College football: Last Ohio State-Alabama game was a classic

By Jim Naveau -

Ohio State and Alabama will be playing for only the fifth time in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday night.

Undoubtedly, the most memorable game in the series for Ohio State fans is the Buckeyes’ 42-35 win over the Crimson Tide in a College Football Playoff semifinal on their way to the 2014 national championship.

The first time the two teams played against each other was in the 1978 Sugar Bowl.

To say “only” the fifth time might be a little misleading, though. OSU’s five games against Alabama are more than it has played against Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and Miami and only one game fewer than it has played against Notre Dame.

Ohio State and Alabama have scheduled a home and home series in 2027 in Columbus and in 2028 in Tuscaloosa.

Here is a look at the four times OSU and Alabama have matched up in the past:

2015 Sugar Bowl

(2014 season)

Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

This game possibly is remembered more vividly by Ohio State fans than the 42-20 national championship win over Oregon 11 days later.

OSU started fast, moving up and down the field offensively but found itself down 21-6 after settling for field goals twice and turning the ball over two times by the middle of the second quarter.

But one of the most memorable plays of Ohio State’s national championship run brought the Buckeyes within one point at halftime. Wide receiver Evan Spencer threw a touchdown pass to OSU’s No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas, who got one foot in bounds in the end zone for a touchdown.

Ezekiel Elliott’s 85-yard touchdown run, an equally memorable play, gave Ohio State a 42-28 lead with 3:24 left in the game. There were other huge plays, like defensive end Steve Miller intercepting a pass and going 41 yards for a touchdown, and like Spencer’s finger tip recovery of an onside kick after Alabama scored to make it 42-35.

And, of course, this was the second of three huge wins for the Buckeyes with No. 3 quarterback Cardale Jones playing like a No. 1 QB.

1995 Citrus Bowl

(1994 season)

Alabama 24, Ohio State 17

Ohio State was disappointed at the Citrus Bowl three times in four years in the 1990s, losing to Georgia in the 1992 season, Alabama in the 1994 season and to Tennessee in the 1995 season.

No. 6 Alabama (12-1) was favored over the No. 13 Buckeyes (9-4), who were nonetheless full of optimism coming off a 22-6 win over Michigan. That was the first win over the Wolverines by a John Cooper coached OSU team after going 0-5-1 against them in his first six seasons in Columbus.

Alabama won the game on a 50-yard touchdown pass in the final minute.

The game was delayed for nearly five minutes in the first quarter when a dog belonging to a family in the Orlando, Fla., neighborhood around the Citrus Bowl wandered on to the field and eluded repeated attempts to catch him.

1986 Kickoff Classic

Alabama 16, Ohio State 10

Alabama came into the game ranked No. 5 in the preseason and Ohio State was No. 9. Both teams finished the season with a 10-3 record.

The game went on as scheduled even though Alabama defensive tackle Willie Ryles had died three days earlier of a blood clot in his brain after collapsing during a practice. Another Alabama player had died in a car accident in April.

Alabama scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to pull ahead and Ohio State missed on a possible touchdown throw to Cris Carter in the end zone on its final play. Urban Meyer was one of Ohio State’s graduate assistants that season.

1978 Sugar Bowl

(1977 season)

Alabama 35, Ohio State 6

No. 3-ranked Alabama (10-1) had no problem with No. 9 Ohio State (9-2) in OSU’s first trip to the Sugar Bowl. It was the only time legends Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant coached against each other.

One of the stars for Alabama was future Cleveland Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome. He had a fairly quiet day when he caught two passes — one for 29 yards and the other for 6 yards.

Ohio State’s only touchdown came on a 38-yard pass from Rod Gerald to Jim Harrell in the fourth quarter.

By Jim Naveau

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