It has been a long road, but the 2021 National Championship Game is finally upon us. On January 11th at 8 p.m. Eastern, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Ohio State Buckeyes will do battle in Miami to determine who will be the 2020 college football champions. These are two programs that are accustomed to being in these high stakes games and winning them. The two programs have claimed a total of 25 national championships with Alabama claiming 17 and Ohio State 8. Monday will be the first championship game appearance for the Crimson Tide since 2019 where they were defeated handily by Clemson 44-16. For the Buckeyes, their last appearance was 2015 when they defeated Oregon 42-20 for the 2014 crown. Ohio State did upset Alabama in the semi-finals that year in the Sugar Bowl.
2021 Championship Preview: Alabama vs Ohio State
Two Teams with Something to Prove
After not being in the College Football Playoff last season, the Crimson Tide came into this season with something to prove. They did not want to go another year without hoisting the trophy. It has been three seasons since they last did so. For some programs, saying you won the national championship three years ago would still be worth celebrating. For Alabama, any season without the title is a failure.
Like Alabama, Ohio State comes into this contest with a major chip on their shoulders. The bulk of the players on this squad felt they should have been in this spot a year ago. After losing in heartbreak fashion last year to Clemson, the Buckeyes got payback in the Sugar Bowl with their convincing win over the Tigers 49-28. Justin Fields and company silenced any doubters if they belonged in the playoff. They now will need to do it again to take down the mighty Crimson Tide.
Monday night should be full of fireworks as if it is the Fourth of July. Both defensive coordinators will have their work cut out for them trying a way to scheme and stop the opposition.
For Alabama, it is a three-headed monster on offense with three players who finished in the top five of the Heisman voting. It all begins with the winner of the award in receiver DeVonta Smith. The talented wideout has been almost uncoverable all season to the tune of 1,641 yards on 105 catches and 20 touchdowns. Quarterback Mac Jones has great chemistry with Smith, but he is not the only one. John Metchie, Jahleel Billingsley, Slade Bolden, and others have proven to just as dangerous if too much attention is paid to Smith.
Jones does not make many mistakes with the ball with only throwing four interceptions with is 4,036 yards and 36 touchdowns. He is extremely accurate as well with a completion rate of 77%. Jones plays behind a terrific group on the offensive line. The offensive line has only allowed 11 sacks on the signal-caller. The group has also opened sizable running lanes for running back Najee Harris. On the season, Harris ran for 1,387 yards and 24 touchdowns that led the nation. If a defense wants to drop six or seven into coverage, Alabama can just turnaround and hand the ball to Harris and win that way.
For Ohio State, they have a great group on offense as well. The headliner is quarterback Justin Fields who had his best performance of the season against the Clemson Tigers. Fields on the evening passed for six touchdowns and 385 yards off 22 of 28 passing. It was what many expects of Fields on a weekly basis. He has been off at times this season, and a great example would be his struggles with Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. When he is on, there is almost no one better in college football.
Speaking of the Big Ten Championship Game, a star was born that day and continued in the Sugar Bowl. Running back Trey Sermon has changed this Ohio State offense. Not only does Alabama have to contend with the Buckeyes pass attack, but also a dominant run game behind the Oklahoma transfer. In the last three games, Sermon is averaging 212 yards and has scored four touchdowns. That will just open more opportunities down the field for outstanding receiver Chris Olave.
Will there be any defense?
Both offenses will get the headlines with all the star power but there are qualities to like about both defenses. For Alabama, they have struggled against teams with solid quarterback play. For example, Ole Miss with Matt Corral and Florida with Kyle Trask. Justin Fields is beyond the level of those two signal-callers. He will need to be wary though. One of the absolute best cover corners in college football plays for the Crimson Tide in Patrick Surtain II. The junior only has one interception on the season, which is due to opposing teams unwilling to throw his direction this season.
For the Buckeyes, they do not have a household name like last year’s squad did with Chase Young. The defensive front has been highly effective though in recent weeks. Stopping the run with those four will be key against Alabama. On the season, Ohio State only has given up 96.7 yards per game on the ground. They were able to slow down Clemson in that department, and only allowed 44 in total rushing. The offense helped in that as well by getting a huge lead by halftime. Alabama’s Jones will need to keep an eye on where Shaun Wade is at all times. The future NFL draft pick will make any mistake become costly.
Who Wins the 2021 National Championship Game?
Expect a game like the one Alabama had in the SEC Championship with the Florida Gators in the 2021 CFP Championship Game. This will be a high scoring contest between two elite offense playing at their peak. It will come down to who makes the most or even the first mistake on offense to give the other an advantage. Ohio State has talent comparable to Alabama but could have used a lot of their energy and emotion just to get by Clemson. Alabama has been the same all season. Alabama wins 45-38 in a tight one and DeVonta Smith takes home the MVP.