The Ohio State Buckeyes made a statement last night in the Sugar Bowl, similar to the statement Oregon made. The statement may have been, ‘this is why there’s a college playoff and may the best team win’ A statement no one could dispute this evening after Ohio State, the fourth seeded team in the inaugural college playoffs went on to take down the number one seeded team in Alabama. Ohio State rallied from a 21-6 deficit to go on and win 42-35. It wouldn’t be wrong to say the best SEC team on the field won this evening, yes Ohio State is in the Big Ten but Urban Meyer recruited the same type of athletes he would have recruited back at Florida and that was the difference tonight. Nick Saban’s bunch would not be the strongest, fastest athletes on the field as the Buckeyes had just as many on their side.
Going into the game, everyone was aware that the Buckeyes had a ‘third string’ quarterback that would be making his second start. Cardale Jones stepped up for his team and routinely delivered when asked. While 18 of 35 isn’t spectacular, making plays on third down is, Jones led the Buckeye offense to convert 10 of their 18 third down opportunities. Jones also added a wrinkle that the Alabama defense wasn’t expecting, his legs. Jones is a large human being, his nickname ’12 gauge’ has much more to do with his arm rather than his legs. He used his legs to extend plays and pick up first downs when needed. His accuracy when attacking the Alabama defense vertically was impressive as well, Jailin Marshall and Devin Smith did a great job winning their matchups and getting open down field.
The highlight of the night may have been on a trick play that resulted in a touchdown: Jones handed the ball off to Marshall on what looked like a reverse, Marshall then tossed it to Evan Spencer. Spencer set up and lofted the ball to the endzone, Michael Thomas went up and made a play on the ball. The catch was nowhere as impressive as his body control, while catching the ball, Thomas had the presence of mind to get his foot perpendicular with the sideline. As he was coming down from his jump, he was able to get his foot squarely in the endzone before momentum took him out of bounds. That score was at the peak of the Ohio State rally, making the score 21-20 in Alabama’s favor.
The running game was equally as effective, most expected Alabama to come into this game and establish the run as they’ve done all season. The dynamic duo of Derrick Harvey and TJ Yeldon combined for just 170 yards on the night. Remember that number, the Buckeyes had great success on the ground courtesy of Ezeikiel Elliott. The Buckeye running back ran for 230 yards on 20 carries, averaging 11 yards per rush. He also had two touchdowns on the night, including a game clinching 85 yard run with 3:24 remaining in the game. While Ohio State was able to stifle the rushing attack of the Crimson Tide, the Alabama defense did not have an answer for Elliot and Jones.
Alabama got off to a good start but the offense struggled to sustain drives all night long, they started the night with not one, but two three-and-outs. Ohio State did a great job or as good a job as a team could do in limiting Amari Cooper’s impact on the game. Cooper still finished with 9 catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns. The Crimson Tide went just two of 13 on third down, hardly good enough to win a football game. Their playcalling on offense was highly questionable down the stretch, after scoring late and failing to recover the onside kick. Ohio State came out and threw the ball on first down, the incomplete pass stopped the clock for Alabama, who only had two timeouts at the time. After two failed running plays, Alabama got the ball back with no timeouts with 1:33 left in the game.
Blake Sims (22/36, 2 TD, 3 INT) was moving the offense with almost no sense of urgency, more importantly was the lack of a concerted effort to get their Heisman Trophy candidate the ball on the last series of the season. With the season hanging in the balance, the Crimson Tide went out of the way to not include Cooper in what could have been their game tying or winning drive. Ohio State capitalize on the poor playcalling and poor execution, picking off the hailmary attempt and returning it back to midfield to cement the Sugar Bowl victory.
Next week’s Championship game will feature the Oregon Ducks taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes, if we’ve learned nothing from last night, just know that anything can happen on any given night. There will be tons of speed on the field next week, whose defense will answer the bell??