No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State will go head-to-head on Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium in the College Football Playoff National Championship — a game which has the potential to be one of the most intriguing matchups we’ve seen in the title game recent memory. The Crimson Tide ran roughshod through the SEC en route to the conference title, while the undefeated Buckeyes needed only six games to claim their conference crown and earn a berth in the CFP.
OSU Football vs Alabama
That was where things got really interesting. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields exploded vs. No. 2 Clemson with 385 yards passing and six touchdown tosses despite suffering a rib injury late in the second quarter that had the junior wincing in pain throughout the second half. Speaking of explosions, running back Trey Sermon has rushed for 636 yards and four touchdowns over the last three games, and he has benefitted from an offensive line that has come of age as the Buckeyes found their offensive identity. The defense showed out against the Tigers, which was the most important development of the Sugar Bowl. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was harassed all night, including up the middle — a quarterback’s worst nightmare.
The big story in Columbus, Ohio, over the last week has involved player availability. All eyes have been on Fields’ ribs, and coach Ryan Day insists that his superstar will be ready to go on Monday night. The Buckeyes have also been dealing with a COVID-19 issue that has brought up the possibility of delaying the game until Jan. 18.
Alabama, led by Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith and star quarterback Mac Jones, had no issue with No. 4 Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. The offense racked up 7.95 yards per play thanks to brilliant play-calling from offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. His ability to scheme to get his playmakers — including running back Najee Harris — the ball in space has been stellar all season no matter what the opposing defense is giving them. There might be a small concern that Sarkisian’s new role as Texas coach could become a distraction, but Alabama coach Nick Saban has plenty of experience preparing for big games with assistants who are set for bigger roles elsewhere.
It’ll be fascinating to see how Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding scheme up a plan to slow down Fields. The dual-threat star found plenty of success through the air with wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, and he also got the tight ends involved more than they have been all year.
So how does this incredibly difficult season finish up on Monday in these two teams first meeting in seven years? Alabama is a sizable favorite over Ohio State with a large point total set. However, the Buckeyes are great as an underdog — as we saw in the semifinal matchup against Clemson. Let’s take a closer look at how you can attack every angle available for this game.