Alabama, 12-1 and ranked first in the nation, takes on Ohio State, also 12-1 and ranked fourth, in the Sugar Bowl in the Louisiana Superdome Thursday. Kickoff is expected to be at 7:50 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN. The winner of the semifinal game in the inaugural College Football Playoff will go to Dallas for the Jan. 12 national championship game.
The Buckeyes had to make a change of quarterbacks for the Big Ten Championship Game and third-year sophomore Cardale Jones filled in admirably as OSU rolled to a 59-0 win over Wisconsin. There may be some things Bama doesn’t know about Jones, but his size is verified.
When Crimson Tide defensive tackle Jarran Reed was asked if he had ever tackled a quarterback nearly as big as Reed, the first year junior said, “They had me on the scout team throwing the ball.”
The reporter asking the question was speechless.
Reed smiled and continued, “Nah. I’m just messing with you.”
So, to be perfectly clear, Jarran Reed was NOT Alabama’s scout team quarterback in preparation for this game.
And Reed does know something about Ohio State’s big quarterback. “He’s an explosive runner and he’s a deep threat downfield. He’s a pretty big guy, so when we tackle we’re going to have to wrap up. We’re going to have to execute well.”
Reed didn’t compare Jones to any quarterback the Tide has faced this year. “We’ve played so many different type quarterbacks I couldn’t name one he reminds me of, but he is a great player,” Reed said.
Reed said preparation for the Sugar Bowl “has been tough. We really stepped it up a couple of notches in practice. We’ve really been focusing on the main keys. We’ve been conditioning a lot. Making sure we’re staying on top of things. So it has been pretty good.”
Reed said his first year at Alabama “has been great. It has been a real fine experience. I really liked it.”
And although he was not completely candid, he indicated he did not intend to be a “one and done,” declaring early for the NFL. “I haven’t really thought about it,” he added. “I’m focused on this game.”
Reed, who plays both inside at tackle (in nickel formation) and outside at end (in regular 3-4 defense), started 12 games this year. He has 52 tackles (6 ½ for loss), one sack, and five pass break-ups. He has the most tackles by a Bama defensive lineman since Wallace Gilberry in 2007.
Meeting Pettway, he said, “had a lot to do with me coming here. We’re almost like brothers now. That’s who I’m really closest to.
“We both had a lot of struggles and both us us were counted out by a lot of people, so we can relate. We came here together and he’s really the reason I came here.”
Reed said he had to come in with a fast motor since he had only two years to play. He enrolled last January to be able to go through spring practice. “That was a big help,” he said. “I got to see the more physical part of the game, but also the more mental part of the game, because that’s what it is. You want to get it down so you don’t have to think while you play and I think tht’s where I got the most help. I was trying to think and play in the spring and now I can play without having to think about it.
“Yes. My main thing was learning the playbook, because it’s big. Since I came here I’ve tried to spend a lot of time with coaches and ask questions of the coaches and of the players around me who have been here.”
Those teammates, particularly the defensive linemen, have been important. “We’re like brothers,” he said. “We work good together. We spend a lot of time togtether outside, we go to school together, and we go to practice together. We just spend a lot of time together.”
Like most in the Alabama camp, Reed said the Tide’s back was against the wall after an early season loss to Ole Miss. And, he said, it was the 14-13 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville the next week that turned Bama in the right direction. He said, “Everyone’s entitled to his opinion, but Arkansas was a great team. They are underrated.”
Not that Reed is keeping up with the ratings.
“I really don’t,” he said. “I watch football. I’m a fan when I’m not playing, but I really don’e think about the rankings or look at the polls during the year. There are a lot of great teams.”