide rank 2nd against the run giving up just 88 yards per game and only 2.8 yards per attempt. Alabamas tough run defense presents a huge challenge for Ohio States offense and is the big reason why the Crimson Tide are laying 10 points to start this game.
Another reason Alabama is still a rather sizeable favorite is because they have been excellent on offense this season. Quarterback Blake Sims has provided a down the field passing game that has not been seen from an Alabama team in quite some time. While Sims has been very good (3,250yds, 26TDs, 7INTs), wide receiver Amari Cooper has been even better. Cooper won the Biletnikoff Award given to the countrys top wide receiver after posting a huge 2014 campaign with 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The combination of Sims to Cooper along with Alabamas power ground attack has been virtually impossible to defend this season as the Crimson Tide have hummed to the tune of 37.1 points per game. The Buckeyes have a really solid defense but they have also been vulnerable at times this year as well. While they played their best game of the year against Wisconsin, Alabama will present a completely different type of challenge as the most balanced offense Ohio State has faced this year.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I do not think Ohio State particularly matches up well against Alabama but I think they will play really well. The Buckeyes find ways to make plays offensively and if the defense gets a few big stops then anything can happen. I like Ohio State to give Alabama all they can handle. Buckeyes +10!