The only statistic on the mind of tailback T.J. Yeldon this week, however, is winning. Yeldon and his Alabama teammates meet Ohio State at 7:30 p.m. CST Thursday in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. ESPN will televise the game between the two 12-1 teams – Bama, champion of the Southeastern Conference, and the Buckeyes, champion of the Big Ten.
Ohio State, ranked 35th nationally in rushing defense, set up a wall to contain Wisconsin All-America running back Melvin Gordon in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes limited him to a mere 76 yards on 29 carries, 103 below his average. Two All-Americans, Joey Bosa (6-5, 278) and Michael Bennett (6-2, 288), are ferocious defensive tackles capable of creating havoc in the backfield. They have combined for 32.5 tackles for loss and stripped the ball carrier a total of seven times. Bosa, shocked to receive a scholarship offer from Nick Saban before he even played a down of varsity high school football said, “We really haven’t faced anyone like Alabama. They have weapons all over the place. It’s almost like facing ourselves. It’s the closest I could say. We just have to be ready for everything.”
He added, "They have two great running backs. A lot of talent. Speedy guys. We'll just have to do what we did against Melvin Gordon. If we can do that, I think we can stop anyone." Excellent tackling, swarming to the runner and getting off the ball were keys to victory against the Badgers. Bosa believes the Tide has not seen a defensive line with a level of talent the Buckyeyes present. He also complimented the Alabama offensive line stating, "We haven't seen an O-line like them this year. It will be a good battle."
With its option offense, Navy gashed the Buckeyes for 370 yards rushing on 63 carries to open the season. Three of the last four OSU opponents, Michigan (233-39), Indiana (225-39) and Minnesota (218-44) rushed for over 200 yards against the base 4-3 Buckeyes scheme. The Wolverines averaged 162 rushing yards for the 2014 campaign, the Hoosiers 263 and the Gophers 224.
Alabama has the 32nd best rushing offense in the country averaging 209.5 yards per game. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has the luxury of tabbing T.J. Yeldon or Derrick Henry (895 rushing yards) to man the position. Yeldon’s practice repetitions have increased in the past week. The junior running back emphatically stated he will play in the game. Arkansas held the Tide to a season low 66 yards rushing in 32 attempts.
Yeldon spoke to ’BAMA Magazine/BamaMag.com and the media members on Monday morning prior to the afternoon practice at the Louisiana Superdome. He lavished praise on Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, Lane Kiffin and the Tide defense. The Daphne native gave an evaluation of the Buckeyes defense.