Written By: Ryan Lippert|@Lippert42
College football fans, this very unusual 2020 season has gone by faster than I ever imagined. After a season full of excitement and surprises, two teams are left standing and will play for the National Championship on Monday night. The Alabama Crimson Tide lived up to their high expectations coming into this season, running the table, capped off by an impressive victory over Notre Dame in the semi-finals. Many people questioned whether their opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes, belonged in the College Football Playoff with a much shorter schedule but they have proven that they deserved to be here. The Buckeyes pulled off an impressive 49-28 upset over the Clemson Tigers to secure their spot in the title game. They will look to do the same against an even better Alabama team. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at this year’s College Football National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes.
Can Alabama’s Offense Be Stopped?
Over the past several seasons in college football, we have seen some very high-powered offenses make their mark on college football history. This Alabama offense is among those special groups. One of the main reasons for this is the surprising breakout year from their junior starting quarterback, Mac Jones. Jones earned himself recognition as a Heisman finalist this season, throwing for 4,036 yards with 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions. While he has been great, it also helps that he had the 2020 Heisman trophy winner, DeVonta Smith, to throw the ball to. Smith put on one of the most impressive seasons by a wide receiver we have ever seen at the collegiate level, finishing with 105 receptions for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns. He will be joined in the passing attack by sophomores John Metchie III and Slade Bolden, along with senior tight end Miller Forristall. They could also get back wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who is listed as a game-time decision and is considered one of the top receivers in this year’s draft class.
This dynamic passing attack will face an Ohio State secondary that has been about average against the pass but has some impressive talent. The Buckeyes have given up 281.1 passing yards per game and 11 total passing touchdowns this season while coming away with seven interceptions. Their secondary is led by junior cornerback Shaun Wade who is looking to prove that he is one of the top corners in this year’s draft as he will be likely matched up with Smith. Wade has two interceptions and three pass breakups on the year. He will be joined in the secondary by junior Sevyn Banks at the other corner with senior Marcus Williamson in the nickel, along with sophomore Marcus Hooker at strong safety and junior Josh Proctor at free safety.
To go along with their impressive passing game, Alabama also has arguably the best running back in college football out of the backfield. Senior Najee Harris has been outstanding this season, running the ball 229 times for 1,387 yards and 24 touchdowns. While he will get most of the work, fellow senior Brian Robinson Jr. will see some occasional carries as well.
Harris will be facing a Buckeyes defense that has been great at stopping the run this season. They have allowed only 89.1 rushing yards per game and eight total rushing touchdowns so far. Their front seven has been led by three talented senior linebackers in Pete Werner, Tuf Borland, and Baron Browning. Werned leads the team with 46 total tackles. In front of them, senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and defensive end Jonathon Cooper are the leaders of the defensive line. They will be joined by two juniors in Tommy Togiai at nose and Tyler Friday at the other end. Promising sophomore Zach Harrison will also be in the rotation at end.
Will Fields Repeat His Semifinal Performance?
This Ohio State offense came into this season with very high expectations this season, especially at the quarterback position. Justin Fields was highly regarded as the number two quarterback in the country behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence coming into the 2020 season. While he has had a very good season statistically with 1,906 passing yards for 21 touchdowns and six interceptions, many experts questioned his decision making and were dropping him on draft boards. However, he stepped up big time and fought through a lot of pain against the Tigers, leading the Buckeyes to a very impressive victory. He will be looking to do the same on Monday night and hope to have a big game from his impressive wide receiver duo in junior Chris Olave and sophomore Garrett Wilson. Olave leads the team with 42 receptions for 660 yards and seven touchdowns while Wilson has 40 catches for 673 yards and five scores of his own. They will be joined in the passing game by freshman Julian Fleming, sophomore Jameson Williams, and two reliable tight ends in senior Luke Farrell and junior Jeremy Ruckert.
Monday night, Fields will be facing a very talented Alabama secondary. The Crimson Tide have allowed 242.92 passing yards per game and 14 total passing touchdowns while coming away with 12 interceptions this season. Their secondary is led by junior cornerback Patrick Surtain II who I believe is the top corner in this year’s draft class. He will be joined by fellow junior Josh Jobe at the other corner with talented sophomore Jordan Battle at strong safety and junior Daniel Wright at free safety. True freshman Malachi Moore will be in the “Star” position.
Along with a talented quarterback and receiver group, the Buckeyes have had a very impressive duo out of the backfield. Sophomore Master Teague III was listed as the starter for a lot of the season but it has been Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon that has stepped up when it matters for the Buckeyes. Sermon had a very impressive game against Clemson, running the ball 31 times for 193 yards and a touchdown. Teague missed that game so it will be interesting to see what his status is for the championship.
This rushing attack will face an Alabama defense that has been about average against the run. The Crimson Tide have allowed 110.3 rushing yards per game and 13 total rushing touchdowns this season. Their front seven is led by a very talented junior linebacker in Dylan Moses. Moses leads the team with 74 total tackles on the season. He will be joined in the linebacker core by true freshman Will Anderson Jr. and junior Christopher Allen on the outside with sophomore Christian Harris on the inside. In front of them, the defensive line will consist of three sophomores in Christian Barmore and Justin Eboigbe at the ends, and DJ Dale at nose. Junior defensive ends LaBryan Ray and Phidarian Mathis will be very involved as well.
After the two semifinal games, there is no doubt in my mind that these are the two best teams in college football this year. Alabama has been my top team all year and Ohio State proved that they belong in this game. This should make for a very exciting and close game for the most part as both teams are filled with NFL level talent. Fields has yet another opportunity to prove himself against a very talented Alabama defense. I see him making some plays to help keep the Buckeyes in this one. Unfortunately, he can’t control what happens on the other side of the ball. This high-powered Alabama offense will prove to be too much for Ohio State’s defense. Smith will win his battle against Wade, capping off his Heisman trophy season on a high note. To add to his performance, if Waddle is somehow able to play, things could get ugly for the Buckeyes’ secondary. Regardless of his status, I have the Crimson Tide pulling away to win this one 35-24 to be crowned the 2020-21 College Football National Champion.