5 Thoughts On The Sugar Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Sugar Bowl

Jan. 1 Allstate Sugar Bowl
Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

And You Care Because … In a wild thriller, Ohio State overcame a 21-6 deficit with timely defense, a power running offense, and several big plays highlighted by Ezekiel Elliott’s 85-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes to play for a 42-28 lead. Alabama came back quickly with Amari Cooper catching a six-yard touchdown pass, but the Tide’s final gasp attempt – following a missed onside kick and a defensive stop – was picked off. The Buckeyes exploded for 28 straight points in the middle of the game with Steve Miller returning a Blake Sims interception 41 yards for a touchdown, and Devin Smith catching a 47-yard touchdown pass in the third, but Alabama stayed alive with a long drive finished off with a five-yard Sims run. Mistakes, three turnovers, and a porous run defense proved to be too costly for the Tide.
What Else? Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott ran 20 times for 230 yards and two scores. QB Cardale Jones completed 18-of-35 passes for 243 yards and a score with a pick and ran 17 times for 43 yards
- Alabama QB Blake Sims completed 22-of-36 passes for 237 yards and two scores with three picks, and ran ten times for 29 yards and a score
- Alabama WR Amari Cooper caught nine passes for 71 yards and two scores
- Third down conversions: Ohio State 10-of-18 – Alabama 2-of-13
Game Rating: A

By Pete Fiutak
1. Cool.

Nothing against Alabama, and nothing against the SEC, but Ohio State coming up with a win like this is good as a whole for college football. It showed that it’s not all about the SEC, and that even as dominant as the conference was this year, it really is possible for teams to improve and adapt as the season goes on.

It also proved that Urban Meyer is an absolute superstar of superstar head coaches.

Ohio State has the top-shelf talent that Alabama has, and it has the NFL athleticism and skill across the board, but it also had a chip on its shoulder throughout the second half of the season and it played angry.

Michigan State game – angry for not coming through in the 2013 Big Ten championship.

Wisconsin game – angry for blowing the 2013 Big Ten championship and not playing for the national title.

Jim Harbaugh – angry that Michigan took away some of the fun and the spotlight this week.
Alabama in the Sugar Bowl – angry for being 1-10 – yes, NCAA, Ohio State actually beat Arkansas – against the SEC in bowl games, and angry at all the high-and-mighty SEC superiority. This wasn’t a fluke, and this wasn’t an aberration. Ohio State beat Alabama by pushing the ball with the running game, balancing things out with a big day from Cardale Jones, and getting the defense to ramp up the pressure. Ohio State played angry, and it played with an attitude. This was a program that was mad as hell, and it wasn’t going to take it anymore.

It’s good to break through the obvious and easy narrative. This was a positive for the playoff committee, and now, Oregon vs. Ohio State will be good for college football.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. This will long be remembered as the postseason that the SEC West impersonated the old Big Ten, suffering a spate of high-profile losses in a short span of time, culminating in tonight’s Sugar Bowl stumble by Alabama. No, the SEC will not be sending a representative to Arlington, Tex. for the national championship game. Yes, the SEC as a whole was overrated in 2014. And yeah, we all share a little in the latter. While it’s never wise to overstate the meaning of a bowl season, you simply cannot overlook losses by Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn and the Crimson Tide in a damning two-day span as a mere coincidence.

Ohio State: What Urban Meyer and his staff have done since the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech continues to be one of the most impressive coaching jobs of the past decade … at least. It should never be forgotten that the Buckeyes have now defeated Wisconsin, by 59, and Bama as a prohibitive underdog, with a third-string quarterback under center. And Ohio State did things to the Tide D that no one does, especially when Nick Saban and Kirby Smart get a month to prepare. The scary part? This OSU program was really built for 2015 and beyond, yet here it is, a win away from a national title.

Big Ten: If there was any doubt that the Big Ten is on the brink of a serious resurgence, the past few days should have dispelled any confusion and second-guessing. Michigan landed Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday. And over the course of nine illuminating hours yesterday, Wisconsin upset Auburn, Michigan State rallied to beat Baylor and Ohio State punched its ticket to the final game of 2014-15. The Big Ten is hot, and its collection of coaches, the most important component to college success, is on the verge of stacking up with just about anyone. Maybe you can have too much ice cream, Commissioner Delany, because your league has been covered from head to toe in sugary sweets results over the past few days.

E-mail Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFB
3. Apparently speed and athleticism does exist outside of the SEC, and most notably in Columbus, Ohio. This was not a fluky win by Ohio State. It outgained, outposessed and outplayed the number one team in the country once things settled in after a shaky start. What might be more amazing about this year’s Ohio State team is that it’s really arrived a year early. There were holes to fill on the offensive line and on defense, yet those parts were able to gel through the season around two back-up quarterbacks. You’ll have to look long and hard to find history of a team going through multiple signal-callers in a national championship type arena.

For Alabama, this puts a capper on a very sad postseason campaign for the SEC West. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss all went down in defeat despite being elevated up as the best division of football ever. Now that all of the smoke has cleared, that can no longer be argued by anyone.

With the likes of Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, and now Jim Harbaugh steering teams in the Big Ten, perhaps the gap is closing between the conference in the heartland and the “king” of college football, the SEC. But first things first, another challenge awaits next week, and it might be even bigger than this one the way the Oregon Ducks are playing.

4. What does Ohio State have to do next?
Ball control, ball control, ball control. Ohio State had Alabama done and cooked after recovering the late onside kick, but the offense bombed the ball deep trying to put the game away for good, stopped the clock, and eventually let Alabama get one last shot. The defense can’t rely on Marcus Mariota to make the same mistakes that Blake Sims did, and it can’t expect to win the turnover battle. Oregon killed Florida State with key takeaways, and Ohio State has to bank on being even in the turnover battle at best.

5. What’s next for Alabama
Now is it Jacob Coker’s time at quarterback? He’ll have a chance to take over the starting gig with Blake Sims finished, but he’ll have to operate behind an O line that gets back Cam Robinson at left tackle, C Ryan Kelly, and loses everyone else. Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon were good enough to be in the NFL two years ago, but it’s Alabama – there’s depth. However, the receiving corps has to replace DeAndrew White, and Christion Jones will be missed in a variety of ways. It’ll be Derrick Henry’s running game with Tyren Jones getting more work.

The defense should return nasty up front with NG A’Shawn Robinson good enough to turn his game up a few notches. The linebacking combination of Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson are gone, but Denzell Duvall and Reuben Foster will be factors. The secondary loses FS Nick Perry, and SS Landon Collins is too good not to be in the NFL, but everyone else of note will be back. P J.K. Scott will be among the best in America, while Adam Griffith is an okay kicker who needs to be a bit more consistent.

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