College football bettors have had almost a month to size up this matchup and have heard from just about every talking head with two cents. But Covers gets the opinions that really matter, from the guys who know these two programs the best.
Before they square off on the field, Ohio State blogger Joe Dexter of The Buckeye Battle Cry and D.K. Miranda of IBleedCrimsonRed.com debate not just who wins the Rose Bowl, but also who covers the 9-point spread.
WHY OHIO STATE COVERS
Ohio State blogger Joe Dexter writes for The Buckeye Battle Cry. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @The_BBC.
The Urban Meyer Factor
Everyone knows that Urban Meyer is one of the best coaches in college football, but what they don’t know is just how good he is. Meyer is 36-3 since taking over the Ohio State program in 2012. In that time, he’s put together the second best win percentage in the country. There is also the big game factor. The former Florida, Utah and Bowling Green head man is 7-2 all-time in bowl games and finished 4-1 in BCS contests. If there is a coach to bet on, it’s Urban Meyer.
Efficiency in Numbers
Don’t let the fact that Ohio State is sending out its third-string quarterback fool you. Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett battled neck-and-neck for the right to be Braxton Miller’s backup this spring. And Jones proved on the big stage that he belongs. In his first collegiate start against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, the Cleveland native wasn’t phased.
Just ask the Wisconsin Badgers, who were blitzkrieged by the third stringer 59-0. Jones’ three touchdown passes tied the championship game record, while the MVP set the record for highest quarterback rating in conference championship history. Jones torched the fifth best passing defense in the country with 257 yards in the air, while compiling over 21 yards per pass play.
The running game also broke records against Wisconsin. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliot came into the season as one of the top candidates in a bevy of backs expected to receive playing time. Now, he’s only the second running back in Urban Meyer’s coaching tenure to gain 1000 yards in a season. Elliot tore up the field against Wisconsin as well, setting a championship record with 220 yards on the ground. The balance on offense has been what makes this team so dangerous. Ohio State has one of the most efficient passing attacks in the country and is just outside the top ten in rushing yards per game.
Defense Wins Championships
Many would say that Alabama has the best defensive front in the country, but Ohio State’s duo of Michael Bennett and Joey Bosa definitely will give the Crimson Tide offensive line a run for their money. The Buckeye front held Melvin Gordon, the nation’s best running back, to just 71 yards in the conference championship game.
Everybody knows about Joey Bosa’s 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, but it’s been the presence of defensive tackle Michael Bennett that has really propelled this defensive late in the season. The senior leader had four tackles for loss against Wisconsin, and forced a record two fumbles. Ohio State has only given up 298 yards per game, which is 15th best in the nation.
WHY ALABAMA COVERS
D.K. Miranda writes for IBleedCrimsonRed.com. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @LivingCrimson.
The two teams being relatively equal in almost every position group, Bama has the advantage in game-experienced depth. Expect this matchup to be hard fought, but the Tide has more ammunition to outgun the Buckeyes over 60 minutes. Alabama should pull ahead comfortably by the fourth quarter.
Blake Sims’ skill set is not definitively better than Cardale Jones, despite Jones’ lack of experience. However, Sims has the biggest advantage in the playoffs – Lane Kiffin. His Tide offense is in a groove after facing four Top 10 scoring defenses. Kiffin has developed into a master chess player against highly-talented defenses, with a willingness to gamble on Sims’ big-play ability. Add to that formula the best receiving target in the nation in Amari Cooper, and the advantage goes to Bama.
My Name is Defense, Red Zone Defense
Yards, shmyards. Yards don’t matter if they can’t score, and Alabama opponents have met a nigh-impenetrable wall between their line of scrimmage and the goal line (No. 3 scoring defense). The Tide’s red zone defense is No. 1 in the nation for touchdowns. Even Bama’s much-maligned pass defense is not as weak as generally perceived.
The Tide have been thrown at the 16th most in CFB while holding quarterbacks to only a 54.5 percent completion rate (25th), 6.4 YPA (22nd), 115.84 QBR (27th) and 17 touchdowns (36th, 1.3 TDs per game). The Bama defense has faced the 58th-best average scoring offenses while Ohio State has faced the 72nd best. Even if Ohio State has success against Alabama’s defense, Bama has shown its offense can be lethal. It’s time for the Crimson Tide to take back the Sugar Bowl. Roll Tide.
Join the debate in the comment section below. Who covers in the Sugar Bowl: Ohio State or Alabama?