Happy Championship Monday, everyone. SEC Network has a little something to get you amped, as if you need it.
Being the national championship game, it has been discussed in every way imaginable. Your final previews:
This Ohio State team had a whole lot of issues to get to this point, but it’s here.
It has the quarterback, it has the momentum, and it has the offense to keep up with Alabama.
Expect a classic to close out a tumultuous 2020 college football season with something amazing that comes down to who has the ball last. It’s a true flip-a-coin pick, but …
Ohio State 45, Alabama 41
“I think there are two terrific offenses, obviously, Alabama versus Ohio State,” Meyer said recently on FOX Sports’ CFB Playoff Preview extravaganza. “I’m going to pick the defenses. To win a game like this, you have to stop these great offenses four to five times. I said that when Florida played Alabama for the SEC Championship. They actually did stop them five times, however three of them were called back. One was a turnover and three were penalties extending drives.
“I’m going to pick the Buckeyes here. I think it’s going to be 38-35, Ohio State will come up with those four to five stops and this will be one of the classic National Championship games in recent history.”
After the unusual and crazy season, college football is due for a good national championship game. The makings are there for it to happen, as both Alabama and Ohio State bring elite quarterbacks, standout offensive lines, and skill talent all over the field to Hard Rock Stadium. Neither defense is dominant, which means timely stops or finding ways to create negative plays or turnovers might decide the game. Expect a high-scoring and entertaining game to cap the 2020-21 college football season.
Justin Fields and the Buckeyes had everything, and I mean everything, roll the right way against Clemson including the biggest non-COVID scare the team has dealt with to this point (Fields’ ribs). Can that effort be duplicated or even threatened?
On that same thought process, has Alabama had that game where everything comes together against a marquee opponent? To me those translate to a small, if existing, gap between the talent on each roster in what should be a relatively high scoring affair. ‘Bama is just too balanced and has been all year long.
Final Score Prediction: Alabama 37, Ohio State 28
Assuming large chunks of the roster aren’t missing, this is an Ohio State team capable of giving Alabama problems. The Crimson Tide have been an absolute juggernaut all season. Their offense is led by three players who finished in the top five of Heisman Trophy voting with the winner in wide receiver DeVonta Smith as well as quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris. They also have one of the best offensive lines in the country, and oh yeah, they might get WR Jaylen Waddle back this week as well. The emergence of Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon (636 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the last three games) has added another dimension to the Ohio State offense and takes a lot of the load off Justin Fields’ shoulders. The Buckeyes should be able to move the ball and score on this Alabama defense. This is why, with the information available now, the Buckeyes cover the spread. Pick: Ohio State +8 | Alabama 38-31 — Tom Fornelli
Alabama’s offense is one of the best we’ve ever seen. The Mac Jones-to-DeVonta Smith connection is basically unstoppable. Najee Harris is arguably the most dynamic running back the Tide have had under Saban. No defense has stopped this group in a meaningful way.
Ohio State’s best game plan might be to grind clock with red-hot runner Trey Sermon, like Notre Dame tried to do when Alabama scored a season low … 31. Justin Fields has incredible talent and showed his toughness vs. Clemson, but if he’s not 100% it’s hard to imagine Ohio State cobbling enough points together against an Alabama defense that, while flawed at times, seems to come up with the big play when it’s needed most. Alabama 38, Ohio State 31.
Some of those links have several predictions, I just picked one for you. Overall I would say that about 70% of the experts are picking Alabama straight up, which is in line with odds to win a game when favored by a touchdown.
So, how will this one play out?
The best case for Alabama is that Ohio State’s secondary, which has been suspect all season and most recently surrendered 400 yards to Trevor Lawrence, proves utterly incapable of slowing Alabama’s aerial attack. Alabama’s Joe Moore award winning offensive line keeps the Ohio State pass rush at bay, and the Tide hit big plays to get up early. This limits Sermon’s impact and forces Fields to play catch up while favorite target Chris Olave is covered capably by Patrick Surtain II.
The matchups seem to favor Alabama overall, as you would expect after the national awards haul. The best case for Ohio State is that Mac Jones struggles a bit on the big stage while Ohio State’s front seven shuts down the run game, allowing the Buckeyes to get up and lean on Sermon. The Buckeyes also have the intangible of motivation after watching Alabama win all that hardware. Can Fields have a Vince Young moment, riding off into the sunset after beating the heavily favored, star-studded #1 team?
Reality is probably somewhere in between, as usual. I keep coming back to the modern game, however, and the team that is most effective throwing the ball usually wins. I trust Alabama’s corners against Ohio State more than the reverse, and Jones has been more consistent than Fields. This is a mature Alabama team, particularly on offense, with grown men leading at every position. They have lit up similar quality defenses to the one they face tonight, and I’m not betting against them.
The Tide finish off the greatest season in college football history by putting it all together for one last ride. Call it 41-27.
Of course, that is merely my opinion. Vote and give us yours in the comments.
What will be the result of Alabama vs. Ohio State?
This poll is closed
Tide rolls, Alabama by 10+
Instant classic, Alabama by 1-9
Ohio State pulls the upset (FLAGGED)
Saban is still teasing everyone on Jaylen Waddle, but the feeling seems to be that he will play.
“He has been able to practice to some degree,” Saban said of Waddle. “I think the biggest challenge is can he sustain in the game, and it’ll be a game-time decision as to whether he thinks he can play and go out there and do his job well enough to contribute to the team, and we won’t know that until we get out there after pregame warmup.”
In addition to Saban, Day was asked how Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has performed in practice after absorbing a big hit in the Buckeyes’ Sugar Bowl semifinal win over Clemson.
“Justin has had a good week of practice,” Day said Sunday. “He’s done a really good job preparing, and I think that’s the thing that he felt like he did a good job going into last game, was just preparing at a high level, and he’s continued to do that this week.”
Malachi Moore, unfortunately, is “very questionable.” That is a concern against Ohio State slot receiver Garrett Wilson, who has 40 catches on the season. LaBryan Ray will apparently be available and his heft may come in handy against the run.
Saban really loves this team, y’all.
Cecil Hurt examines where a win with this game would place Nick historically.
He’s also had to play in an SEC Championship Game before any playoff talk could begin, sometimes in games that were de facto national championships (2008, for instance). So a seventh title under the BCS and CFP models borders on unfathomable.
Does that settle the question? No. But it does mean that, at this point in his career, every game Saban coaches is history of some sort. I’m not sure any coach – not Stagg or Warner, not Rockne or Wilkinson, not Parseghian or Paterno or Bowden, not even Bryant himself – was ever at that point.
The greatest coach? Context matters. The greatest level of championship achievement by a coach, any coach at any time? Saban is already at the top, and another win in 2020, against a great Ohio State team, could only push him higher up the mountain.
Nick is already the greatest, he’s just running up the score at this point.
Mike Locksley spoke about the 2018 QB room that featured Jones along with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa.
“All the things you see with his accuracy were there on the tape when he was evaluated by our staff,” Locksley said. “For Mac, the big thing was the maturity level. He was one of those guys who could not control his emotions early as a young player, whether it be on the scout team or in the locker room. Sometimes he would lose it.
“Alabama was the perfect place for him because it helped him mature. There was no doubt the ability was there.”
Jones is the process personified. He has to win this ring, right?
While we are all justifiably preoccupied with football at the moment, Kristy Curry’s women’s basketball team had a big win yesterday.
The ladies are off to a great start at 10-1 overall, 3-1 in SEC play.
Last, check out this amusing little nugget about the fake punt involving Justin Fields in 2018 that Alabama fans remember so fondly.
Fields was late on the snap, and then quick to give up on the throw, scrambling for a 2-yard gain on the change of possession.
“Thought it was there, and it was there today,” Smart said at the time. “We were going to snap the ball quick. We took too long to snap the ball. They didn’t have a guy covered. We had a guy wide open. We took so long to snap it, that they recognized it and got the guy covered late.”
Indeed, long snapper Nick Moore shared that the play had been worked on specifically for the Tide.
“We’d been practicing that play for two years,” Moore said. “It was designed for Alabama’s punt safe.”
Something tells me that Kirby isn’t thrilled about the kid telling everyone that they had practiced a play for two years, specifically to beat Alabama. Kind of confirms some suspicions, doesn’t it?
Let’s relive that one again along with the rest of Justin Fields’ career snaps vs. Alabama, shall we?
May he have similar success tonight.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.