Sugar Bowl 2015: It’s Time For The Showdown

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Only one day left before Sugar Bowl kicks off and the showdown begins. All of the fans have participated in trash talk and the analysts have broken down the game in every possible way imaginable. Now it’s time to settle it on field with a trip to Dallas to play for the national title on the line. And if things go as planned for Tide fans, I imagine an “SEC” chant.

The Buckeyes come into the game giving up an average of 140 yards on the ground this season, which plays right into what the Tide likes to do. If Alabama comes close to their season average of 209 yards per game, they will have to do it on the shoulders of Derrick Henry and Tyren Jones. Starting running back T.J. Yeldon will have a limited role according to Coach Nick Saban.

During “Hey Coach!” he had this to say on Yeldon’s role for the Sugar Bowl as reported by Al.com:

“We gave him quite a bit of time off and limited what he did when we were back in Tuscaloosa practicing, but he’s practiced every day since he’s been here and we think he’ll be able to contribute some in the game,” Saban said. “Because of his lack of being able to practice with any consistency, I don’t know that we can play him quite as much in the game. But Derrick Henry has done a really good job and Tyren Jones has done a good job, so hopefully those guys will do a great job and T.J. will just sort of fill in where we can use him.”

Any fan of Alabama knows that the Tide players and coaching staff prides itself stopping the run and this season is no different. For 2014, Alabama is holding their opponents to 88 yards per game with a stifling less than 3 yards per carry. That’s not even mentioning that the Tide has only allowed three rushing touchdowns all year. The Buckeyes run game is no slouch, putting up 260 yards per game.

Dec 6, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims (6) celebrates after he ran for a first down in the fourth quarter of their game against the Missouri Tigers in the 2014 SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome. Alabama beat Missouri 42-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

One of the bigger stories of the game is that both teams will have quarterbacks that many thought wouldn’t be leading their teams under the season during the season. Alabama’s shining hero Blake Sims will lead the Tide’s offense after earning the starting job in the off-season and has not looked back since then. Due to two injuries to Ohio State’s signal callers, Cardale Jones will get his second career start after a great performance in the Big 10 Championship. Both quarterbacks come in with almost an identical passing completion percentage of 64-percent, although Jones’ sample size is much smaller than Sims.

The Tide is averaging 37 points per game while holding opponents to 16 points per game. On the other hand, the Buckeyes are just as impressive on their averages albeit, I believe it’s against slightly easier competition in the Big 10. The Buckeyes are scoring on average 45 points per game while allowing 21.

Many point to Ohio State’s Joey Bosa as an “X” factor for the game but it’s my feeling that he will be neutralized more than he has been. Bosa, the Big 10 defensive player of the year, recorded 13.5 sacks this season and many expect him to put pressure on Blake Sims. Alabama only allowed one combined sack facing the SEC’s leading sack leaders in Shane Ray from Missouri and Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett.

After all of this, we haven’t even mentioned Amari Cooper. Ohio State will have to pick their poison. Do you sell out to stop the run and leave Cooper to do his thing or do you give defenders some help and leave less to stop the run? Lane Kiffin will move Cooper around just like always to create mismatches.

Dec 6, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) looks for running room after a pass reception as Missouri Tigers defensive back Kenya Dennis (7) moves to force him out of bounds in the second quarter of the 2014 SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Look for Alabama to have some new looks on defense to confuse Buckeyes’ quarterback Cardale Jones. Saban and Smart have had a month to come up with some different things to confuse the quarterback that doesn’t have much in-game experience.

If Tide fans are looking for a huge blow-out, I just don’t see it. I think things will be close at halftime and things start to go Alabama’s way in the second half. I think the Tide running game can do their thing and Cooper will be Cooper. Cardale Jones and the Ohio State offense will put up points but in the end, I think the Tide will pull away and punch their ticket to Dallas.

Final Prediction:

Alabama 35, Ohio State 24