Old foes Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have both been thinking about the College Football Playoff semifinal between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State for the better part of four days now. It’s about time we started to think about the Sugar Bowl matchup, too.

To get an early jump on the game, we’ll take a look at what Alabama and Ohio State’s biggest advantages and disadvantages will be heading into the Jan. 1 showdown in New Orleans.


Biggest advantage: A prolific passing offense. Playing in the Big 10, Ohio State has faced a slew of run-heavy teams, which they’ve been inconsistent at shutting down. Blake Sims, Amari Cooper and a handful of secondary receivers will be a far different challenge than anything Ohio State has faced. The Buckeyes’ best defensive player, Joey Bosa, will be matched up with the SEC’s best pass-protecting offensive line, one that did a good job keeping an aggressive Missouri defensive line off of the quarterback.

Biggest disadvantage: Ohio State’s defense is ready to stop the run. In the second half against Missouri, Alabama drained the clock by handing it off to Derrick Henry over and over. Ohio State is coming off a game in which it just turned Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon into a non-factor. Alabama has struggled when held below 4 yards per carry this season, a figure Ohio State kept opponents under in 10 of 13 games, giving up just 3.9 yards per carry for the season.

Ohio State

Biggest advantage: Big-play capabilities through the air. If there’s an Achilles’ heel on this Alabama defense, it’s the propensity for giving up long passing plays as of late. Ohio State is on its third quarterback, but that didn’t seem to slow the offense one bit against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are No. 8 in the country in pass plays of 30-or-more yards this season, and they’re right there in 50-yard passes too. If Cardale Jones can keep that up, Ohio State will be able to move the ball in chunks against the Crimson Tide defense.

Biggest disadvantage: Kirby Smart has a month to dream up ways to confuse new starter Jones. Jones was perfectly fine going against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, but he meets a different kind of challenge against Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s defense has struggled against deep passes over its last two games, but they’ve found ways to generate pressure up front with just their down linemen. Smart, one of the best defensive coordinators in the country, will mix up his already-versatile defense to give Jones problems. Alabama ranks 11th in the country in total defense