Photo courtesy of Ohio State athletics
A champion will be crowned on Monday night when Alabama and Ohio State meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Alabama enters as the widely-regarded favorite after a 31-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. However, the story is the opponent — Ohio State. As an underdog, the Buckeyes took down Clemson convincingly, 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl.
The Crimson Tide are currently 9.5-point favorites, with a over/under of 75.5; that is a record for a college football championship game.
Can Ohio State Win as Underdog Again?
Ohio State proved that it belonged in the College Football Playoff after the impressive win over Clemson. Now, it will have to take down perhaps one of the most talented rosters in playoff history in Alabama.
Ohio State also faces external factors. The team had several COVID-19 tests last week. However, the Buckeyes were able to clear through the final round of testing before heading to Miami.
The final inactive list hasn’t been released yet, but due to the already shaken-down roster the Buckeyes have dealt with over the past several weeks, they will need all hands on deck against the best team in college football
The Crimson Tide defense shut down Notre Dame’s offense, holding the Fight Irish to less than five yards per play. Although the scoreboard may not reflect it, the game was all but over by halftime.
Obviously, quarterback Justin Fields and the Buckeyes are a much more dangerous offense than Ian Book and Notre Dame, but there has to be some cause for concern after the vicious shot he took to the ribs during the Clemson game. Fields returned, and put on a stellar performance, throwing for for 385 yards and six touchdowns. Yet, he was also in noticeable pain throughout the remainder of the game.
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Could there be lingering effects for Fields in a game where the Buckeye offense is going to have to score touchdowns on almost every possession to keep up? That will be something to keep an eye on.
Crimson Tide linebackers Christian Harris and Dylan Moses have been outstanding and should be able to limit Buckeye running back Trey Sermon from ripping off as many chunk plays as he did in his past two games. Sermon has put up an astounding 524 yards in wins over Clemson and Northwestern.
Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain will be the best player in the secondary on either side. He’ll be tasked with shadowing Buckeye receiver Chris Olave, who had six catches for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win over Clemson.
Ohio State’s offense is incredible, and head coach Ryan Day will draw up a strong game plan for the offense to put a big number up on the scoreboard. It’s tough however, to expect an encore from the Sugar Bowl against a much better Alabama team.
Mac Jones’ Offense Should Dominate
Although Clemson was forced to become pass-heavy very early in the Sugar Bowl, quarterback Trevor Lawrence was able to throw for 400 yards in the loss. On display throughout this season, the Ohio State secondary is a true weakness. Even though All-American Shaun Wade resides there, it will be tough for Ohio State to match up with the best skill players in the nation.
Alabama posts the best receiving corps in the country and that unit gets even more dangerous if Jaylen Waddle is able to play after suffering a fractured ankle earlier in the season. Ohio State is susceptible to getting beat deep. Adding Waddle back into the Alabama passing game will be a nightmare for the Buckeyes’ defense.
Behind an offensive line that opened up holes for running back Najee Harris and the backfield to pick up more than five yards a carry this season, expect Alabama to find more success than Clemson did running the ball.
However, Alabama will use its passing game to do the heavy lifting. As mentioned above, Ohio State’s secondary is the worst position group on the field. The Crimson Tide should have no issue taking advantage.
Quarterback Mac Jones is completing 77% of his passes and Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith has over 1,600 yards receiving yards. The Buckeye secondary is allowing quarterbacks to complete over 63% of its passes — tied for 93rd in the country. Alabama has big-play capability on every snap, and Ohio State won’t be able to deter its efficiency.
Points, Points, and Some More Points
Take the over in this game. The Crimson Tide were held to a season-low 31 against Notre Dame in a game where the offense saw limited possessions due to Notre Dame’s successful plan to chew clock and keeping the Tide’s offense on the sideline.
This Ohio State offense is not like the Irish, though. Day is an amazing coach and will have the Buckeyes ready to score. The only way that the Buckeyes win is to go blow-for-blow with Alabama’s offense and have the ball on the final possession of the game.
There won’t be many stops in this one on either side. However, we’re going to against the grain and take Ohio State to pull off one of the biggest upsets in title game history. But don’t expect the Buckeyes to walk over the Tide by any means.
Take the Buckeyes +9.5 and the over.
Stephen Mistovich: 45-38, Ohio State
Greg Harvey: 45-41, Alabama
Kevin Fielder: 43-30, Alabama
Carter Hill: 45-31, Alabama
Reese Becker: 52-31, Ohio State.
FQ Nebraska: 44-37, Ohio State.
Mike Ferguson: 49-31, Alabama.