Predictions for the College Football Playoff championship game between Alabama-Ohio State
Alabama and Ohio State have both reached the College Football Playoff in very different ways.
The Crimson Tide navigated 10 games in the Southeastern Conference before winning their conference title games. There were some minor hiccups along the way with coach Nick Saban testing positive and a close call against Florida. An easy win against Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl put them in their fifth title game in seven seasons of the playoff.
The Buckeyes took a different path. They started almost a month later than Alabama after the Big Ten reversed its decision to cancel the fall season. Three of eight games were called off due to positive COVID-19 concerns, forcing the conference amend its requirement of six games needed to play in its championship game. Through it all, Ohio State won. It rallied past Northwestern to win the Big Ten championship and then blew away Clemson in the semifinal at the Sugar Bowl, despite an injury to Justin Fields.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields looks on before a snap against Clemson during the 2021 Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)
This sets up the first meeting between the schools since 2014 when the Buckeyes beat the Crimson Tide in the playoff semifinal on their way to a national title.
How will this matchup turn out? Our experts offer their predictions.
Ohio State is going to get its yards and get a fair number of points going against an Alabama defense that is hardly of the vintage of earlier Nick Saban teams. But I still don’t think the Buckeyes can score enough to edge the Crimson Tide.
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.
STILL GOING: Saban's retirement seems far away as Alabama thrives
COVID IMPACT: Emotional college football year has been 'incredibly challenging'
The question of whether Ohio State can play at the same level as against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl brings up another question: Would even that be good enough? Without discounting the Buckeyes’ talent and coaching, this game makes you wonder what it would take for Alabama to lose, not Ohio State to win. The Tide are too explosive and too confident to be taken down by OSU. A shootout won’t care Alabama. Score: labama 35, Ohio State 24.
There’s just no way. There’s no way that Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields beats Alabama with ribs that might be broken after getting pummeled in the second quarter of his last game against Clemson. Yes, he beat Clemson in a national semifinal game with the same injury and the help of an injection. But two games in a row, this time against a better team for a full game?
At the same time, if anybody can beat Alabama coach Nick Saban this season, it’s probably Ohio State coach Ryan Day, age 41, wunderkind and winner of 23 of his first 24 games as head coach. But Day needs a quarterback to make his system go, and that quarterback might be limited from running and pained after throwing. Alabama 34, Ohio State 27.
Ohio State's push to play when the Big Ten was shut down was motivated by the realization that this season was a window for the Buckeyes to win a national title. They showed against Clemson how talented they are on both sides of the ball. So what does that mean for Monday night against Alabama? Can Ohio State and Justin Fields produce enough offense against the Crimson Tide defense and find a way to slow down Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith? This is one of Nick Saban's best Alabama teams because its offense is more dominant than before and the defense is good enough to slow teams down. The Buckeyes can keep this close, especially if Fields is healthy enough to be a dual-threat. So unlike the previous two title games, expect some drama in the fourth quarter and a narrow win by the Crimson Tide. Alabama 37, Ohio State 31.
Let me state this up front – Ohio State is good, very good. If the Buckeyes weren’t good, they wouldn’t be here, regardless of how many games they were actually able to play during this most unusual of seasons. And, they’re coming off their most complete performance of the campaign blowing past Clemson, the team many of us alleged experts figured would be in this game.
But Alabama? Alabama is great. Just look how many Crimson Tide players received national honors as the best at their respective positions. Ohio State will, hopefully, make an entertaining game of it. But in the end, the Tide’s plethora of playmakers will just be too much. Alabama 38, Ohio State 24.
Ohio State's performance against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl was certainly good enough to make me reconsider my season-long belief that Alabama would win the national title. But can the Buckeyes do it again? Given how big of a hurdle the Tigers had been for Ohio State, it's understandable why they celebrated their semifinal win like a championship. But recreating the same emotional energy will not be easy, and if this is an up-tempo game the Crimson Tide has a little bit more offensive weaponry. Alabama 45, Ohio State 27.
Source: Read Full Article