The great earth has made its lazy way around the sun once more, and we find ourselves staring down the barrel of a New Year. Ready your weight loss resolutions and personal growth milestones: 2015 is upon us. The first salvos in what will hopefully be a very good calendar year for the B1G will be fired today. With our teams go the hopes and dreams of casserole-loving, god-fearing midwesterners from Ohio to the Great Plains....and people in those places where the Sopranos and The Wire happened too. Weird. Anyhow, today is the 1st of January! The playoffs are upon is!
The titanic matchup between Nick Saban's Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes of Urban Meyer has been picked apart ad nauseum by the usual suspects. Talking heads in oddly-striped suits from the four-letter network to radio call-in shows have opined mightily both for and against the Buckeyes. They tackled our toughest questions about the impending fracas in New Orleans. Can OSU win? Is Urban Meyer the answer to the Buckeyes' SEC woes? Will the Buckeyes fall flat? Does Velveeta melt better than cheddar?
I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know, and my confidence in prognosticating the efforts of these Buckeyes has waned lately. I never saw Cardale Jones' performance in the CCG coming. He looked like a seasoned veteran in the pocket, demolishing one of the (statistical) best defenses in the country. Considering my pick was a ten-point OSU loss, I was only about 69 points off the final margin of victory. Just a hair.
In no particular order, these are my few thoughts on how OSU might win this game. I invite you to add your own in the comments...
1. Stop Amari Cooper over the top. Blake Sims is a better-than-average thrower, but not amazing. Much of his success comes from having a freakish target in Cooper. In two now-famours instances, Lane Kiffin has called the Cooper deep route in big games to exploit the secondary. Both saw Cooper wide open by at least 10 yards in any direction. If Kiffin finds those gaps in the OSU secondary, it will be a long day for a defense that needs to seize every opportunity to shut down a weaker-than-usual Alabama offense.
2. Pressure Blake Sims. Sounds simple, right? We all know why it works, but getting it done is harder than I'd like it to be. For all their dominance on the front line, the Buckeye defense has shown a tendency for their blitzes to not get home. When the Buckeyes bring pressure off the corner or up the middle, they need to get results or the downfield mismatches will cost them dearly.
3. Score, score, score. This game feels like the MSU game. The first team to flinch on a possession will likely find themselves fighting a losing battle the rest of the game. That is to say, if you get behind, you're probably gonna stay behind. The Buckeyes need to turn the first four of five possessions into points to have a shot.
4. Get over the jitters and avoid a slow start. The CCG team was amazing. The team that faced Michigan in Columbus was not. Which version of this team shows up on the first two or three possessions will factor heavily into how this game goes.
5. Tom Herman. This is your job until you start your next one, Tom. Please remember that.
I'm sure there are more keys to the game, and I expect the outcome to somehow stymie all my expectations. I'm hoping for a Buckeye victory, but fully prepared to see the Crimson Tide leave the Buckeyes and the B1G mired in the swamps of the SEC narrative for yet another year. I'm cautiously calling it 34-20 in favor of Bama.
Happy New Year to all! Go Bucks. Go B1G.