Despite all the COVID-19 cases, despite all the politics, despite all the cancelled and rescheduled games, and despite all the speculation we wouldn’t have a college football season, here we are. The national championship game featuring two teams many people expected to be there from the beginning. The Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama and the Buckeyes of Ohio State University. This game will feature a Heisman winner, two quarterbacks getting 1st round draft looks, and two of the best coaches in America in Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Alabama’s Nick Saban. As I get to my final prediction for the game, here’s a look at each team’s draft talent, and the matchups that will decide this game.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide feature a high-powered offense that is averaging 48.2 points heading into tonight, lead by Heisman winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Smith will be enough of an issue for the Buckeyes by himself, but if Jaylen Waddle is able to return from a broken ankle suffered earlier this season, it will be a tough night for Ohio State’s secondary. QB Mac Jones throws a fantastic deep ball and has been good about not turning the ball over this season, and is protected by a solid offensive line, who will be without starting center Landon Dickerson, who suffered a season ending injury in the SEC Championship game against Florida.
For the Tide it has to start with Patrick Surtain III, the best, shut down corner in college football. Whoever he is guarding will be in for a battle this evening. The Tide have experience at the linebacker spot in Dylan Moses, and a strong line lead by Christian Barmore and freakish true freshman Will Anderson Jr. The talent is there, and they only give up 19 points a game, but the Tide defense is vulnerable, having surrendered 48 points earlier this season to Ole Miss and 46 to Florida.
Top Draft Prospects
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes enter Monday night ranked just behind the Tide in points per game, averaging 43.4 over 7 games. Lead by quarterback Justin Fields, coming off the best game of his college career against Clemson, Ohio State features tons of skilled pass catchers including wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, a pair of talented tight ends, and arguably the hottest running back in America in Trey Sermon, the Oklahoma transfer who has rushed for 636 yards over his last 3 games. With a strong offensive line, this Buckeye team can hurt you through the air and on the ground, whether it’s Sermon or Fields running.
The Buckeyes rank just behind Alabama in scoring defense, having surrendered 22 points a game entering this matchup. A veteran linebacking core leads this defense, led by Pete Werner. All American defensive lineman Haskell Garrett leads the Buckeyes up front, and Shaun Wade leads the secondary, a young unit which has struggled at times this year.
Top Draft Prospects
QB Justin Fields (Top 5), WR Chris Olave (Rd 1), OG Wyatt Davis (Rd 1), CB Shaun Wade (Rd 2), OC Josh Meyers (Rd 2), RB Trey Sermon (Rd 2-3)
Ohio State defensive backs vs. Alabama wide receivers
With or without Waddle in this game, the Bama receivers have a huge advantage. Shaun Wade will likely draw the near impossible task of covering DeVonta Smith, and even if he can hold him in check, the Tide have other weapons who have the looks of future NFL receivers behind him, including John Metchie III and Slade Bolden. The young OSU secondary must step up big time in order to keep the Buckeyes in this game.
Keys to Victory
Control the Clock
Both teams feature explosive, high scoring offenses, so the Tide will want to keep Ohio State off the field and put together long, time consuming scoring drives, as the Buckeye defense shouldn’t scare them. The best bet for Ohio State to win this game is to win a shootout, so keeping the ball away from Justin Fields and company should work will for Saban’s bunch.
As mentioned above, the Ohio State defense hasn’t seen an offense like this all year and keeping Alabama out of the endzone has been something no team has been able to do. Giving their offense an extra 2-3 drives will make or break this game for Ohio State.
Everything I have said above points to Alabama being my pick. Tons of talent on offense, and the clear cut better defense. If I were betting on this game, I would go with the Tide. But what’s not mentioned above is the story that is unfolding in front of our eyes with this Ohio State team. The reason this team has only played 7 games is because the Big Ten originally cancelled this football season, much to the dismay of the Buckeyes team, fans, and family. Justin Fields was one of the leaders of the movement for there to be a college football season this year, starting petitions and going on national television to say why he wanted to play. The Buckeyes have fought more than any other team this year just to play, and this just seems like the making of a future 30 for 30 special. Against the odds, I think the Buckeyes will pull this one out and write one of the greatest stories in college football history. Call it crazy, call it bias, but I think you will have to call the Ohio State Buckeyes National Champions.
Ohio State 45, Alabama 42
Image: (Gerald Herbert | Credit: AP)