THE LEAD

Devin Smith has learned patience.

Not that Smith is in a New Year’s Day mood to display it too much Thursday night.

Still, he’s learned to accept the games in which he catches a team-high four passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns, like he did during the Big Ten Championship Game, while realizing other outings will mirror his one-catch performance earlier in the season against Penn State.

While Smith, a senior, said he didn’t consider leaving the program, he said he did have his doubts “if I was going to ... keep playing.”

He then had a conversation with his parents, relying on their wisdom to guide his steps off the field. Smith enters the semifinal with 30 catches for 799 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He’s averaging 61.5 receiving yards per game.

“During the season, you know how it was going; it was up and down,” Smith said of his offensive opportunities. “One game get a couple of catches, another game get one. I was like, ‘Really, is this something I want to keep doing if it’s going to be like this?’

“And I just told myself I just gotta get through it, and I did.”

Smith will team with an inexperienced quarterback in Cardale Jones — injuries have transformed him from third string entering the season to starter, with one career start — to face Alabama’s defense, which has held opposing offenses to 223.8 passing yards per game (11.7 per catch).

Ohio State, meanwhile, is averaging 246.8 yards per game. Jones, though is starting his second game of the season, is coming off a 257-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

Alabama’s defense may be formidable, but it’s not unbeatable.

The Tide allowed a season-high 206 receiving yards this season to Auburn’s Sammie Coates. He also had two touchdowns.

Also, two receivers caught nine passes against the Tide: West Virginia’s Kevin White; and Western Carolina’s Karnorris Benson.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Michael Bennett. While defensive end Joey Bosa leads Ohio State’s defense with 13½ sacks, defensive tackle Bennett has four of his six sacks in the past three games, five in the past four.

Bennett, listed at 6-foot-2, 288 pounds, had two sacks against Wisconsin.

QUOTABLE

“Hopefully we’re just going to try to go at it consistently the whole game. We saw some games where D lines start off well and slowly get worn down.”

Joey Bosa, on Alabama offense’s ability to wear down defenses

DID YOU KNOW?

Urban Meyer-coached teams are 7-2 all-time in bowl games, including 4-1 in BCS bowl games.

With Florida, Meyer won national championship games after the 2006 and 2008 seasons.

LAGNIAPPE

Jones said Alabama’s defense doesn’t try to “trick” offenses. Instead, it’s good enough to “line up and play football and beat you.” ... This season, Ohio State has scored nearly as many points off turnovers (243) as opponents have scored overall against them (275). Meyer, himself a former Southeastern Conference coach, agreed with a reporter that there is a difference in speed and talent — top to bottom — between the SEC as opposed to the rest of college football, but he added, “I think the gap’s closing a little bit.”

-- Gary Estwick