Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have taken turns ruling college football for a decade. Who will get a chance to compete for the National Championship this year?
In the first round of the College Football Playoff, the Superdome in New Orleans will play host to the #1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and the #4-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes as they vie to earn a place in the National Championship Game. Both teams come in with identical records (12-1) and similar stories, with slip-ups early in the season before they found their stride. Both teams are familiar with the site, as well, as Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl last season (a 45-31 loss to Oklahoma) and Ohio State played in New Orleans in 2011 (a 31-26 victory over Arkansas).
Will Alabama be able to bottle up third-string QB Cardale Jones? Can anyone beat Urban Meyer? We'll find out at kickoff, 8:30 PM Eastern Time on New Year's Day.
MatchupALABAMA The SEC champions closed strong, blasting Missouri in dominant fashion to come into the playoff on an eight-game winning streak. While the offense exploded on the Auburn and Missouri Tigers, it sputtered and coughed in a tight battle with the LSU Tigers, needing a late rally and overtime to keep the dream alive. The O had problems in the third quarter against Mizzou, in the second half against Mississippi State, and throughout against LSU and Arkansas, but when it turned it on, it was devastating. Defensively, this isn’t the killer of past years, but that’s splitting hairs – the Tide is still second in the nation against the run.
OHIO STATE The entire season has been defined by the home loss to Virginia Tech. Outside of that gaffe, everything else was fantastic, and that includes the overtime win over a mediocre Penn State team, with the game turning into a gut-check for an emerging squad that needed to be pushed a bit. There weren’t really any problems with Minnesota or Michigan – even though the games were tight for a while, and the annihilation of Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship was the statement the team needed to come up with – but Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech. That’s what the naysayers point to, but by the end of the year, Ohio State showed and proved that it’s one of the four best teams in the country – even without J.T. Barrett.