Sugar Bowl Matchup: Cooper Vs. Grant

Leading up to the Sugar Bowl, we'll take a look at some of the key matchups that could spell the difference between Ohio State and Alabama. First up is the battle between Bama standout wide receiver Amari Cooper and OSU's Doran Grant.

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Football is a game of matchups, so the Sugar Bowl is no different.

With that in mind, BuckeyeSports.com will break down some of the important matchups between Ohio State and Alabama in the weeks leading up to the game in New Orleans.

What will it take to win the College Football Playoff semifinal? We’ll hopefully find out the keys as we go.

In our first one, Heisman finalist Amari Cooper takes on OSU cornerback Doran Grant.

Amari Cooper
6-1, 210
Junior
Miami Northwestern
115 catches (SEC single-season record), 1,656 yards, 14 TDs
Accolades: SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Heisman finalist, Biletnikoff finalist, Walter Camp Award finalist, first-team All-SEC, Alabama career record holder in receptions, yards, touchdowns

In Big Games: Cooper was at his best in the Iron Bowl, catching 224 yards worth of passes to tie his own school record while also pulling in three touchdowns, tying the single-game record for the school all while playing with a bruised knee.

Against Ole Miss, the Tide’s only loss, Cooper caught nine passes but didn’t have a game breaker, as he finished with 91 yards receiving and no touchdowns while going up against first-team All-SEC defensive backs Senquez Golson at corner and Cody Prewitt at safety.

Facing Florida, which boasts first-team All-SEC corner Vernon Hargreaves, Cooper pulled in 10 passes for 201 yards and three scores.

Cooper also had 12 catches apiece against West Virginia in the opener and Missouri in the SEC title game.

Quotable: "Amari is not worthy of anyone comparing him to anybody else," head coach Nick Saban said. "He is Amari Cooper. He has his own style. He's a very competitive guy who works really, really hard. Has really good speed getting in and out of breaks. Works hard in the game to get open. Does a good job of executing, has made a lot of really big plays for us this year.

"I think he's probably one of the best wide receivers in the country - I don't get the opportunity to see them all - but he's certainly been a dynamic player for our team and has made a great contribution to our season."

The Skinny: Auburn tried to defend him mostly with single coverage but the nation saw how that went. Ohio State’s base this season is man coverage with the safeties expected to help in run support while also picking up receivers from the slot and backfield. If OSU doesn’t make many changes to its scheme, covering Cooper will be a tall order. So was stopping fellow Heisman contender Melvin Gordon, but that was more a team effort than shutting down a wide receiver can be.

Doran Grant
5-11
193
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
51 tackles, five interceptions, 106 return yards, nine passes defended
Accolades: First-team All-Big Ten

In Big Games: Grant had some ups and downs, including no bigger up than when he faced Big Ten Receiver of the Year Tony Lippett of Michigan State. Lippett entered as a major target but was quiet in the game, with Grant holding Lippett to five catches for 64 yards and no touchdowns. He wasn’t a major factor in the game.

Grant also added two interceptions in the Big Ten title game vs. Wisconsin while helping an attack that kept Badgers QB Joel Stave to 17 completions in 43 attempts.

His worst day night have been against Michigan as converted tight end Devin Funchess had a good day. Funchess outmuscled Grant for a 45-yard catch and pulled in seven balls on the day for 108 yards.

First-team All-Big Ten choice Leonte Carroo of Rutgers had five grabs for 100 yards, while Maryland star Stefon Diggs had seven catches but totaled just 52 yards and a single score when the game was out of hand.

Quotable: "It’s all the training, the field study and all the hard work we put in day in and day out,” Grant himself said. “If you trust your training you’ll be fine. You have to study your keys and scout who you’re going against. You have a short memory. You can’t keep dwelling on plays. Otherwise you get beat.”

The Skinny: Grant has been pulled from his spot as boundary corner to shadow some of OSU’s better opponents as far as wide receivers go, and his work on Lippett was excellent. Stopping Cooper will be no walk in the park but Grant has turned in a very good season and as OSU’s most experienced corner by far will likely be expected to handle the bulk of the work on Cooper.


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