Two years after suffering an embarrassing 44-16 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the 2019 College Football Playoffs National Championship game, the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0) are back in the title game. Alabama will face the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0) in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship game. This will be the fifth time in the past six seasons in hopes of winning their 18th National Championship title. Alabama is 2-2 in the College Football Playoff National Championship game with both of those losses coming at the hands of the Clemson Tigers. The Tide takes on a hungry Buckeyes team that has talent on both sides of the ball. In their early games, Ohio State showed serious vulnerability but in the 49-28 win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes showed dominance. Here are five keys in the game for Alabama against Ohio State.
5 Keys for Alabama In The Championship Game
1. Alabama needs to score early and score often
The Tide has the second-ranked scoring offense in the nation (48.2) and third-total offense (525.9 total yards per game). Alabama has the most well-balanced offense in the nation with their fourth-ranked passing game and their explosive running game led by running back Najee Harris. In 12 games played this season, the Tide have scored 146 points in the first quarter and 201 in the second quarter. They have scored 347 points in the first half compared to 231 points in the second half all season. Alabama will face a Buckeyes’ offense that is fifth in points per game (43.4) and fourth in total yards per game (527.7). Ohio State scored 35 points in the first half of the game against Clemson. This could potentially be a high-scoring game where Alabama will have to score often in order to keep the lead.
2. Get Help In The Receiving Game Outside of DeVonta Smith
The Tide’s offense won seven major awards including the Heisman Trophy for wide receiver DeVonta Smith. This season, Smith has shown his elite reliability and athleticism as one of the main playmakers for Alabama. Smith will be competing consistently with Buckeyes cornerback Shaun Wade, who is a first-rounder in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. Despite Wade leading the defense, the Buckeyes’ defense is ranked 115th in passing yards allowed per game (263.7). Alabama will need Davey O’Brien Award-winning quarterback Mac Jones to find the right time in Smith’s route running to beat Wade. Ultimately, Alabama needs another receiving playmaker to step up and relieve the pressure off Smith. Wide receiver John Metchie, tight end Jahleel Billingsley, and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who returns from a broken foot in the middle of the season, could have a huge, impactful game.
3. Shut Down Trey Sermon And The Run Game
There will be no doubt that the Tide have a high-scoring game but their defense will be the deciding factor. Their defense ranks 13th in points allowed per game (19) and 33rd in total yards allowed per game (336.3). The Buckeyes have found more success in their run game the past two games with Sermon in the backfield. Sermon rushed for 524 yards and three touchdowns on 60 carries against the efficient defenses of Northwestern and Clemson. The Tide’s defense will need to contain the line of scrimmage consistently. They allowed too many opportunities and big running lanes for Notre Dame and their freshman running back Kyren Williams. Alabama faces a much less dominant offensive line in Ohio State than against Notre Dame. This will be a huge game for defensive tackle Christian Barmore and defensive end/outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
4. Contain The Passing Game Of Justin Fields
In the Semi-Final playoff game against Clemson, Buckeyes high-caliber quarterback Justin Fields had a nearly perfect game. He passed for 385 yards, six touchdowns, one interception, and a QBR of 99 on 22 completions (out of 28 completions). The game before, Fields had a terrible performance against Northwestern. The biggest difference between both games was the coverage schemes and the pressure from the defensive line and blitzes. The offensive line for Ohio State has given up 20 sacks in seven games this season. They will need Anderson and outside linebacker Christopher Allen to pressure Fields while keeping him in the pocket. Alabama’s cornerbacks will need to keep their elusive receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave contained. Patrick Surtain II will be the impact deep coverage corner while true freshman Malachi Moore will be the lockdown on the inside passing game.
5. Avoid Any Fourth-quarter Collapses
Alabama has played as one of the most elite teams all season. Their offense ranks among one of the explosive offenses ever in the sport of College Football. Their defense has shown serious signs of improvement throughout the season. Every team has a weakness. For Alabama, their weakness is keeping a big lead and finishing games when they need to. In the third of the season against Ole Miss, the Tide allowed 27 points in the second half as they couldn’t stop the high-power offense of the Rebels. Alabama had a serious scare in the 2020 SEC Championship against the #7 Florida Gators as they were outscored 29-17 in the second half. Finally, in the Semi-Final game against Notre Dame, the defense of Alabama allowed 161 total yards and a late-game touchdown.
The Tide will face one of the most dangerous offenses in the Buckeyes since playing against Florida. Alabama has to be mindful of the passing game of Fields and a dangerous running game that’s found new life. If Alabama gets off to an early start, they will have to keep scoring against Ohio State consistently. Eventually, their defense will have to make the big plays against the offense of Ohio State. Defensively, Alabama has forced 22 turnovers throughout the season as well as 77 total tackles for loss and 34 sacks. Despite the fact that Alabama is an eight-point favorite over Ohio State, this will be a game that requires focus every play.