Sugar Bowl betting preview: Ohio State vs. Alabama

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (-9, 58.5)

When No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State square off in a College
Football Playoff semifinal in New Orleans, the matchup will feature two
legendary programs with identical 12-1 records this season but not much
else in common. For starters, the Crimson Tide have a trusted senior
quarterback in Blake Sims, who has passed for 26 touchdowns against
seven interceptions and is coming off a sparkling 23-of-27 performance
for 262 yards with two touchdowns and no picks against Missouri in the
SEC title game. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, will once again turn to
Cardale Jones after the red-shirt sophomore made his first career start
against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, throwing for 257 yards and
three TDs.

Ohio State enters this matchup on a roll, having
won five of its last six games by double figures, including a resounding
59-0 rout of the Badgers their last time out. The Buckeyes were the
most surprising of the four selections for the CFP, but none of that
matters now as they – as well as the Crimson Tide – sit one win away
from playing for the national championship against either Oregon or
Florida State. Alabama is looking to advance to the national title game
for the fourth time in six seasons while Ohio State hasn’t played for
the championship since losing to LSU at the end of the 2007 season. 

Both teams are obviously quite talented on both sides of the ball, but
the Crimson Tide rely more on their defense while the Buckeyes have
counted on their offense throughout the season. Ohio State ranks fourth
nationally with a scoring average of 45.2 points and has recorded at
least 31 points in 12 of their 13 games, posting an average of 47.7
points in its last three contests. Alabama is fourth in the country in
points allowed (16.6) and has given up more than 23 points only once all
year.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY: ‘Bama opened as -10 faves at most books, but that’s steadily been bet down to -9 a day before kickoff.

WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Another bowl game with an eyebrow raising pointspread. It’s not often you find Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on the receiving end of this many points, especially given the fact he is 16-6 ATS as a dog in his career. Alabama head coach Nick Saban owns a 2-1 SU and ATS edge over Meyer in head-to-head meetings, and is 9-4 SU and ATS in bios last 13 bowl games. A great matchup of two masterful X’s and O’s coaches.” Covers Expert Marc Lawrence

CHEERLEADER WAR:

ABOUT OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes rank 11th
nationally in rushing offense, mostly thanks to Ezekiel Elliott (1,402
yards) and quarterback J.T. Barrett (938), who fractured his ankle in
Ohio State’s regular-season finale, forcing Jones into the lineup.
Sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa (13.5 sacks) is the lone first-team
All-American for Ohio State, which had a pair of third-team
All-Americans in Barrett and defensive tackle Michael Bennett, who set
Big Ten championship game records with four tackles for loss and two
forced fumbles. “We made history just by making the top four,” senior
cornerback Doran Grant told the media earlier this month. “This game is
going to be exciting. It’s going to be hard-fought with two great
coaches going head-to-head and two great teams going head-to-head.”

ABOUT ALABAMA: T.J. Yeldon (932 yards) and
Derrick Henry (895 yards) each have 10 rushing scores for the Crimson
Tide, while Sims has six rushing scores of his own. However, the clear
offensive star for Alabama is junior wideout Amari Cooper (115 catches,
1,656 yards, 14 touchdowns), who finished third in the Heisman Trophy
balloting and owns virtually every school receiving record, including
career catches (219), yards (3,392) and touchdowns (29). “This is really
kind of a new season for us, a new opportunity,” said Alabama coach
Nick Saban, whose team held Missouri to 41 rushing yards on 23 carries
last week. “What does everybody want the legacy of this team to be?”

TWEET BEAT:

TRENDS:

*Alabama is 4-1 ATS in their last five bowl games
*Under is 5-1 in Ohio State’s last six games on fieldturf
*Alabama is 4-1 ATS in their last five games following an ATS win
*Over is 7-1 in Alabama’s last eight bowl games

COVERS CONSENSUS: At the time of writing, 54 percent of Covers Consensus users were backing the Buckeyes.

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