What to Watch For in Monday’s National Championship Game Between Ohio State and Alabama

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I realize that this being the day off might invoke a feeling of anxiousness or concern over a game which, according to Vegas, has a clear winner and loser. There is no reason to believe Ohio State can match up against the consensus number one team in the nation, Alabama. The TIde are better in all three phases, Alabama is on a different level athletically, Saban is the greatest coach in college football history, Covid concerns for Ohio State. So why did this take me so long to write?

I truly cant shake the feeling of how well Ohio State played against a Trevor Lawrence led Clemson Tiger team that seemed to have the healthiest roster they have had all year long. Couple that with the fact that Justin Fields got popped in the ribs in the second quarter and was unsure if he could play through the pain for the 2nd half. He only had 6 touchdowns, 385 yards in the air, and 42 yards on the ground. Trey Sermon did his best to help Fields with 193 yards rushing, but Fields looked like a man on a mission. I dont know if he heard all the talk about all of the talk of him being the 3rd best quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft, or he was looking to make amends for his poor performance against Northwestern, but he put his team ( and the BIG 10 conference) on his back.

The other feeling I am not sure I can figure out is how good Ohio States defense is. They forced Clemson into 5 punts (3 and outs), 3 turnovers, and 44 yards rushing yards. This offense averaged 43.5 points per game. This team averaged 153 rushing yards per game. This team beat Notre Dame by more than Alabama (please do not read too much into this point, but it exists on the internet.). Clemson has the likely number one pick in the upcoming draft. The Ohio State defense came out of nowhere and proved they are not afraid of the big names.

This Ohio State defense isn’t nearly as talented as it was last year, but I think its matured greatly since the last time they played Clemson. Yeah the star power isn’t there like Chase Young and Jeff Okudah were last season, but they seem to just know where to be and how to disrupt without getting to the quarterback. Lawrence never really seemed comfortable especially with Travis Etienne unable to gain any traction in the run game. I know the stars are on the offensive side, but the defense is the reason the Buckeyes won the BIG 10 championship game. This team recovered 10 fumbles and had 7 interceptions in 7 games this season. Against any other team, Ohio State would be an exceptional candidate to win the national championship. But they have to play Alabama.

If you are a non-believer in how good the Crimson Tide are this year, you need to go find a TV right now and watch them put a number on Texas A&M. Please go watch them put up video game numbers against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Go look at the awards on the offense from the line to the skill players. That’s not by accident. According to 24/7 sports, this is the second best recruiting class of all time by total value. Guys like Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, Dylan Moses, and LaBryan Ray are all seniors and former highly rated 5 start recruits. Mac Jones is a redshirt junior also from this class. I havent even mentioned Devonta Smith who just won the Heisman and every other award he was eligible for. This class was not just great, it was historic. This class just keeps producing on both sides of the ball.

Nick Saban used to make a habit of proving you could win with a pro style offense and playing amazing defense at every level. Then Saban got smacked in the mouth by Deshawn Watson and showed him that football is evolving and becoming quarterback driven similar to the NFL. What does Saban do, brings in Tua Tagovailoa in the 2017 class and wins a National Championship right away. The luck faded the next year and LSU went on to beat down everyone and Tua went to the draft.

The final major piece of the recruiting class was a little known gunslinger out of Jacksonville by the name of Mac Jones. He waited for Jalen and Tua to have their spotlight for three years and ceased his opportunity to the tune of 4036 passing yards and 36 touchdowns. Jones has proven a mastery for the offense and just knows his receivers like the the back of his hand. Jaylyn Waddle went down with an injury early in the season and Jones didn’t miss a beat. The only thing that did miss was Waddles opportunity to have the kind of success and accolades his teammate was able to accomplish this year.

Yes, if you have read all the way to this point in this article and had no idea Devonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy as a wide receiver, then I am not 100% sure what you think this is about. Smith could not have had a crazier ride to this point of his young career. He was the guy that made the catch in the National Championship game to beat Georgia. He was gonna be the next 2nd or Slot receiver that would cost coaches multiple nights of sleep. Once Waddle went down, there was concern on if this offense could still be as explosive. Well, hope there wasn’t any money lost because Alabama seemed to get faster and tougher to defend. Smith, the biggest beneficiary, came out of this season 1641 yards on 105 receptions and 20 tds so far this year. He is a monster at 175 lbs. He runs routes with razor precision while running a 4.3 40. He’s 6’1, but has the catch radius of a garage door. He has had a special season and has earned award he has received and he might have a massive game against Shaun Wade and the Buckeye secondary.

Listen, all of the hate on Alabama’s defense this has a little warrant with plenty of misconceptions. Good news: Patrick Surtain is a shutdown number one corner who will be assigned to Chris Olvae most of the game. Bad news: Matt Corral and Kyle Trask carved up the rest of the secondary and gave up almost 100 points in those two games. Good news: They averaged nearly 3 sacks a game and have 4 defensive touchdowns this year. Bad news: Quarterbacks who are good on their feet has given Saban fits over the last decade. Good news: Dylan Moses is the best linebacker in the SEC. Bad News: Trey Sermon is facing a defense allowing 110 yards per game rushing. Good news: Justin Fields is not 100% Bad News: Fields might be playing his best ball.

Ok, I get it. That looked like me flip flopping, talking my way into and out of things. Honestly, this game got a lot tougher to call right after their previous games ended. Saban took his foot off the throat a little bit and Ryan Day put up a number. Justin Fields looked like a day one NFL starter, but how do those ribs feel a week and a half later? Can Trey Sermon stay hot? Does Alabama come out slow and get down 14? All of these questions have run through my mind all week long. It has been a long process to get to this point, but I am finally ready to decide on my winner for the game. After much thought, I cannot go against how dominant Alabama has been. There is no defense that can hold this team and I believe they can make enough stops to make it comfortable.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read this. Feel free to like and leave a comment. Happy to discuss anything about the article or your opinions there.

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