NCAAF
January 8, 2021

5 Reasons Why Alabama will Beat Ohio State in the CFP National Championship

As many expected, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide find themselves playing for a national championship. The Tide steamrolled Notre Dame in the national semifinal and are back in the title game after missing out on last year’s College Football Playoff. Since dismantling Georgia in the middle of October, the Crimson Tide has been the obvious favorite to win the national championship this season.

There’s been a little wrinkle thrown in with Ohio State upsetting Clemson to prevent the Tigers and Crimson Tide from renewing their CFP rivalry. Nevertheless, Alabama is still the clear favorite to win the national championship, so here are five reasons why the Crimson Tide will have no trouble beating Ohio State on Monday night.

Devonta Smith

Front and center is the Heisman winner himself. Smith is easily the most well-rounded and explosive wide receiver in the country. Even after Jaylen Waddle suffered an injury and opposing defenses had more resources to devote to containing Smith, he somehow became more dangerous. The Buckeyes will have a hard time containing Smith, who’s capable of making multiple game-changing plays.

The thing about Smith is that he’s saved his best for the biggest games. When Alabama was in a shootout with Ole Miss early in the season, he caught 13 passes for 164 yards. In a battle against No. 3 Georgia, he secured 11 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. In the SEC Championship Game, Smith had perhaps his finest performance, catching 15 balls for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Finally, in the national semifinal against Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish had no answer, as Smith had seven catches for 130 yards and three touchdowns.

No team has managed to stop him this season, so why would Ohio State be any different?

Najee Harris

Admittedly, part of what makes Smith and the Alabama passing attack so dangerous is they have a running back like Harris to help keep the Crimson Tide offense balanced. Like Smith, he’s saved some of his best performances for the biggest games, rushing for 178 yards and two touchdowns against Florida in the SEC Championship Game and then gaining 125 yards on just 15 carries against Notre Dame. It should not be forgotten that Harris finished in the top 10 of the Heisman voting and was arguably the best running back in the country this season.

With Harris and Smith, the Ohio State defense faces a catch-22. If they stack the box to stop Harris, they leave space in the secondary for Smith to hurt them. If they dedicate too many defenders to Smith’s part of the field, they have fewer resources to tackle Harris.

While Ohio State handled Clemson’s Travis Etienne in the national semifinal, Harris is a different animal. He’s a powerful back who will be physical and challenge the Buckeyes to tackle him 20 to 30 times, ultimately wearing down the Ohio State defense and creating big plays for the Crimson Tide.

Relentless Front-7

The Alabama defense hasn’t gotten nearly enough credit for the Crimson Tide’s success this season, but that side of the ball will be a big reason why Bama will beat Ohio State.

The cornerback duo of Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe earn a lot of praise, and their efforts will allow the Alabama front-7 to be aggressive against the Ohio State offense. Defensive lineman Christian Barmore and linebacker Dylan Moses have been standout players all season and are poised to be difference-makers in the national championship game.

To be fair, the task of containing Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields after his performance against Clemson won’t be easy. But the Alabama front-7 has the athletes to make him uncomfortable and take him off his game. Barmore and the defensive line will consistently gain ground at the line of scrimmage while linebackers Christian Harris and Will Anderson are all capable of blitzing and putting pressure on Fields from the outside.

Knowing that Surtain and Jobe are patrolling secondary and Moses is around to clean up any messes will enable the Alabama front-7 to remain aggressive and relentless in their pursuit of Fields, preventing the big plays that doomed Clemson in the national semifinal.

Mistake-Free Football

Part of Nick Saban’s championship equation during his time at Alabama has been playing mistake-free football. More than anything else, Saban expresses frustration and unloads on his team when they do things that hurt themselves. By the end of the season, Saban’s teams are among the most disciplined in the country, which is an important yet overlooked reason why the Crimson Tide are successful in championship games.

This season has been no different. Amid a brilliant season that made him a Heisman finalist, quarterback Mac Jones also limited himself to just four interceptions. As a result, Alabama finished with a +11 turnover ratio, the third-best in the country.

Justin Fields, however, threw six interceptions in just seven games. The Crimson Tide also averaged 10 fewer penalty yards per game than Ohio State. In the end, if the championship game turns out to be a close contest, Alabama is less likely to make the kinds of mistakes that can prove costly.

The Drought 

On the surface, Ohio State might seem like the more motivated team in Monday’s game. After all, skeptics have questioned the Buckeyes all season for not playing as many games as other teams. They were also underdogs against Clemson and are underdogs against Alabama once again despite a convincing win over the Tigers. However, it’d be foolish to think that the Crimson Tide isn’t equally motivated to win the national championship.

Keep in mind that it’s been two years since Alabama’s last national championship. By Saban’s standards, two years is a long championship drought. The Crimson Tide was embarrassed by Clemson in the title game two years ago and wasn’t even invited to the College Football Playoff a year ago. Alabama’s upperclassmen are eager and motivated to be the leaders rather than the supporting cast on a championship team. In a strange way, the Crimson Tide possesses a unique combination of big-game experience and incentive to avoid an extended championship drought, giving them more than enough motivation to beat Ohio State and return to the top of the mountain.

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