Coming into Championship weekend, coach Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide didn’t have much left to prove. Ranked No. 1 in the nation, they needed to simply avoid a collapse against Missouri in the SEC title game to lock in their spot in the College Football Playoff. It was a different story for the Ohio State Buckeyes, however, who came into the Big Ten Championship game ranked outside the top four, only to absolutely dominate the Badgers 59-0 and earn the final spot in the NCAA’s season finale.
With both teams coming off big wins and strong seasons, this is a Sugar Bowl matchup that college football fans are drooling over. Read on for more on the Sugar Bowl, and don’t miss our preview of the Rose Bowl or our breakdown of the entire bowl schedule here.[sc:NCAAFArticles ]
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Sugar Bowl Betting Preview
When: Thursday, January 1, 8:30PM ET
Where: Mercedez-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Line: Ohio State Buckeyes (+9.5) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (-9.5); total 58.5 – view all NCAA football lines
Betting on the Ohio State Buckeyes
[sc:NCAA240banner ]The Buckeyes have survived their share of hardship this season.
Their 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech at home in just their second week of the season got them off to a bad start. Losing not one but two starting quarterbacks didn’t help anything. And yet, Oho State made it work, winning eleven-straight games including the aforementioned Big Ten Championship, and now they have a date with the top-ranked program in the nation.
Third string quarterback Cardale Jones had one of the best college football debuts ever, throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, earning the title game’s MVP honors in the process.
And while he may not have the overall skills of Ohio State’s preseason starter (and Heisman contender) Braxton Miller, or the momentum of the Buckeye’s remarkable backup, T.J. Barrett, who was injured in the team’s final regular season game, Jones had the poise and consistency to take apart Wisconsin, one of the nation’s finest defenses. Jones went 12-for-17 with three scores on Saturday, earning himself some headlines above and beyond his twitter prowess in the process..
All that said, this game will be about much more than Jones. Running back Ezekiel Elliott had a monster game against Wisconsin and will need to achieve a similar level of productivity against Alabama for the Buckeyes to keep pace.
It won’t be easy for Elliot. ‘Bama allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game during the regular season, though that number is somewhat skewed by the fact Alabama was so often ahead. If Elliot can find some holes, it would make room for Jones to find his rhythm and make plays behind center.
A key to this game will be the play of the Buckeyes’ defense. If the unit that held Wisconsin to 258 total yards in the Big Ten Championship comes to play, this game could be very close. If the defense allows closer to its season average of 328, the Crimson Tide may run away with it.
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Betting on the Alabama Crimson Tide
Blake Sims is ready for (another) close up. The fifth-year quarterback has been putting on a show this season, and he added another chapter to that story on Saturday with a clinical performance in the SEC Championship, completing 23 of 27 passes–good for an SEC Championship game record 85% completion rate–and three touchdowns against Missouri.
As he has all season long, Sims found Amari Cooper whenever he needed him against the Tigers, completing 12 passes to the nation’s top receiver. Cooper has 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season, and remains a Heisman contender.
Cooper is likely to show up in this marquee game: Cooper has averaged over 140 yards and has nine touchdowns in his Iron Bowl appearances (3), two other bowl games, and Saturday’s SEC Championship. The man likes it when the lights are brightest, and his deep ball ability will be a massive test for the Buckeyes’ secondary.
As though that weren’t enough for a defense to have to contend with, the Tide enter this game with one of the more devastating one-two combinations running the ball in college football. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry have both routinely cleared 150 yards this season, and make it tough for a defense to catch their breath. That said, this is a Buckeyes team that just shutdown the most dangerous running back in the NCAA (Melvin Gordon managed just 76 yards and no score on Saturday), and could force Alabama to be a pass-first team.
If this game stays tight, Alabama will wish they’d done more to address their field goal kicking issue this season. Place kicker Adam Griffith is tied for 92nd in Div 1 amongst kickers with a 63% accuracy percentage. In Alabama’s only loss this season, to Ole Miss, Griffith missed twice, singlehandedly representing the difference in the scoreline in the 23-17 loss.
Cardale Jones plays well, but not Blake Sims-well, as the Tide roll to the College Football Playoff Championship and cover -9.5.
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