Alabama vs. Ohio State: Positional Breakdown

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After a drama-filled season, we have reached the moment we have all been waiting for: the national championship. The matchup features the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Alabama got to the championship by going 11-0 in the regular season and defeating No. 4 Notre Dame 31-14 in the semifinals. Ohio State ended up in the championship after going just 6-0 in the regular season and dominating Clemson in the semifinals, winning 49-28.

Let’s take a look at how these teams match up against each other by examining who has the edge at each position.

Quarterback

Mac Jones has been excellent this season for the Crimson Tide. He passed for 4,036 yards, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Jones also completed 77% of his passes and finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Justin Fields has been equally dominant this season, as he has passed for 1,906 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in just seven games. He has also added 316 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

Advantage: Even

Running Back

Najee Harris has been a beast for the Crimson Tide this season, rushing for 1,387 yards and 24 touchdowns. Harris also added 36 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting.

Ohio State’s running game has had its struggles this season, but Trey Sermon has shined as of late, rushing for 636 yards and four touchdowns total in the Buckeyes’ previous three matchups. Sermon had a school record 331 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship. 

Advantage: Alabama

Receivers

Alabama is called WRU for its ability to produce high-quality receivers year after year, and this season is no different. Heisman winner DeVonta Smith has been electric all season with 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Star receiver Jaylen Waddle fractured his ankle early in the season, but he is trending toward being able to play in this game. Waddle has been great when healthy, registering 25 catches for 557 yards and four touchdowns.

As for the Buckeyes, they have a two-headed monster in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Wilson has been great this season, racking up 673 yards and five touchdowns on 40 catches.

As for Olave, the Buckeyes offense is dramatically worse when he is out of the lineup, as seen in the Big Ten championship game where the passing offense struggled. This season, he has 42 catches for 660 yards and seven touchdowns.

Advantage: Alabama

Offensive Line

The Alabama offensive line has been arguably the best unit in all of college football, led by tackles Alex Leatherwood and Evan Neal.

Ohio State’s offensive line has been solid this year, led by guard Wyatt Davis. However, it does not compare to the Tide’s absolutely dominant protection unit.

Advantage: Alabama

Defensive Line

The weak spot on the Alabama defense is its defensive line, though Christian Barmore has been great this season, recording 7 ½ tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Ohio State has a great defensive line, led by Jonathan Cooper and Tommy Togiai. Cooper has 3 ½ tackles for loss and 3 ½ sacks, while Togiai has recorded 4 ½ tackles for loss and three sacks.

Advantage: Ohio State

Linebackers

Alabama has one of the best linebacking corps in the country. It features Will Anderson Jr., Christopher Allen and Christian Harris coming off the edge, while Dylan Moses patrols the middle of the field. The Trio of Anderson, Allen and Harris racked up 16 ½ sacks, while Moses tallied 74 tackles and three pass deflections.

Ohio State has a solid linebacking unit led by Pete Werner and Tuff Borland. Werner has 46 tackles and two forced fumbles while Borland has 34 tackles and 3 ½ tackles for loss.

Advantage: Alabama

Secondary

Alabama has a no-fly zone secondary led by Patrick Surtain II, Josh Jobe and Malachi Moore. Surtain is the nation’s best corner, registering 11 pass deflections and one interception. Jobe, meanwhile, has 11 pass deflections, while Moore has six pass deflections and three interceptions. 

The Buckeyes’ secondary has been the weak spot of the defense, as it is prone to allow the big play. Still, it has playmakers like Shaun Wade, who captured the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year award and recorded two interceptions and three pass deflections, while Sevyn Banks recorded seven pass deflections and one interception.

Advantage: Alabama

Kicking

The Crimson Tide have one of the best kickers in the country in Will Reichard. Reichard has made each of his 77 extra points and 13 field goal attempts.

Ohio State has struggled on field goals, making just six of 10 while converting on all 40 extra points.

Advantage: Alabama

Coaching

In this game, we see two of the best coaches in the nation in Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Ryan Day. However, Saban has the edge with his experience, as this will be just Day’s first appearance as head coach in the national title game.

Advantage: Alabama

 

Alex Rocco is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at afr5646@psu.edu.