"This guy is very, very capable," Saban said of Jones. "He's a very good passer. Big strong, athletic guy who can do all the things the other guy (J.T. Barrett) could do in terms of the quarterback runs. It's just a little different style, that's all. We did see him play almost a game and a half. And he pretty must did what the other guy did. The one thing he did really well was pass the ball. He made some really good throws in the Wisconsin game, big plays down the field. Which the other guy did, too, so we have a tremendous amount of respect what this guy can do."
Saban and Smart have kind of been down this path before. They adjusted on the fly in-game to Garrett Gilbert in the BCS title win over Texas in 2009 and prepared for a completely different quarterback -- and scheme -- against Jordan Jefferson and LSU in their 2011 national championship win. So for the moment, this battle is a little bit of a chess match.
While Saban and Smart, who watched their defense rank third in the SEC (312.4 yards allowed per game) and have combined to win four of their last five bowl games together, pose the threat of unleashing some new and threatening exotic looks to confuse Ohio State's green QB, Jones and his coaches have limited film and a plethora of offensive knowledge working in their favor as well.
"Well, not knowing how he reacts to different things would be the toughest thing," Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. "You don't know how he's going to react in certain situations. You haven't seen enough tape to know.
"That's probably the hardest thing for us to get prepared for is we're watching one quarterback (J.T. Barrett) in a lot of games, yet we're going to face a different quarterback. So knowing what they want to do with that guy makes it harder, tougher to get ready for."
Even with all those extra hours of tape, Jones doesn't exactly have it all that much easier gearing up for the Crimson Tide, who are athletic, talented and intelligent enough to throw just about anything at the Buckeyes.
Alabama players discussed the importance of throwing different looks at second-time starting quarterback Cardale Jones.
"I know against us, he's going to have to do a lot of processing and a lot of thinking," Alabama safety Landon Collins said. "We're definitely going to confuse him as much as possible.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, a quarterback in Columbus in the early 1990s, said there's still a bridge to gap for the league.
"I still think there's a pretty significant jump from the SEC to the Big Ten," Herbstreit said in a phone interview. "I think that's an area that the Big Ten is trying to affect through recruiting. But I think the top tier programs ― just Ohio State and Michigan State ― for the most part they can get on the field with most teams and you can see that their speed is pretty comparable to what people see week in and week out in the SEC."
Allen, who has 31 tackles, 9.5 for loss with four sacks, would likely have been a starter for Ohio State this season at end especially after Noah Spence's suspension. "I talked to them," said Allen, a 5-star recruit rated as the No. 16 prospect in the country in the class of 2013.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to Urban Meyer. I told them I wasn't into playing games when I was being recruited. I told them I was going to Alabama and wasn't really interested but thanked them for their support. "Me being born in Alabama, I already knew where I wanted to go. Once Alabama offered me, it was over."
Allen was also sold early on after meeting Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "It was very intense," Allen said. "He's an intense guy for someone who's 5-foot-7, 5-6. He's a real straight-forward guy, no nonsense and that's what I loved about him."
"The sales pitch was basically being an explosive guy on offense, get me the ball in different ways," Jones said. "But it's kinda funny now that I'm on defense so I think that is interesting."
When committing live on television, Jones pulled out an Alabama hat surrounded by family. "It's Alabama. As far as football, you can't get any better than that,"
Jones said in a 2012 story in the Baltimore Sun. "It's the top notch conference in America. My goal since I was a little kid was to make it to the NFL and if I'm going to have a shot at that, I'm going to put myself in the best position to get there."
"I was confident in my team then, and I am confident in them now and I am really glad that we get to play them," Spencer said Sunday. "Obviously being a competitor and the type of guy that I am, I want to play the best team in the country and I want to play the best athletes in the country and I want to play the best coached team in the country.
"And the fact that we're in the playoffs getting a chance to play the best teams in the country, every athlete, that's all they can wish for. I am confident in my guys and I think that we'll do well."
"It's great to have another opinion ― someone else who's done it," Smart said Sunday. "Any time you bring new blood to the staff, it's always good to have a guy who's kind of done it a different way. He always gives us the way he's done it and we can take it or leave it, but he gives you new ideas, fresh ideas. He's new energy. He's fun to be around. The kids really like him. He's a player's coach and those guys enjoy it."
Kiffin also brings a bit of levity to the Alabama staff meetings.
"Absolutely," Smart said. "Can you imagine? I'll say this, he's not afraid to speak his mind. That or he hasn't learned yet."
But open discussion is encouraged by Nick Saban, Smart said. "He asks us questions all the time," Smart said. "He's ultimately going to make the decision. There's one commander and chief, but he wants input. That's why he hires a staff. He puts a lot of thought into a lot of things people don't even think about."
Asked if Florida State would test Oregon's passing defense with star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sidelined by a torn ACL, Winston said the Seminoles would pass on anyone -- even Seattle Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
Jim Harbaugh is expected to be introduced as Michigan's next football coach at the school's men's basketball game on Tuesday, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.
Sugar Bowl practice footage
SONG OF THE DAY
Andy Mineo - You Can't Stop Me
Risk it all, I take the hate
This the winning team, get the gatorade
IMAGE OF THE DAY
New Year's is upon us. Time to turn that life around...