2015 Sugar Bowl
|2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl|
|CFP Semifinal at the Sugar Bowl
81st Allstate Sugar Bowl
2015 Sugar Bowl logo
|Date||January 1, 2015|
|Location||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|MVP||Offensive: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Defensive: Ohio State LB Darron Lee
|Favorite||Alabama by 9|
|Halftime show||The Ohio State University Marching Band and the University of Alabama Million Dollar Band|
|United States TV coverage|
|Network||ESPN, ESPN Deportes|
Brad Nessler (play-by-play)
Todd Blackledge (analyst)
Holly Rowe (sideline)
|Nielsen ratings||15.2 (28.3 million viewers)|
The 2015 Sugar Bowl was a bowl game that was played on January 1, 2015 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, that served as both the 81st Sugar Bowl and as a semifinal in the College Football Playoff. In the game, the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 42–35. The Buckeyes advanced to the College Football Playoff Championship Game to be played January 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas against the Oregon Ducks. It was one of the 2014–15 bowl games that concluded the 2014 FBS football season. Sponsored by the Allstate insurance company, the game is officially known as the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
The contest was televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, with a radio broadcast on ESPN Radio and XM Satellite Radio. Kickoff time was set for 8:30 PM, Eastern Standard Time, but was delayed until after the end of the Rose Bowl. With 28,271,000 viewers, the game was the most watched cable television program in American history at the time.
The participants were announced on December 7, 2014, based on the final rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee. The Rose Bowl hosted the other College Football Playoff semifinal game between No. 3 Florida State and No. 2 Oregon. When not hosting the semifinals of the new CFP system (once every three years), the Sugar Bowl typically features the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and Big 12 Conference champions.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2015)|
The Alabama Crimson Tide entered the season ranked 2nd in the AP and Coaches polls behind defending National Champions Florida State. Along with Ohio State, the Crimson Tide were considered a preseason favorite for a berth in the inaugural College Football playoff. After losing offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to Michigan, the Crimson Tide added former Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, and USC head football coach Lane Kiffin as their offensive coordinator. Among other changes came a change at quarterback with a controversy between Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker. Initially, Coker was considered to be the favorite for the starting job; however, Sims, a more mobile quarterback, was named the starter shortly before the season began. Alabama played its first game of the season in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, pulling away late to win 33–23. After two easy wins against Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss, Alabama played Florida, a rival from the SEC East Division. Florida took an early 14–7 lead but the Crimson Tide eventually took control behind strong performances by Blake Sims and wide receiver Amari Cooper. In the next game, Alabama played fellow SEC West Division foe Ole Miss. In that game, which was played in Oxford, Mississippi, Ole Miss upset the #3 Crimson Tide 23–17 after a shaky performance by Blake Sims. At this point in the season, Alabama's playoff hopes were in doubt as three SEC teams (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Auburn) were ranked in the initial College Football Playoff rankings ahead of the #5 Crimson Tide. In their next four games, the Tide handily beat Tennessee and Texas A&M but struggled against last place Arkansas and West Division rivals LSU, winning 14–13 against the Razorbacks and 20–13 in overtime versus the Tigers. Through these games, Sims struggled while Amari Cooper's success propelled the Tide offense to narrow wins. At this point in the season, speculation rose whether Jakob Coker would be moved into the starting role for the struggling Sims.
Alabama entered its contest against #1 Mississippi State as the #5 team in the College Football Playoff standings. The Bulldogs were having a season like no other in their history, winning decisively against then-highly ranked Texas A&M and Auburn, respectively. Dak Prescott, the senior quarterback for the Bulldogs, was thriving under Dan Mullen's system and was at the time a top Heisman Trophy candidate. In the game, the Crimson Tide came out strong, building an early 19–0 lead on Mississippi State. The Bulldogs brought the score to 19–13 before Alabama scored one last touchdown to effectively end the game. The final score was 25–20 after a late Mississippi State touchdown. In the game, the Crimson Tide's stifling defense overwhelmed Dak Prescott and forced him into the worst game of his 2014 season. Following the game, the Crimson Tide jumped to #1 in the standings while the Bulldogs dropped to #4. After a routine win against Western Carolina, the Crimson Tide then looked on to the Auburn Tigers. In the previous season, the Tigers won one of the most thrilling games in the history of college football 34–28 in the Iron Bowl with a late field goal return for a touchdown (now dubbed the "Kick Six"). In this edition of the Iron Bowl, Auburn jumped on multiple interceptions by Blake Sims to stay ahead of the Crimson Tide; however, a second half turnaround by Sims saw Alabama win the highest scoring edition of the Iron Bowl, 55–44. The next week, the #1 ranked Crimson Tide routed the SEC East Division champion Missouri Tigers, 42–13, in the SEC Championship, all but securing a #1 seed in the playoff and a Sugar Bowl berth the following morning.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2015)|
The Ohio State Buckeyes entered the 2014 season ranked number 5 in both the AP and Coaches polls. They were an early favorite, along with Alabama, to make it to inaugural College Football Playoff. Two weeks before the season started, two-time Big Ten Offensive player of the year and Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller was injured in practice. It was determined that Miller had a torn labrum which required surgery, and the Buckeyes had to look to J. T. Barrett, an unproven redshirt freshman. The Buckeyes were underwhelming in their opener against Navy, winning 34–17 after trailing for a majority of the game. The next week, the Buckeyes played Virginia Tech at home and, surprisingly, lost the decision 35–21. Barrett's inexperience along with the inexperience of the offensive line proved costly in the Buckeye's defeat to the Hokies. After the loss, the Buckeyes coasted through their next four games, scoring over 50 points in each matchup versus Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland, and Rutgers, respectively. Following a thrilling 31–24 overtime victory against Penn State in Happy Valley, the Buckeyes were ranked #16 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. The Buckeyes jumped to #14 in the CFP rankings following a 55–14 dismantling of rival Illinois and were ready for a primetime matchup against the #8 Michigan State Spartans.
Ever since the Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 34–24 in the 2013 Big Ten Football Championship Game, the 2014 edition was highly anticipated. Due to Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech and Braxton Miller's injury, the game lost a bit of its luster. Regardless, College Gameday made the trip to East Lansing as the Spartans were two-point favorites over the Buckeyes. In a show of their offensive strength, J. T. Barrett and the Buckeyes handily defeated the Spartans 49–37. Following the win, Ohio State was back in the Playoff hunt and Barrett was an established Heisman Trophy candidate. Following close wins against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Indiana Hoosiers, the Buckeyes entered their rivalry game against Michigan ranked #6 and just outside of a playoff spot. In the game, Ohio State struggled early before pulling away to a 42–28 victory against their rivals. The win came at a cost, however, as J. T. Barrett was injured in the fourth quarter with a broken ankle.
Following Barrett's injury during the Michigan Game, Ohio State turned to their third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, for the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin. Because #4 Mississippi State lost in the Egg Bowl, Ohio State moved from #6 to #5 despite the loss of Barrett. Due to the game being Jones' first collegiate start, the Buckeyes entered as a 4.5 point underdog to the West Division champion Badgers. Ohio State, however, proved the oddsmakers wrong as Jones shined in a 59–0 rout of Wisconsin to capture the program's 35th Big Ten Championship and a potential College Football Playoff berth. The next morning, it was announced that Ohio State's win had propelled them to #4 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, securing their spot in the Sugar Bowl against #1 Alabama.
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