Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 31, 2014

Surf around the Internet, and you'll see that Ohio State isn?t expected by many people to beat Alabama. The Buckeyes are the No. 4 seed in the playoffs while Crimson Tide are the No. 1 seed. Compounding matters for OSU is that starting quarterback Cardale Jones will be making just his second career start. Is he ready for this grand stage? Regardless, the Buckeyes can pull the upset.

I'm in New Orleans for the game and mulling over just how Ohio State can pull off the upset. There are some fairly clear things the Buckeyes need to do but also a few others, too. I'll be looking for signs of each of these seven keys to victory for Ohio State during Thursday night's game.


1. Get a lead. The Buckeyes need to score first and keep Alabama on the chase. This will allow Ohio State to stay with its game-plan and put the Tide in some obvious passing situations. That?s when the Buckeyes need to score some negative plays and turnovers.

2. Hit some big pass plays. Look, Cardale Jones doesn?t need to throw for 250 yards. But he?s gonna need to hit at least two or three big passes to loosen an Alabama defense that will be poised to stop the run. The Buckeyes need to make the Crimson Tide defend the entire field.

3. Turnovers – Ohio State needs to commit none. Conversely, the Buckeyes need to generate at least three.

4. Unconventional touchdowns. OSU needs to generate at least one score by its defense or special teams. Nothing is more demoralizing to a team than giving up an ?easy? touchdown on a pick-six or kick return. It?s almost like free/unearned points.

5. Run, Ezekiel, run! Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott has been on a roll of late, rushing for over 100 yards in the last three games. He?s coming off a career-high 220-yard effort vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. He?ll likely need another 100-yard effort if Ohio State wants to take down the Tide.

6. Big plays. No way the Buckeyes win on Thursday night by executing multiple 8-, 9- and 10-play drives on offense. That would force OSU to be too perfect, too often. Ohio State is going to need some big-play scores from its offense-a long run or pass for touchdown. Big-play scores are an offense?s best friend.

7. Contain Amari Cooper. The Buckeyes probably aren?t going to be able to shutdown the star Bama wideout. No one has. But Ohio State can?t let him go wild like Clemson?s Sammy Watkins did last year vs. OSU in the Orange Bowl, when he torched the Buckeyes for 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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