Sugar Bowl preview: Will Ohio State surprise?
3:20 | College Football
Sugar Bowl preview: Will Ohio State surprise?
Wednesday December 31st, 2014

Two former coaching rivals in the SEC will face off for the first time since 2010 when Nick Saban and the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide meet Urban Meyer and the fourth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Saban’s Crimson Tide are a consensus 9-point favorite at sportsbooks monitored by against Meyer’s Buckeyes in the second national semifinal as part of the first-ever College Football Playoff. The winner will face the Rose Bowl winner for the national championship at AT&T Stadium on Jan. 12.

Saban is looking to improve to 3-1 in four career meetings with Meyer, who coached the Florida Gators between 2005 and 2010. After taking a break from coaching, Meyer took the Ohio State job in 2012 and has led the Buckeyes to a remarkable 36-3 record in three years, including a perfect 24-0 mark in Big Ten regular-season play. Ohio State is coming off a 59-0 rout of the Wisconsin Badgers as a four-point underdogs in the Big Ten championship game.

STAPLES: Breaking down keys to Sugar Bowl matchup

The Buckeyes covered the spread for the first time in four games, as reserve quarterback Cardale Jones made his first career start in place of the injured J.T. Barrett. Jones completed 12-of-17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns against the Badgers.

Like Ohio State, Alabama lost just one game during the regular season, falling to the Ole Miss Rebels, 23-17, on Oct. 4 as a 4.5-point road favorite. Since then, the Crimson Tide have reeled off eight straight wins with a disappointing 3-4-1 record against the spread during that stretch. But Alabama’s last two games have both resulted in covers, including a 42-13 victory against the Missouri Tigers as a 14-point favorite in the SEC Championship Game.

• HAMILTON: Alabama's Collins aims to impress in city that forged him

The Crimson Tide had won their previous four bowl matchups before suffering a shocking 45-31 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in last year’s Sugar Bowl as 17-point favorites. Ohio State has been known to come up short in big games over the years, most notably back-to-back losses to the Gators and LSU Tigers for the 2007 and 2008 BCS titles, respectively. Meyer coached Florida to the ‘07 national title win over the Buckeyes, who have lost five of their past seven bowl games overall.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.