New Orleans — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Sugar Bowl game column, which can be found on myajc. Ohio State upset No. 1 Alabama 42-35.
1. The SEC’s status as king of the football hill has taken a serious beating. First LSU lost to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. Then Ole Miss was a no-show in the Peach against TCU. Then Georgia Tech overwhelmed Mississippi State, which spent five weeks ranked No. 1, in the Orange. Then Auburn lost in overtime to Wisconsin in the Outback. Now this: Alabama loses to an Ohio State team playing with its No. 3 quarterback making his second collegiate start, and it was no fluke. Kirby Smart’s vaunted defense was shredded for 507 yards by Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott but most of all by Urban Meyer, who coached the greatest postseason game since …
2. Well, since his Florida Gators upset No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS title game in January 2007. It’s no accident that Meyer majored in psychology at Cincinnati. He handles a big game like no other coach. He calls it “working the game,” meaning getting his players to believe even when they shouldn’t. “This is a breakthrough win,” Meyer said. “Ohio State was … what, 0-10 against the SEC in bowl games? This was a breakthrough.” (Meyer did get away with one Mike Smith-like gaffe: The deep incompletion on first-and-10 with 1:59 remaining and Bama down to two timeouts.)
3. Nick Saban’s legacy is secure, but this wasn’t his finest hour. Lane Kiffin, Alabama’s offensive coordinator, had Blake Sims throw too much too soon at the expense of handing the ball to Derrick Henry, who mustered 95 yards on only 13 carries. It took Smart three quarters to get a handle on Ohio State’s offense, and by then the Tide trailed 34-21. But mostly the difference was that the Buckeyes were primed for the moment, and Alabama, for once, was not.