10 Pack: Last Thoughts On The Sugar Bowl

The Sugar Bowl has had a few days to gain fond memory status in the minds of Ohio State fans, but BuckeyeSports.com's Jeff Svoboda has a few final thoughts about the huge satisfying win over Alabama.

OK, it's time to change our attention to Oregon, and we'll be doing that this afternoon as we get to watch some practice and then talk to Urban Meyer and players in anticipation of the playoff title game.

But before it gets away, I've got a few final thoughts on the Alabama game that have been rattling around the ol' noggin. So here you go -- one more chance to relive that hugely satisfying slaying of the SEC dragon.

1. Taking out the sacks, Ohio State ran for 7.7 yards per carry against Alabama. Ed Warinner doesn't need a resume anymore. He can just print out the box score for the game and set it on the desk of any coach in the country. Seriously, though, to replace four offensive linemen -- three of whom are NFL players right now -- who many thought were irreplaceable and put together a road-grading offense like this one, now that is impressive. This is a coach Ohio State needs to try to hold on to as long as possible.

2. Much of the credit for the huge offensive numbers goes to Ezekiel Elliott, who was uneven at the start of the year but has really been the man the last few weeks. Forty carries for 450 yards and four TDs (including four runs of 50 or more yards) in two postseason games? Wow. The line gets credit for its blocks (and so do the WRs) but to go that far that often, you have to be able to make the free man miss (either through agility or power) and then have the speed not to get caught. Elliott has that. On his 85-yarder, no Alabama defender got close to closing the gap on him. At the start of the year, I thought he was a very good do-it-all back. Now, I'd be willing to say he's more than that -- he's one of the best backs in the nation.

3. I didn't realize this at the time, but how about the way the Buckeyes dominated third down? Ohio State converted 10 of 18 third downs while holding Alabama to 2-for-13 in that situation. Some of the biggest Cardale Jones' tosses in the game came on third-and-long, including a pair of 26-yard passes to Jalin Marshall on the first TD drive and both long bombs to Devin Smith. On the other side, Sims' pick-six to Steve Miller came on a third down. Sims was intercepted twice and sacked once in third down.

4. Cardale Jones' third-and-1 run. I can't get over it. Buckeyes up six with four minutes to play. OSU needs -- NEEDS -- a first down. He fakes a handoff. Landon Collins reads the play. He's in the hole. Man vs. man. Who wins? Jones. Basically runs over Collins, who would need medical attention, for the first down. A play later, with Collins on the sideline, Elliott rolls for the game-clinching score. That's a man play right there.

5. Darron Lee's huge game -- seven tackles, three TFL, two sacks -- was even more impressive than the stats showed. His first sack, on Alabama's first drive after OSU took the lead 27-21 in the third quarter, came on second-and-2 and stopped a Bama drive in its tracks. Lee's second sack came on a first down early in the fourth and again led to a punt. In fact, five of the seven tackles he made led directly to punts. Big game? Huge game.

6. Is the SEC dominance over? In the short term, yes. As Kirk Barton pointed out early in the year, the SEC didn't have the star power as it had in past years, and that might have led to its shortcomings this year. The league isn't guaranteed to dominate the early 2015 rankings as it has in years past, either. I've long thought the SEC was at the top of college football (just look at recruiting rankings and NFL draft results), but as Toby Keith sang, the league can croon, "I ain't as good as I once was." But how about this -- isn't it amazing that the man who started the SEC dominance story, Urban Meyer, ended it?

7. And how about this? A national writer in the locker room after the game asked Joshua Perry about playing Oregon and said, paraphrasing, "Now you have to worry about speed being a factor vs. Oregon." This after playing an SEC team. The SEC speed narrative is dead for right now.

8. Lost in Elliott's late touchdown romp was the fact that the Buckeyes actually had a stretch from midway through the third quarter to late in the fourth when Ohio State didn't get a first down. But how about the defense in that span? Alabama started a drive with 14:10 left in the fourth at its own 26 and didn't reach midfield. Alabama's next drive started at the OSU 23 after Cameron Johnston's backspun punt (not a good time for the backup wedge there out of the Aussie). One play later, the Buckeyes had the ball back thanks to a Vonn Bell interception. The next drive started at the Alabama 45 and quickly entered OSU territory, but the Buckeyes stood tall again. That's three drives in which Alabama could have taken the lead and three stops by the Buckeyes.

9. I didn't think the Buckeyes missed Dontre Wilson too much after his injury -- Marshall has been a more than capable fill-in -- but I changed my mind when Noah Brown took a third-down jet sweep for a loss. I think Brown has a great future at Ohio State (he can block like Evan Spencer) but that play is not his No. 1 skill. Having Wilson back would give the Buckeyes much-needed depth at H. Plus, in the postgame, he made sure injured Buckeyes J.T. Barrett and James Clark had ribbons of confetti to drape around their necks since they couldn't join the celebration on stage. Neat move.

10. OK, I'll look ahead. One stat that makes me like Ohio State's chances against Oregon: the Ducks are plus-20 in turnover margin this season, recovering 18 fumbles this year. Well, turnovers are largely fluky, and I am not sure if that can continue. And even if it does, the Buckeyes have shown they won't let that get them down. So I think that's a point in the Buckeyes' favor.


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