The 2021 College Football Playoffs are looking to set up the final chapter of a revenge season for the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Last season, Alabama missed the CFB Playoffs for the first time since it started in 2014. Alabama looked to get back in the National Championship game for the first time since the 2019 National Championship. On Friday, Alabama took on the #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 2021 Rose Bowl in Arlington, Texas. Alabama came into this game big favorites against Notre Dame as a 19.5-point pick, the largest in the Semi-Finals. The Tide took down the Irish with a 31-14 score. Alabama is set to play in their third National Championship game in the last five seasons. This was a game where Alabama’s offense and defense took control from start to finish against a top-four team.
Takeaways and Analysis from Alabama’s 31-14 Win over Notre Dame
Alabama’s Big-Three on Offense Starred Once Again
Alabama was set to face a Notre Dame defense that was ranked 14th in the nation in points allowed per game (18.6). Their front-seven was highly efficient as their weakness was in their secondary. Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and quarterback Mac Jones knew how to spot the weaknesses of the Irish defense. Alabama accumulated 437 total yards of offense in the game including 279 in the first half. The three star players for Alabama’s offense in Jones, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and running back Najee Harris all played some of their best performances of the season. Harris rushed for 125 yards on 15 carries for an average of 8.3 yards per rush. Harris had the play of the game when he completely hurdled over Irish cornerback Nick McCloud in the first quarter.
Jones had one of his most efficient games at Alabama as he had to be careful against the Irish’s defense. Jones passed for 297 yards, four touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 210.5 on 25 completions (out of 30 passing attempts). He had solid passes to tight end Jahleel Billingsley and wide receiver John Metchie. It was Smith that was the leading playmaker of Alabama’s offense throughout the game. Smith had seven receptions for 130 yards (an average of 18.6 per reception) and three touchdowns. His three reception touchdowns are tied for the highest in Rose Bowl history. Smith has 20 receiving touchdowns which ties LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase last season in a single season in the SEC. Finally, Smith has accounted for eight games where he accounted for at-least 100-receiving yard games. Smith was able to consistently get open as well as continue them plays after the catch.
Defense Holds On To Keep Notre Dame From Scoring
The defense of Alabama came into this game looking to take away the mid-range-to-deep passing game of Notre Dame. Irish quarterback Ian Book was the main playmaker for Alabama’s defense to suppress as he could make the big plays with his arm and his legs. The biggest difficulty for the Tide’s defense was the efficient offensive line of Notre Dame. Throughout the game, the line was creating big holes for the freshman running back Kyren Williams. Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding tried to utilize special plays at the defensive line to try and back into the backfield. This only left more room for Williams to make big runs. The Tide changed more of their plays to keep Book in the pocket and force him to make bad throws. Book ultimately threw for 229 yards, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 113.4 on 27 completions (out of 39 passing attempts).
The inside passing game was more available with true freshman slot cornerback Malachi Moore out. Alabama’s defense did severely take away the deep passing of Notre Dame with their stellar secondary play led by cornerback Patrick Surtain II. The defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl accounted for three tackles, half a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup. Surtain was completely dominant by taking away their best receivers or tight end despite a huge size difference. Overall, Alabama’s defense accumulated three huge tackles for loss and two sacks. They held the Irish to accounting for 375 total yards despite them having the ball for 33 minutes and 43 seconds of the ball. They had four drives that lasted for six-and-a-half minutes or longer but only had one touchdown out of it. Defensive tackle Christian Barmore was the most impactful player at the defensive line with a sack and five tackles.
Alabama Advances to the National Championship Game
This was the second consecutive victory for Alabama over Notre Dame as well as three victories in the last four games. The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide advance to their third National Championship game in five years. They’re looking to claim their 18th National Title in program history and their third since the CFB Playoff format started. Alabama will face the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0) in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship in Miami Gardens, Florida. Alabama opened up as a seven-point favorite over the Buckeyes. This game is expected to be a high-scoring affair between two high-profiles offenses and players. The last time the Tide took on the Buckeyes was in the 2015 Sugar Bowl for the first-ever College Football Sem-Finals. Alabama lost that game with a 42-35 score.