No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State took care of business in their respective national semifinal matchups and will tee it up at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Jan. 11 for the College Football Playoff National Championship. It’ll be a rematch of their classic Sugar Bowl national semifinal matchup following the 2014 season — the first under the four-team playoff format.
The Crimson Tide are coming off a thorough 31-14 dismantling of No. 3. Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith and quarterback Mac Jones — both Heisman Trophy finalists — led an offense that racked up 437 yards and 7.9 yards per play against a solid Fighting Irish defense. It’ll be the Tide’s fifth national title game appearance over the last six years.
The Buckeyes will be making their first title game appearance since they topped Alabama in the semifinal and Oregon in the title game after the 2014 season. The emphatic 49-28 win over No. 2 Clemson was led by quarterback Justin Fields and his Sugar Bowl-record six passing touchdowns.
No. 1 Alabama (12-0), Rose Bowl champion
The beauty of this year’s Alabama squad is that it can win in virtually every possible way. Notre Dame chose to sit back and play a lot of zone, which allowed Jones to check down quite a bit and allow his play-makers to get yards after catches. If Ohio State chooses to play tight and take that away, it’ll open things up for Smith and John Metchie III to get deep and produce the explosive plays that have become synonymous with Tide football. The loss of center Landon Dickerson didn’t seem to be much of an issue against the Irish, but expect Ohio State to dial up pressure in a variety of ways to test an Alabama offensive line that is up for the Joe Moore Award given to the nation’s top OL unit.
Alabama’s defense has become more of a force as the season has progressed. It allowed just 3.7 yards per rush to Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl, which prevented quarterback Ian Book from working off of play-action — a staple of the Irish offense. Coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding have done a tremendous job of generating pressure in a variety of ways, which has allowed the offense to dictate its high-octane style to opponents.
No. 3 Ohio State (7-0), Sugar Bowl champion
It’s fair to say that the Buckeyes took the controversy about its CFP worth personally. The dismantling of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl was as emphatic as any Ohio State big-game win since the 2014 title game. Quarterback Justin Fields hurt his midsection midway through the second quarter, but it didn’t seem to faze the junior dual-threat star. He was able to move in the pocket and deliver strikes deep downfield throughout the game, and it’s fair to assume that he should be good to go 11 days from now. The return of a healthy Chris Olave made a big difference for the Buckeyes, who now have a trio of offensive weapons in Olave, fellow WR Garrett Wilson and running back Trey Sermon.
The Buckeyes found their identity in Game 7 of the 2020 season — just in time for the natty in Game 8 … but what about that defense? Lawrence and the Tigers did move up and down the field on Friday, which doesn’t bode well against an Alabama team that is the most dangerous offense in college football. Styles make fights, though. Ohio State’s style should create quite the fight next Monday night in South Florida.
Alabama vs. Ohio State early pick, predictions
It’s one thing to debate Ohio State’s resume, but it’s another to debate it’s overall title worthiness. They proved that they’re title-worthy against Clemson and will finish off a title run against Alabama. The Buckeyes offensive line has grown up throughout the season, and it will give Fields plenty of time to do his work against the Tide defense. That defense has historically struggled against mobile quarterbacks operating out of tempo-based systems. See: Ole Miss earlier this year. There will be points-a-plenty in Hard Rock Stadium with Fields avenging last season’s playoff disappointment by claiming college football’s ultimate prize in what should be his final game before moving on to the NFL. Pick: Ohio State +7