Ohio State vs Alabama: A National Championship Preview
On January 11, the 2020 college football season will culminate with Ohio State (7-0) vs Alabama (12-0) in the CFP National Championship Game in Miami, Florida.
These are two blue-bloods of college football. Coming into this game, Ohio State has a record of 106-10 since 2012, 23-1 in 3 years with Ryan Day as the head coach.
The Crimson Tide comes in boasting a record of 169-23 record under Nick Saban, five national championships, and an 88% winning percentage.
A Good Matchup, on Paper or Otherwise
The weapons of Ohio State, aka QB Justin Fields, RB Trey Sermon, and WR’s Chris Olave and Garret Wilson are a good match against Alabama’s weapons, affectionately known as QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris, and WR Devonta Smith.
The Buckeyes are the only College Football Playoff team that has the speed on the perimeter to match up with The Crimson Tide.
Statistically, both teams are pretty evenly matched, with just a slight edge given to one team or the other in certain categories.
- 5th in FBS in Total Offense= 543 yards/game
- 2nd in Scoring Offense= 49 points/game
- 5th in FBS in Passing Offense=354 yards/game
- Yards per play=7.83
- 3rd down conversion pct.=59%
- Red Zone conversion pct.=92%
- Turnover Margin= +10
- Rushing Defense= 107 yards/game
- Scoring Defense= 19 points/game
- 6th in the FBS in Total Offense= 529 yards/game
- 4th in the FBS in Rushing Offense= 275 yards/game
- 9th in the FBS in Scoring Offense= 42 points/game
- Yards per play= 7.28
- 3rd down conversion pct.= 51%
- Red Zone Offense= 76%
- Turnover Margin= +8
- Rushing Defense= 96 yards/game
- Scoring Defense= 21 points/game
The History of Ohio State vs Alabama
These teams have met only four times in history, with Alabama holding a 3-1 record:
- 1978 Sugar Bowl: Alabama 35 – Ohio State 6
- 1986:Alabama 16 – Ohio State 10
- 1995 Citrus Bowl: Alabama 24 – Ohio State 17
- 2015 CFP Semifinal: Ohio State 42 – Alabama 35
The Crimson Tide Offense
Yes, the Alabama players mentioned above are phenomenal players. The stats above prove they can score at will. But a very important aspect of this offense is OC Steve Sarkisian, the 2020 Broyles Award winner for the top assistant coach in college football. His development this season of Mac Jones as a quarterback and also his play-calling have resulted in this offense setting school records for yards per game and points per game, and Jones ranking #3 in the FBS in passing yards per game (339 yards/game).
Jones has thrown 20 touchdown passes and only two INTs in his last six games.
Alabama is the only team in FBS history with a running back and a wide receiver both with 20+ touchdowns.
Both Jones and Smith are Heisman Trophy finalists.
Sarkisian will coach the offense for the last time in the title game in Miami. He has been hired as the new head coach at Texas, taking over for Tom Herman who was let go after a 7-3 season.
How They Got Here
Ohio State used the 29-23 loss to Clemson in the 2019 CFP semifinal game as motivation to get back to the playoff party in 2020. After the cancellation of the college football season by the Big Ten Conference because of the coronavirus pandemic, Big Ten players, led by Ohio State’s Justin Fields, lobbied for the Commissioner of the Big Ten (Kevin Warren) to reinstate the season.
After further review, Warren relented and the powers that be instituted an 8-game schedule with strict COVID-19 testing protocols.
In the end, the Buckeyes played only five regular-season games. Those strict COVID-19 protocols canceled three of their games. So, with a 5-0 record, those same powers that be deemed Ohio State eligible to play in the conference championship game. Other teams in the conference managed to play more games. Luck of the draw in the COVID world we now live in.
Ohio State beat Northwestern 22-10, behind the record-setting rushing performance of Sermon, to keep the Buckeyes playoff hopes alive. When the CFP final rankings came out, Ohio State made the cut with a 6-0 record. Alabama played 11 games. Notre Dame=11 games, and Clemson=11 games.
Ohio State vs Clemson-Sugar Bowl CFP Semifinal
With the bad taste of a 29-23 loss to Clemson in 2019 still in their mouth, the Buckeyes came into the game as a team possessed. They wanted to dominate the Tigers and make a statement that they belonged in the college football playoff.
They did just that.
- Justin Fields: 6 TD passes to three different receivers.
- Trey Sermon: 193 yards and a TD, averaged 6 yards per rush.
- OSU defense: held Clemson to just 44 yards rushing.
- QB Trevor Lawrence: 400 yards passing, 2 TDs, one INT.
- Final score: Ohio State 49 – Clemson 28
Alabama vs Notre Dame-Rose Bowl CFP Semifinal
The Granddaddy of them all was moved to Jerry’s World, aka AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX due to COVID-19 restrictions in California.
The Fighting Irish were held scoreless in the 1st and 3rd quarters.
The Crimson Tide offense rolled on as usual:
- Mac Jones was 25/30 for 297 yards and 4 TDs, with zero INTs.
- Najee Harris rushed for 125 yards, 0 TDs.
- Devonta Smith caught 7 passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns, setting a school record for TD catches in a bowl game and tying the Rose Bowl record.
- Converted 6 of 10 plays on 3rd down.
Ohio State vs Alabama: Should be a Great Game
As of this writing, Alabama is an 8 point favorite over the Buckeyes. That betting line is sure to move a lot during the next week leading up to kickoff. Both teams are extremely talented and very well-coached.
Both teams have been here before, but the Crimson Tide has been here more times. This will be Alabama’s fifth national championship game appearance in the last seven years, and they are seeking their third title in the CFP era.
Alabama has the experience and a swagger to them. Ohio State has a chip on its shoulder and is highly motivated.
Who wants it more? We will find out on January 11.
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Material for this article sourced from ESPN.com, and cfbstats.com.