The sports world will be dialed in as one game remains in the college football season. Alabama takes on Ohio State in Miami tonight for a chance to take home national championship number 17 and 8, respectively. Monday will complete the strangest season any of us have ever seen but we can put all of that in the rear view mirror and just focus on X’s and O’s. Sitting here on Monday afternoon, I have spent all week trying to look at how Ohio State can win this game. I’ve been one of the biggest critics in them making the playoffs due to the lack of games played this season. They managed to shut me up last weekend, taking down Trevor Lawrence and a great Clemson team 49-28. This Alabama team is a completely different monster. The Saban era has five national championship teams (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017) and when you put this offense up against those other teams, this might be the best one. Devonta Smith proved everyone wrong, becoming the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard in 1991. He was battling for the award with his quarterback Mac Jones and not too far behind was the guy in the backfield, Najee Harris. If they continue their output from the first twelve games of the season, they will set school records for yards and points per game. One thing to look out for will be Jalen Waddle’s status. He was ruled out for the season in October with a broken ankle but may be able to return for this one. They didn’t miss a beat without him, averaging over 48 points per game in the last eight games but I’m sure Mac Jones won’t turn down having another incredible play maker lining up out wide.
I think the story for this game comes down to Ohio State’s ability to score. You just can’t ask this defense to stop Alabama. Especially with the way Ohio State likes to line up on defense. They love to play one safety deep and trust their corners on the outside. Too much pressure is put on them in my opinion as teams have been able to go over the top on them. Indiana and Clemson combined for 891 passing yards in those two games and looking at the tape, most of that came from attacking the corners. The key will be whether the defensive lineman, especially Haskell Garrett and Tommy Togiai, can get to Jones and cause him to throw quicker than he wants to. Chris Owens, the Alabama center, will have his hands full in that matchup. Their line depends heavily on their tackles so you might see this offense do its best to get Jones outside the pocket to make throws.
For Ohio State’s offense, the first question to ask is where Justin Fields is at health wise. We won’t really know that until the first time he gets hit Monday night. But even with the injured ribs, Fields threw for 385 yards, 6 touchdowns, and ran for 42 more yards. Clemson’s secondary couldn’t keep up as he continued throwing the ball over the top of their secondary. I had questions going into the game about his decision making against elite defenses. Especially of late, he threw six interceptions in his last four games. Five of those came in the two near losses to Indiana and Northwestern. To win this game, Ohio State has attack vertically. If there is one achilles heal of the Alabama defense, it’s defending a spread offensive attack. In the games against Ole Miss and Florida, they allowed 48 and 46 points, respectively. This comes against two teams that have no idea how to run the football. The Alabama defense could sit back and focus on the pass and still wasn’t able to stop it. This Ohio State team has the balance to get out in space to cause just enough problems in the run game and then kill you with the pass. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave will be first round picks whenever they decide to put their names into the NFL draft. The matchup between them and Alabama’s corners, Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe, will be the big matchup when Ohio State has the ball. If the corners fold, this could turn into a track meet.
With all of that said, I think the talent on the Alabama side prevails in the end. They will be able to get just a few more stops than Ohio State.
Alabama 45 Ohio State 34