Alabama rolled the dice to open the season by handing over the cubes to a fifth-year senior quarterback with zero starts as a collegian. Blake Sims performed with the proficiency of a veteran finishing second in the SEC in pass efficiency.
Due to season ending injuries suffered by the first and second string quarterbacks, Ohio State was forced to insert the third signal caller on the depth chart, Cardale Jones, as the starter for the Big Ten Championship Game held in Indianapolis. The predicament was the equivalent of having to throw a three to win at a casino table game. Jones, a red-shirt sophomore making his first collegiate start, earned MVP honors and delivered a 59-0 shutout of 13th ranked Wisconsin.
Can the Buckeye quarterback roll a natural again on his next attempt against the top ranked team?
’BAMA Magazine/BamaMag.com was in New Orleans for the Sunday afternoon print media session with Cardale Jones and the director of the Ohio State attack, Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman.
The Cleveland native completed 12 of 17 for 257 yards and three touchdowns against the Badgers of Wisconsin.
The Alabama defense will attempt to confuse and disrupt the second-time starter hoping he tosses snake eyes on Thursday evening during the Sugar Bowl held at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
Selective questions asked directly to Jones and Herman referencing Alabama are below.
Cardale Jones, Ohio State quarterback:
Q. How many hours of Alabama film do you think you've watched?
"Countless, dating back to last year's Sugar Bowl versus Oklahoma. We are just trying to be prepared and ready for any and everything."
Q. When you look at them from week to week do they change a bunch of things? Do they throw exotic looks at guys?
"Not so much exotic but I would say they are very schematic defense. They prepare for that team that they are playing that following week. They change their looks to defeat that team's offense."
Q. There is so much talk about how Nick Saban can come up with something to try to fool you in your second start. Do you think the fact that you have only played a few games can be an advantage in some ways because they don't know what to expect?
"Nick Saban and Alabama have seen it all. I don't think we are trying to fool anybody here. We are trying to play football."
Q. What is your biggest challenge facing this Alabama team?
"By far, this will be the best defense we've played against all year, the most physical defense we've played against all year and the fastest defense we've played all year. They have unbelievable guys on defense. We are doing our best to simulate to try to get that look but it will be a challenge not only for me but the entire offense."
Q. You've seen a number of big plays Alabama gave up against Auburn down field. Obviously you can go down field. Does it excite you or make you want to change something up? How do you view that situation?
"I don't think they are necessarily going to change anything up facing anybody. They can go out there and face the (New England) Patriots and do the same thing because that is what they believe in and that's the type of guys they have to run their defense. I'm pretty sure I will see a couple of different looks but as far as changing their whole thing because they are playing us, Ohio State, I can't see that happening."
Q. When you looked at Alabama on film, what was it that really caught your eye right off the bat with their defense? Was it their personnel or something about their scheme in particular? What was it about their defense?
"I would say the unbelievable size of their guys up front. We run a lot of plays and schemes like Auburn and a couple of other teams in the SEC. These guys up front were getting double-teamed and didn't even move."
Q. Every play they will change the picture on the quarterback. How do you process that and not get to caught up in all the looks they are giving you and get confused or try to do to much?
"Different looks, we have different situations and different plays for them so just recognize it. Trust in what I see. Understand where guys can and can't be. I don't think the different looks will be a problem for me at all actually."
Q. Will they do that more than other teams? Have you seen that on the film, will they move around a little more?
"Not really. Alabama has the type of players, what you see is what you get with Alabama. They line up. They are not trying to trick you. They are going to out muscle you. They want to be faster and more physical so as far as tricking the guys on the team, I can't see them doing that."
Q. You studied all the teams on your schedule to prepare for each game. Which team most resembled Alabama's defense?
"Structural wise, Wisconsin but the players no one."
Q. Do you think it is an advantage for Ohio State because Alabama does not have a lot of film on you?
"Maybe, maybe not because Nick Saban has been around a long time and has had much success. I don't think there is anything he hasn't seen that he won't be ready for."
Q. What is the level of interest in the match up of a Big Ten and SEC team? Has there been some chatter with your teammates on the subject of playing an SEC team and representing your conference?
"A little because the SEC gets so much hype as the top conference. They deserve the hype and all the fame but some Big Ten schools and Ohio State, we can handle our business versus the SEC. We get a chance to prove it."
Q. Braxton Miller is good friends with Trey DePriest, the Alabama linebacker. Does he ever talk about him or give you any insight?
"No, not really. I want to develop my insight on him from watching film. He is a freak of an athlete. I don't know what else he needs to say about the guy."
Q. Does it bother you when people say the Big Ten does not have the speed of the SEC?
"No, not at all. I think it holds true in some aspects but we'll have to see."
Q. You ever have any contact with Nick Saban in recruiting?
"No, not really."
Tom Herman, Ohio State Offensive Coordinator:
Q. When you sat down to break down the Alabama tape, what was it in personnel or scheme that they do defensively jumped out at you?
"They are really, really big up front. They have defensive ends that are 270, 280 and 290 pounds. They have defensive tackles that are 320 and 330 pounds. They don't have just one group of them. They play about nine or ten defensive lineman in competitive situations not what we call mop up duty or end of the game or specialty, third and long or pass rush situations. They literally play eight to ten defensive linemen a game.
“The linebackers are big, big dudes, 255 or 260 pounds. That stood out to me not only the size of them but the fact they have backups that are just as good. They have backups to the backups that are just as big and as good. They played and they really didn't miss a beat when those backups were in.
“We have all seen schemes. There is probably not a scheme out there we haven't seen or they haven't seen from an offense and we haven't seen from a defense. The thing that stood out to me in my three years at Ohio State and 18 years of coaching is how big and deep they are up front."
Q. There has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks that Nick Saban will come up with something Cardale hasn't seen to test somebody in their second career start. Is the fact he has only had 62 plays against Wisconsin an advantage for Ohio State?
"No. I never understood - I don't think defense's game plan against quarterbacks, systems, plays, formations, tendencies on downs and distances, and field positions. They will say this is a kid's strength and weaknesses.
“At the end of the day you have to stop the entire machine and you don't just stop one guy. I'm sure he'll have a ton he has not seen but as I've said a many a time, there is never a play in our playbook that we say, ‘Awe shucks, they've got us.’ They had a better call. There are always answers.
“Is Cardale trained enough to find where to go with the ball. Maybe it's a pre-snap check or throw hot to somebody or change a protection. Maybe it's to read a guy in the run scheme. There's a thousand different answers to a thousand different scenarios he's got to determine in 1.8 seconds when that ball is snapped."
Q. How prepared do you think your offensive line is to deal with Alabama's line compared to two months ago?
"As prepared as anyone in the country can be. We've got the best O-line coach in America. What I would argue is the most improved offensive line in the country. Now that being said, it doesn't negate what they are about to face. We will be as ready as ready can be. Had we played this game two months ago on September 6th. You were there."
Q. What do you see in Alabama's secondary. They have made some plays but given up some big plays.
"It's a style, one. I don't want to say it's like Michigan State because it's very schematically much different but philosophy it's similar in terms of they are going to stop the run and in doing so maybe leave themselves a little bit I don't want to say susceptible....They are very good at stopping the run. They put their kids in a position of where they are in one-on-one situations but you still have to make them pay.
“There is still the matter of our guy beating their guy and us protecting. There is a lot that goes into a successful offensive football play especially a successful offensive football play down the field throw. I think number 26 (Landon Collins) is a helluva player. He is an All-American and rightfully so. He does it all really well. Their other safety number 27 (Nick Perry) is a helluva player. Number 5 (Cyrus Jones) is a really good corner. They are starting on Alabama's defense for a reason."
Q. Which team on the Ohio State schedule most closely resembled Alabama's defense?
"I guess the speed and athleticism of Michigan State. Certainly Michigan State did not have the size Alabama had inside but it's the closest I've got."