Ohio State will have to try to stop Alabama’s offense in the 2021 National Championship game, which no one has been able to do so far.
In the regular season, no team was able to hold Alabama to less than 40 points, except Missouri. But they gave up 38 points in the first game of the season. With everything that happened in the offseason, it’s reasonable to assume Alabama was nowhere near their ceiling at that point.
In the CFP Semi Final game, they only scored 31 points against Notre Dame. Once they gained the lead in that game, the offense played conservatively to protect it. Alabama definitely could have score more if they had opened up their offense.
Ohio State is the next team to try to slow Alabama’s offense. The Buckeye defense has been exposed, but they played well against Clemson in their CFP semi final.
Ohio State gave up a season-high 35 points to Indiana in their fourth game, which led to some concern. But in the three games since then, Ohio State gave up only 22 points in their next two games. In the Big Ten Championship Game, they only gave up 10 points to Northwestern, who put up 35 against Auburn in the Citrus Bowl.
However, Ohio State has not played a team like Alabama. The 2020 Crimson Tide might go down as one of the best offenses in college football history.
Ohio State will have to play the best game of their lives to stop Alabama’s offense. Even then, it might not be enough.
How Ohio State Will Try to Stop Alabama’s Offense
Alabama has three major problems for Ohio State, and two of them were Heisman Trophy finalists. The Tide had three players finish in the top five in the penultimate Hesiman vote, with DeVonta Smith winning the award.
Next to Jones in the backfield is Najee Harris, the supremely talented running back.
Those are the three individual players who stand out on Alabama’s offense.
Then to put icing on the cake, they have the Joe Moore award winning offensive line.
This game will be a slog for Ohio State’s defense.
Ohio State Should Bend, But Don’t Break To Alabama’s Offense
The goal is not for Ohio State to shut out Alabama’s offense. That is impossible.
No, what Ohio State will try to do is keep the damage under control. It will be okay to let Alabama score.
All Ohio State has to do is score more points than Alabama. That sounds obvious, but usually that entails putting a concerted effort into shutting the opposing offense down.
The Buckeyes are just looking to keep the Crimson Tide to only 30 or 35 points. That’s a lot of points, but Ohio State has an explosive offense too. The Buckeyes’ offense averages 43 points a game. If they can score 43 against the Tide, then they can afford to give up more points.
This strategy almost worked for Florida, who is the team with the smallest margin of defeat against Alabama. Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts put up 46 points against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Their problem was that they gave up 55.
So if Ohio State keeps Alabama to under 40 points, or just slightly more than that, then they should be able to score enough to win.
A pitcher’s duel will favor Alabama. A shootout will favor them less.
Stop The Run With Front Seven
The Buckeyes have to stop Harris with their front seven. If the secondary has to come up to make tackles, Jones and Smith will burn them deep.
This is not as tough as a task as it seems. Obviously, it will take a lot of hard work and discipline, but it’s possible.
Ohio State kept Clemson to 44 rushing yards in the Sugar Bowl, including keeping Travis Etienne to 32 yards. The defense was dominant that Clemson simply abandoned the run in the later half of the game.
Stopping the run is easier said than done. Harris will gain more than 44 yards.
But in keeping with the goal of controlling the bleeding, Ohio State just wants to keep Alabama from running up the score. If Harris has 100 yards and just a touchdown, then that’s fine. But they can’t afford to let him have any explosive plays.
It’s on the front seven to do this. Ideally, it would take less than seven so that Ohio State can commit more men to pass coverage. But seven is the maximum. If they have to blitz to stop the run, then Ohio State will probably lose.
Don’t Get Beat Deep
How in the world is Ohio State supposed to stop Smith?
He can do anything and everything it takes to win. He goes deep, he makes contested catches, gains yards after the catch, and makes men miss in space.
It’s impossible to cover Smith one-on-one. He will get open, and on the rare occasion he doesn’t, he makes spectacular grabs against tight coverage.
Then, there’s Jaylen Waddle. It’s unclear if he will be able to play in the game, but if he can, things could get out of hand quickly.
As with the running game, Ohio State needs to contain the damage. They can’t get beat deep.
Ohio State’s strategy in Clemson was to play soft zones against the wide receivers. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough. The Buckeyes need to give up the easy catches and prevent the long highlights.
Get To The Quarterback
Jones is one of the least mobile quarterbacks to play the Buckeyes.
Ohio State needs to take advantage and try to get to him quickly.
It’s easier said than done against Alabama’s offensive line. But the Buckeyes can’t let Jones sit in the pocket while coverage breaks down and Smith springs free.
Ohio State can do two things. First of all, they can get Jones out of the pocket. Jones is comfortable in the pocket, and isn’t used to having to roll out and throw on the run. They need to make make Jones scramble.
The second thing is just to bring him down altogether. The only way to stop him from throwing is to sack him before he gets the chance.
If Ohio State does all of these things, then they have a chance at winning the National Championship.