"Players had a chance to examine the film of Ohio State and had a few early impressions Thursday. Quarterback Cardale Jones was the topic of note among defensive players."
-Michael Casagrande, AL.com
If there's one thing that Nick Saban's team won't be when they face Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, it's underprepared. Crimson Tide players have begun getting ready for the Buckeye offense under the new leadership of Cardale Jones. Jones, despite just one career start, could pose a real problem for the Alabama secondary -- he has a cannon for an arm, and the Tide secondary has given up a number of devastating deep balls in their last few games. The Alabama defenders didn't have a lot of praise to throw Jones' way, though they did repeatedly emphasize that they need to do a better job of keeping their assignments once plays break down. "The Auburn game, I think we just -- our eyes were in the wrong place a lot of the times, so we've just got to do a better job of looking at the right stuff and staying with our man on scrambles," said Tide CB Cyrus Jones.
It might be reasonable for Alabama not to be too worried about Cardale Jones, but they seem to share the same attitude regarding destroyer-of-worlds Joey Bosa. Bosa is a consensus All-American, for those keeping score at home. "I kinda approach everybody the same way, so I'm not really thinking about the accolades," offered right tackle Austin Shepherd, who will be tasked with containing Bosa on Jan. 1. It's hardly inflammatory, but it could very well be "bulletin board material" for Bosa and the Buckeye defense as they prepare for one of the best offensive lines in the country.
"I almost committed there. I almost went back and committed that day. But we flew home, thought about it, and now I'm here."
-Joey Bosa on Alabama (per Cleveland.com)
Speaking of Joey Bosa, there was at one time a very good chance that he would someday suit up for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Bosa attended the Tide's football camp in the summer of 2010, when he was just 15 years old, and was offered a spot at Alabama on the camp's last day. Proving once again that Nick Saban is college football's most villainous coach, Bosa recounts there being a remote-controlled door to Saban's office, that he closed from his desk while an intimidated (and shirtless!) Bosa sat in front of him, shivering.
"He just clicked (the button) and it shut. I was pretty scared," Bosa recalls.
Thank god for Buffalo Wild Wings (a sentence I never thought I'd write). Bosa and his dad left camp that day, went to B-Dubs, and did some mulling over the offer. After weighing all of the options, Bosa eventually chose Ohio State, much to the chagrin of the Big Ten's quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Urban Meyer, as usual, is to thank for taking Bosa out of the comfortable climes of the south and getting him up to Columbus. The article poses the question of what Alabama's roster would look like with the addition of Bosa, and to contemplate such a thing is pretty damn terrifying.
"I have left a lot of yards on the field, something we are going to improve on next year."
-Ezekiel Elliott, via Cleveland.com's Doug Lesmerises
The Buckeyes have lost 10 players to season-ending injuries this year. We can count ourselves lucky that Ezekiel Elliott isn't among them. Elliott has been battling a wrist injury all season, one that he already had one surgery on back in August. The wrist hasn't kept Elliott off the field, but he's convinced that with that injury repaired, he'd have done even more damage this season.
"I can't really carry the ball in my left hand, and can't really use my stiff-arm. I can't really use my hand to post on the ground," Elliott says. Mind you, this is coming from a player who averaged more than 100 yards on the ground per game this season -- what might he have done against Wisconsin with two good arms? That was a 220-yard performance, in case you've forgotten.
The Buckeyes will need another stellar performance from Elliott to have any chance against the Crimson Tide, who boast one of the best defenses in the country. Of course, the same was said about Wisconsin, and Elliott ran wild against the Badgers. "It's going to be our will against their will," says Elliott, and he's not wrong.
"He's one of the best receivers ever to play college football."
-Urban Meyer on Amari Cooper, via Bleacher Report
In the Big Ten Championship game, the Buckeye defense was tasked with shutting down one of the three 2014 Heisman Trophy finalists. They held Melvin Gordon, the nation's leading back, to just 76 yards rushing. Now they're faced with a similar prospect as they prepare for Alabama. Amari Cooper, the country's best wide receiver, was another finalist for the most prestigious trophy in the sport.
Cooper is an extraordinarily versatile wideout, which is what makes preparing for him extremely tricky. Meyer cites his ability in the quick-hitting screen game as a problem, coupled with his standing as the best deep threat in college football. The Buckeye defense is on the upswing as far as pass defense is concerned -- it's actually their area of biggest improvement from last year to this -- but they haven't faced anyone like Amari Cooper yet. If Ohio State can find a way to shut down the best receiver in the country, it will go a long way towards their upset bid. If they fail to lock Cooper up early and often? We'll likely see Alabama playing for the national title on Jan. 12.