National Championship Preview: Alabama vs. Ohio State

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After months of continuous preoccupation and schedule changes due to COVID-19, the NCAA can finally rest, as the national championship game draws near.

The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will travel to Miami to duke it out for another chance to hoist the College Football Playoff Trophy. The Crimson Tide has won two championships compared to the Buckeyes’ lone national title in the playoff era.

The last time these two teams met was the 2015 Sugar Bowl in the inaugural year for the College Football Playoff. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes upset No. 1 Alabama 42-35, all thanks to a 230-yard, two-touchdown performance by running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The two teams look different nowadays, but the talent level is still at an all-time high for both blue bloods, ranging from offense to defense. Both fanbases and the rest of the college football world should expect a dog fight for the title.

Starting with Alabama, which is led by head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide has been regarded as one of the top offenses in the nation. They’ve torn up opposing defenses,  averaging 48.2 points and over 500 total yards per game, most of them coming through the air.

The success of the Crimson Tide passing game is due in part to wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who catches passes from quarterback and Heisman finalist Mac Jones. That combination has been successful all season, and it certainly shined in the semifinal win over Notre Dame, in which Smith torched the secondary for three touchdowns and 130 yards.

Fans have seen Saban’s team rule the air raid, but the ground game has also been a problem for opposing front sevens. Running back Najee Harris has many aspects to his game, whether it’s hurdling over defenders or blazing past the defensive line. He’s a multidimensional runner and another huge offensive threat.

Harris’ success comes with an offensive line ready to take on any defensive scheme. With the Crimson Tide’s blockers providing constant protection in the passing game and ground game, defenses have no choice but to pick their poison.

As for the Alabama defense, the Crimson Tide have allowed 358 total yards per game but are especially stingy in the run game, allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per contest. Considering the Crimson Tide’s opponent Monday night, this may aid in their success.

Ohio State finally got the monkey off its back with a surprising win over Clemson 49-28. This win is especially sweet for the Buckeyes fan base considering last year’s loss to Clemson in the 2019 semifinal game.

For the offense, it starts with quarterback Justin Fields. Fields managed to put up 385 yards and six touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl semifinal while dealing with an injury to his midsection given to him by Clemson linebacker James Skalski in the first half.

Along with Fields’ star performance, running back Trey Sermon picked up where he left off in the Big Ten championship game by putting on a show in the playoff semifinal. Sermon racked up 193 yards on 31 carries and added one touchdown to the score sheet.

The defense came up clutch in its opportunity to stop the generational quarterback talent Trevor Lawrence, forcing three fumbles and snagging one interception.

Even in their shining moments, the defense had its low points, specifically defensive back Shaun Wade. Wade had the semifinal game circled on his calendar ever since he was ejected for targeting in last year’s meeting. But in the return, his matchup made great plays and made him look silly when breaking into routes. As the top defensive back on the team, Wade needs to find a way to contain the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner.

Whatever the result, there’s no doubt that the national championship will buy the attention of sports fans across the nation. Expect some spectacular plays made from both teams and a battle to the end.

Prediction: Alabama 49, Ohio State State 37

 

Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.