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Sugar Bowl Preview

Sugar Bowl – SuperDome in New Orleans, Louisiana
Thursday, January 1, 2015 @ 8:30 PM EST (ESPN)
#4 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1, Big Ten) vs #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1, Southeastern)
Current Line: Alabama -9.0, O/U: 58.5

Ohio State Buckeyes (Head Coach Urban Meyer): This was a season that the Buckeyes should be very proud. They certainly endured enough controversy plus devastating injuries to both of the team's first two quarterbacks on the depth chart. Aside from an early season upset by Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes pretty much rolled over the competition with a powerful offense and a better than average defense.

It's no surprise that the Buckeyes' offense ended the season ranked at #4 in the nation in scoring at 45.2 PPG. It's also hard to imagine what the Buckeyes might have done without 20 turnovers and injuries. As mentioned above, the Buckeyes found out before the season began that All-American candidate Braxton Miller would be lost for the season. To add insult to injury, starting Fr QB J.T. Bartlett was injured in the Michigan game leaving them down to the 3rd-string QB. All Soph Cardale Jones did was throw 5 TDs and lead the team to a 59-0 blowout of #18 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. The top starter for the Buckeyes was Soph RB Ezekiel Elliot who led the team in rushing with 1,402 yards and 12 TDs.

Ohio State is 29-11 ATS versus excellent offensive teams – averaging >=6.25 yards/play since 1992.  Ohio State is 9-1 ATS after allowing 75 or less rushing yards last game over the last 3 seasons.

Alabama Crimson Tide (Head Coach Nick Saban): Surprise. The Crimson Tide ended the season ranked #1. The only loss of the season came to #9 Mississippi 23-17 in week 5. Otherwise, this was a typical Bama team that enjoyed steamrolling opponents into submission. It's clear that the Alabama dynasty continues as they head into the inaugural Championship playoffs.

While the offense had a bit of an off season, the defense stepped up and finished #4 in scoring defense at 16.6 PPG. Of course, the offense was still formidable. The undeniable star on offense was Biletnikof winner and All-American WR Amari Cooper who caught 115 passes for 1,656 and 14 TDs. The man making most of those tosses was QB Blake Sims who passed for 3,250 yards and 26 TDs. Finally, it was the first time in recent history that a Tide RB failed to rush for 1,000 yards, but TJ Yeldon got close with 932 yards and 10 TDs.

Alabama is 8-0 over after a win by 28 or more points over the last 2 seasons.  The Crimson Tide is 5-11-1 ATS their last 17 games overall.

Major Injuries: Ohio State – Miller (knee), Bartlett (knee) both out

Preview: Injuries aside, this is a match-up of mega powers. Ohio State's offense is going to be tested to get past a tough Bama defense. On the other-side of the ball, the Buckeyes have to find an answer for Cooper. There is a nagging feeling that Jones might struggle against a top defense despite his awesome game versus Wisconsin. If he does, the Tide just might roll into the Championship.

Check out Michael Blake's College Bowl Picks