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Ohio State is not in the College Football Playoff, but the Buckeyes came up Sunday anyway as Alabama and Michigan State continued the media rounds in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl.
Don’t expect Buckeye fans to find any part of it amusing, either.
After agreeing he has seen Michigan State’s run defense pick it up against the toughest competition this season, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin brought up a much-discussed aspect of Michigan State’s 17-14 win at Ohio State in November: Ezekiel Elliott’s 12 carries.
“Obviously, Elliott, Ohio State, they did a great job against him,” Kiffin said. “Hopefully we give the ball to Derrick more than they did.”
He then added he was “just kidding.”
“That was a joke. It’s okay to laugh. It’s early in the morning. But we are going to have our hands full because they do play very tough, very physical up front, and really get after you.”
“Derrick”, of course, is Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, whose effectiveness against the Spartans figures to be a key subplot in the game.
While Kiffin is correct the Spartans were effective at slowing down Elliott, who averaged 2.8 yards per carry against them, his comments carry a certain amount of irony given how the Crimson Tide’s most recent bowl game turned out.
That was last year in the Sugar Bowl — also a CFP semifinal — and it came against Ohio State.
Although Henry averaged 7.3 yards per carry against the Buckeyes, he only got the ball 13 times, including only six in the last three quarters.
Meanwhile, Alabama quarterback Blake Sims completed 22 of 36 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns but threw three interceptions, including a pick-six in the third quarter that extended Ohio State’s lead to 34-21
Another Sims interception came in the fourth quarter when the Crimson Tide got the ball at the Ohio State 23-yard line with the chance to tie the game or take the lead. (His last was on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game).
As for Elliott, he ran 20 times for 230 yards against the Tide defense.
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