Six National Championships, 322 wins, and 15 bowl victories; this year’s Sugar Bowl and first College Football Playoff matchup features two of the best head coaches in the nation. When Urban Meyer was the head coach at Florida, he and Alabama coach Nick Saban had three epic SEC bouts, with the Tide prevailing in two of those three games (all three games featured both teams ranked inside the top 10). These two college football powerhouses are no stranger to the big game as they both fight for an opportunity travel to Texas and play in the 2015 National Championship game at AT&T Stadium.
The Buckeyes are undoubtedly one of the most relevant programs in the nation each year, and look to achieve their 8th National Title in school history. Not many analysts and fans (outside of Columbus) thought OSU could get a College Football Playoff berth in 2014 because the lack of resume-building wins they could get in an uninspiring Big Ten. In the midst of QB injuries, NCAA sanctions, and a lackluster conference, Urban Meyer has been able to keep his team noteworthy.
Here’s a stat that will surprise you: The Buckeyes win percentage in regular season games all-time is .720, while their postseason record is a lousy .442. In Urban Meyer’s short tenure with the university, his only bowl appearance ended in a loss against the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. Can the Buckeyes avoid another loss against a very capable Alabama team in the Sugar Bowl?
In the most explosive conference in the nation, and an even more loaded SEC Western division, Alabama looks to capture their 4th National Title since 2009. Historically speaking, the Crimson Tide are in the heart of a truly historic run, the likes of which we haven’t seen in 30 years. Head coach Nick Saban, already the most powerful coach in college athletics, would be just one championship away from legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
For a career postseason record, the Tide have a .592 win ratio in bowl games, much better than the Buckeyes. In comparison to OSU, the Tide have 15 claimed national titles. The most potent team in college football is in a golden age of recruiting excellence, producing 16 first-round picks since 2009. Yikes.
Surprisingly, there have only been three meetings between these historic universities. The first was a Sugar Bowl matchup in 1986 when Bear Bryant’s defense only allowed six points in a 35-6 rout of the Big Ten Champions. Nine years later, Alabama scheduled their home opener against the Buckeyes on a neutral site. Wait what?! Yes back in the day, teams actually did schedule meaningful out of conference games. In a battle that included NFL talent like Cris Carter, Chris Spielman, Mike Shula, and Cornelius Bennet, Ohio State was able to get their first and only win against the Crimson Tide in school history.
The latest matchup came in the Citrus Bowl in 1995. Bama edged out a close 24-17 victory with RB Sherman Williams scoring a late touchdown.
All that considered, Vegas has Ohio State as a nine-point underdog. Don’t be too offended Buckeye Nation, because the reigning NCAA Champs and winners of 29 straight games (Florida State) are also nine-point dogs.
It may not be a super competitive game mainly due to the lack of experience at the QB spot for Ohio State. But at least it will be a coaching matchup for the ages, and football historians can add another chapter into the Alabama vs. OSU book.