Saban, who has won three of the last five national championships with the Crimson Tide, said one of his main focuses was the Buckeye’s quarterback position and added he has prepared his team for whatever OSU throws at them.
The Buckeyes are set to start redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones for just the second time after redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth quarter of a game against Michigan in November.
“Well, we sort of thought philosophically that they would have a two-quarterback system, because there’s quite a bit of quarterback run-type plays that they would implement even if it was a non-quarterback at quarterback,” Saban said Wednesday. “We feel No. 17 (OSU redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall) has done that some in the past and is a very, very capable player and was an outstanding player doing that in high school.”
Marshall, who also has returned punts for OSU, said Tuesday he relishes the opportunity to take on different roles on such a big stage.
“I come out to practice everyday (and) I got to hold field goals, catch punts, go in the backfield, warm up and throw, warm up my legs to run routes, so it’s definitely a hectic situation but I enjoy every moment of it,” Marshall said. “This is the biggest stage there is in college football and being at Ohio State, what else could you do but play every position? It is a fun situation for me and I think I will be ready for it.”
Meyer said Wednesday that his confidence in his team’s situation behind center is light years away from where it was when it comes to Jones.
“Cardale, if you asked me a year ago or six months ago, I would have looked at you and said look at you like you’ve got six heads,” Meyer said. “But it’s a much different story right now. He’s had a great week of practice. He’s big. He stands back in the pocket. He’s got control of the offense.”
On the other side of the ball, Meyer admitted that while he has not looked too much into it, he met with his staff to discuss the strategy to shut down the Crimson Tide offense.
“Just sat with (co-defensive coordinator) Chris Ash this morning and I watched. I’ve not watched a ton of their offense. The ability (of) the quarterback is a tremendous player. His ability to extend plays and create — I’ve watched about 30 plays with them this morning. And obviously No. 9’s could be the first pick in the draft, he’s that good,” Meyer said of Alabama junior wide receiver Amari Cooper. “No. 4, the tailback (T.J. Yeldon) and the other big tailback are tremendous players. But anytime a quarterback can extend plays and his accuracy, we talked about his improvement from last year to this year is off the charts.”
While Meyer worries about defending a player like Yeldon, Saban said he is just hoping Yeldon, who has been battling injury all season, will be able to play.
“He’s been able to practice each and every day that we’ve been here, and he’s looked better and better each day,” Saban said. “It will probably be a pre-game decision, which with all injured players they’re always involved, whether they’re able to go out and do their job effectively and we’ll make that decision at that time, but we’re very hopeful that he’ll be able to make a contribution in this game.”
While Yeldon, Saban and the Crimson Tide seem to have been the standard in college football for much of the last five years, Meyer said he tries not to model his program’s success after one specific team.
“The more competitive and the amount of exposure and every school in the country right now is trying to load up and become part of this playoff. You see it happening every day across college football,” Meyer said. “To remain at the top is very difficult.”
The Buckeyes and Crimson Tide are set to kick off on New Year’s Day at 8:30 p.m. in New Orleans for a chance to play in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.