On Jan. 1, 2015, the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) will host the Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1) in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate sugar Bowl. It will be the 81st Sugar Bowl game but just the first time the game is played as part of the College Football Playoffs, which is being used this season to crown a national champion. Kickoff time is set for 8:30 p.m ET.
The winner of the Sugar Bowl, one of two semifinal games, will advance to play the winner of the Rose Bowl in the final game at AT&T Stadium in Texas on Jan. 12.
Here’s what you need to know about the game.
1. The Sugar Bowl is Played in New Orleans
The game is held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, the home of the NFL’s Saints. It is the second-oldest bowl game in the country behind the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl has been played every year since 1935. It was originally held at Tulane University and its name is derived from sugar cane, one of the area’s native crops. In 1975, the game was moved to the larger Superdome (it has a football capacity of more than 76,000) and it has been held there ever since.
2. Alabama Owns Home Field Advantage
By virtue of holding the top seed in the College Football Playoffs, Alabama was assigned to play in the Sugar Bowl due to it being the closest semifinal to home. The Crimson Tide last played in the Sugar Bowl in 2014 and lost to Oklahoma in an upset, 45-31.
Ohio State and Alabama have played three times previously to this game and the Crimson Tide owns a 3-0 lead in the series. They are two of the most decorated football programs in the country with Alabama winning 15 national championships and Ohio State owning seven. Ohio State is the underdog in this game, but nobody would be shocked if they pull off an upset.
3. Ohio State is Relying on a Third-String QB
Following injuries to No. 1 QB Braxton Miller early in the year and No. 2 QB JT Barrett late in the season, the Buckeyes are led by third-stringer Cardale Jones, who helped OSU win the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin. The game, a 59-0 Buckeyes win, was Jones’s first collegiate start. He was named the game’s MVP with 257 yards passing and three TDs.
4. The Game Features 2 of the Most Prominent Coaches in College Football
Alabama has been coached by Nick Saban since 2007. He has also coached at Louisiana State, Michigan State, the University of Toledo, and briefly coached the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. He has already won national championships with Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and one with LSU in 2003.
The Buckeyes are coached by Ohio native Urban Meyer, who won two national titles with the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2008. In addition to coaching there, Meyer also served as head coach at Bowling Green from 2001-02, Utah from 2003-04, and the Gators from 2005-2011 before landing in Columbus.
5. The Game is Live on ESPN Networks
The Sugar Bowl will be televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, with a radio broadcast on ESPN Radio and XM Satellite Radio. The live stream can also be viewed here.