National Championship preview: Ohio State vs. Alabama
The College Football Playoff National Championship is finally here.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are considered to be the best team by most, but the Ohio State Buckeyes shocked the world in their 49-28 rout of Clemson in the playoff semifinals.
Bama handled their business, too, but most people saw a demolition of Notre Dame coming before the opening kickoff of that game considering the Crimson Tide is loaded Heisman Trophy finalists all over the field and a defense that has improved each and every week of the season.
First, let’s see how we got to this point, even during the crazy year that was 2020.
How we got here
No one knew if there was even going to be a National Championship or even a season a few months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, teams made their voices heard that they wanted to play. One of those young men that fought for a season was Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields.
While Fields has been impressive this year, he showed out when it really mattered against Clemson. It is reasonable to think that he is fighting extra hard as one of the players that helped the Big 10 Conference even have a season.
Generally, there is a consensus out there that Ohio State only having played eight games doesn’t give them a right to even be playing in this game. Fans of the Buckeyes will argue that after the win over Clemson, they do deserve it.
Yet, the argument is not over the talent of the team at all.
Football seasons are long and challenging for a team. There have been more injuries, fatigue and plays called for the Tide. So, while Ohio State’s team is fresh, Bama is the opposite after a 10-game SEC schedule.
Also, play calling goes into the argument because Alabama has had to show everything that they have to stay perfect, while the Buckeyes could still have some tricks up their sleeve.
How Alabama wins
Cliché answers would be too easy here, no matter how easy it would to say “just get off the bus.”
Tide coach Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time, and there is no debate. This year has seemed to mean a little more to him ever since he had to sit out a game due to COVID. Post-game he said he didn’t want to take being on the sidelines for granted anymore.
Saban also hasn’t won a title since 2017, which is a bit of a drought for him.
DeVonta Smith would also be a lazy answer to why the Tide will win. Smith just won the Heisman Trophy and was the most dominant college player in recent memory for any team. Up to this point, he has 1,641 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.
Quarterback Mac Jones is another member of the “big three” at Bama and has put up unbelievable numbers this season. Jones has thrown for over 4,000 yards this year. He has also thrown 36 touchdowns to only four interceptions on the year. That is an impressive ratio already, but consider that two of those were actually tipped passes.
For running back Najee Harris, it has been a quiet season. Not for his play at all, but for the media hype around him. Harris has been loud on the field with over 1,300 rushing yards this season and more touchdowns than Smith.
It is unfortunate that Harris has been overshadowed by the other two aforementioned star players. Yes, it’s understandable why. Yet, Harris can run, catch and truck any player in his path. In case you didn’t know he can also jump over defenders.
The real key to Alabama’s success is the way this team has worked together. Saban has a secret of success, and it is making sure everybody plays their role. Somehow, he convinces all these five-star athletes to not be the star of the team.
If everybody stays focused on the goal ahead and trusts the process, the Tide will get the win today. However, with the season ending and the draft coming up, it is easy to try to show out on the biggest stage. If everyone for Alabama stays grounded and plays as hard as they have all year, they should have no problem with Ohio State.
How Ohio State wins
Ohio State is sick of being told they shouldn’t be here. They are ready to challenge the best team in the country.
The Buckeyes definitely have the talent and resources to get the job done.
Everyone knows who star Fields is, especially considering he has been in the headlines seemingly every week since transferring from Georgia.
Fields has thrown for an unbelievable 1,906 yards this year, as well as 21 touchdowns. He has a chance to hit the 2,000-yard passing mark by the end of this game.
He very well could, but he may be too banged up. Everything needs to be perfect for Ohio State to pull off the upset. One thing that is far from perfect is your star quarterback struggling to walk around after a brutal hit to the abdomen in the playoff game versus Clemson.
Yes, Fields still showed out after the hit, but there was no doubt he was banged up.
Alabama has a strong history of winning, but they also have a recent history of struggling with mobile quarterbacks. Fields is about as mobile as it gets, and if he is somehow back to full strength this week, the Tide defense will have to be ready.
Speaking of defense, Ohio State has a really good one.
Even after losing players like Chase Young to the NFL last year, there are some great players on that side of the ball for OSU. The secondary in particular was impressive against Clemson. This is a secondary that was able to keep star Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence down.
Lawrence, who will most likely go number one in the upcoming NFL Draft, is one of the best mechanical quarterbacks to come through the college ranks in recent history. Yet, the Buckeye defense was able to make him look average in the semifinals.
Monday’s game could turn into a shootout quickly, which Ohio State likely wants to prevent due to the weapons Bama has on offense.
The main key for OSU will be to keep the Bama offense off track. The defense for the Buckeyes has to limit big plays as much as they can, and their offense has to drag out their drives. The goal here should be to keep the ball out of Alabama’s hands as much as possible.
The big game will air on ESPN and elsewhere tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT. Alabama will look to get revenge on the team that defeated them in the semifinals back in the 2015 Sugar Bowl. Ohio State will be going for their second championship in the playoff Era.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.