Alabama and Ohio State to Meet in Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl
NEW ORLEANS – Alabama, from the Southeastern Conference, and Ohio State, from the Big Ten Conference, will be featured in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Thursday, January 1, 2015, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 1 in the nation, while the Buckeyes are No. 4. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. (Central) and will be televised by ESPN.
The winner of this year’s game, the 81st annual Sugar Bowl Classic, will advance to the College Football Playoff Championship on Monday, January 12, in Arlington, Texas. The other Playoff Semifinal pits No. 2 Oregon against No. 3 Florida State and will be played at the Rose Bowl, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. (Central), also on ESPN.
“We’re very excited to welcome two outstanding football programs to this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl,” said Judge Dennis Waldron, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “Each year, we have the pleasure of welcoming thousands of fans to this great city and showing off all it has to offer – world-class cuisine, trend-setting music, outstanding gridiron competition and more. We look forward to introducing our unique flavor of hospitality to all of the players, coaches, administrators and fans from these two great schools.”
“The opportunity to host two national powers with such great tradition is a true honor,” said Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan. “Alabama boasts 15 national championships and met the challenge of another difficult SEC season, while Ohio State has been a perennial power in the Big Ten and has seven national titles of its own. With all that, we have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl.”
Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC) will be making a record 15th appearance in the Sugar Bowl; the Crimson Tide’s eight wins in the game is also a record. This will be the second consecutive Sugar Bowl appearance for the Crimson Tide, which dropped a 45-31 decision to Oklahoma last year. In addition to its 14 previous Sugar Bowl appearances, the Tide was hosted by the Allstate Sugar Bowl for the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship game, when it upended LSU, 21-0, for its 14th national title. The Crimson Tide also secured national championships with wins in the Sugar Bowl in 1962, 1979, 1980 and 1993.
Ohio State (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten), meanwhile, will be making its fifth appearance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes’ first trip to the Sugar Bowl came following the 1977 season when the legendary Woody Hayes led his squad into a showdown with Bear Bryant’s Alabama squad – the Crimson Tide came out on top, 35-6. The Buckeyes also lost to Florida State, 31-14, in the 1998 Sugar Bowl, while defeating Texas A&M, 24-14, the following season. The last Ohio State appearance was following the 2010 season when they topped Arkansas, 31-26, on the field; however their participation was later vacated.
Alabama was sixth in the first College Football Playoff Selection Committee rankings on Oct. 28; they climbed to fifth for the next two weeks before making the jump all the way to No. 1 for the final four weeks of the rankings. Ohio State was No. 16 in the opening rankings before moving up to No. 15, then to No. 8 and then to No. 5, before snagging the No. 4 slot in the final listing. Both teams won conference championships as the Crimson Tide defeated Missouri in the SEC title game, while the Buckeyes rolled over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. The schools will be the 86th and 87th conference champions to play in the Sugar Bowl.
This will be Alabama’s record 62nd bowl appearance (35-23-3), while the Buckeyes will be going to their 44th bowl game (19-24).
Despite the long histories for both programs, this will be just the fourth meeting between the two teams with Alabama winning the first three match-ups. All three games have been at neutral sites. In addition to the 1978 Sugar Bowl, they played in the 1986 Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands in New Jersey (Alabama, 16-10) and at the Florida Citrus Bowl on Jan. 2, 1995 (Alabama, 24-17).
The two coaches for this year’s Sugar Bowl rank among the best in the nation. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has an all-time record of 177-58-1 (.752) in 19 years as a head coach. His winning percentage ranks third among active Division I head coaches with 10 years of experience. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, meanwhile, has compiled a 140-26 (.843) record in 13 years as a head coach – – his winning percentage in tops among FBS coaches with 10 years of experience.
Saban has posted an 86-16 (.843) record in his eight years at Alabama; he also served as the head coach at Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99) and LSU (2000-04). A five-time National Coach of the Year, Saban is one of four coaches to win four national titles in the modern era of college football. Meyer has been at Ohio State for three years, recording a 36-3 (.923) mark. He also served as the head coach at Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04) and Florida (2005-10).
This will be the fourth meeting between the two coaches; the previous three happened when Meyer was directing the Florida program. Two of those match-ups were memorable showdowns in the SEC Championship game: in 2008 Meyer and the Gators topped Alabama, 31-20, to win the league title en route to the BCS Championship; the following year, it was Saban and the Tide coming out on top, 32-13, to capture the SEC title – they also went on to win the national title. The other match-up saw Alabama defeat the Gators, 31-6, during the 2010 regular-season campaign.
Schools that are currently in the SEC have registered an all-time mark of 34-39-1 (.466) in the Sugar Bowl, while this will be the 17th appearance in the game by a current member of the Big Ten, with an overall record of 7-9 (.438). Alabama has an 24-12 (.667) all-time mark against Big Ten teams, while Ohio State is 21-13-3 (.608) all-time against the SEC (current membership).
The New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association was founded in 1934 by a group of civic-minded businessman and professionals interested in promoting amateur athletic events for the purpose of bringing visitors to New Orleans during what had traditionally been a slow period for tourism. Now known as the Sugar Bowl Committee, the organization remains a voluntary group whose members serve without remuneration. A full-time staff is retained to assist the Committee in managing its affairs and is headed by CEO Paul Hoolahan and COO Jeff Hundley, who have over 40 years of combined experience running postseason college football games.
Since the first Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1935, the organization has hosted 23 national champion teams, 86 Hall of Fame players, 46 Hall of Fame coaches and 15 Heisman Trophy winners. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee is involved with various community initiatives through hosting and sponsorships of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through nearly 50 annual activities, the organization supports and honors over 20,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2 billion into the local economy in the last decade.