College Football Playoff Championship Prediction: Alabama vs. Ohio State

Free pick for the NCAA Championship as Ohio State faces Alabama.

Remember when Dabo Swinney came out and said the Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t belong in the College Football Playoff because they’d only played six games? Remember when Ohio State hung 49 points on Clemson in a laugher? You can put stacks of cash down that Nick Saban won’t complain about OSU coming in with just seven wins.

One thing that few commentators have mentioned was that Ohio State looked a lot faster than Clemson – and that the difference might be having had that many fewer games on their legs for the season. Will Ohio State have the same intensity against Alabama? Losing to Clemson last year and then having Swinney call out their team gave them plenty of motivation. But will it matter against the Crimson Tide? Let’s take a closer look.

College Football Playoff Championship Game
Alabama vs Ohio State

When: Monday, January 11, 2021, 8:00 pm ET
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Radio: ESPN Radio
JAZZ Sports Odds: Alabama -8 / Total 75*

Why the Crimson Tide Will Win

DeVonta Smith has the Heisman Trophy, and rightfully so, but this offense is run by quarterback Mac Jones, and the offense has put up at least 31 points in each game, going over 40 in 10 of those games. Alabama has averaged more than six yards per play and almost eight yards against opponents in the Top 25. Jones has completed 77 percent of his passes, piling up 4,036 yards and 36 touchdown passes against just four interceptions. His quarterback rating (203.03) is tops in the nation, and he is second in the nation in completions of at least 40 yards. If the Buckeyes decide to focus on taking Smith out of the equation, he also Bama free pickhas John Metchie III, Jahleel Billingsley and Slade Bolden, all capable of breaking big plays. Remember – Indiana lit up the Buckeye secondary, so the Tide can do it too.

There have been better defenses than the one Alabama puts on the field (remember, they gave up 46 to Florida in the SEC Championship), but they were second in the SEC in fewest yards permitted per play, and Florida was the only team they played that averaged over 4.8 yards per play since October 24. Over the last six games, the Alabama defense has only given up 16 points per contest. The pass rush put up 34 sacks, second in the SEC, and edge rushers Will Anderson and Christopher Allen have combined to post 22 ½ tackles for loss. While Ohio State will be able to move the ball, getting into the end zone will be a challenge.

Why the Buckeyes Will Win

Ohio State earned their slot in the College Football Playoff final, their first time in a final in seven seasons. They routed Clemson, 49-28, with six touchdown passes out of Justin Fields – despite the crushing blow he took to his ribs late in the first half. While Ohio State only played six games ahead of the semifinal, they won Buckeyes free pickfive of those by at least 12 points, and the interruptions of the Big Ten season made consistency a challenge. Justin Fields is one reason why Ohio State will win – so it will be interesting to see how healthy he is for the game. We haven't gotten much information about the status of his ribs.

Fields has Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson running routes; they have combined to catch 82 passes in seven games, almost 60 percent of the team's receiving production. There are other solid options, though, including Jameson Williams, Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Don’t forget Trey Sermon, who seems to have come out of nowhere to run roughshod over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship and Clemson in the semifinal. The O-line is also stout – neither tackle permitted a pressure of Fields against Clemson.

The Final Word

Ohio State looked dominant against Clemson, but can they muster similar emotional energy a week later, after having COVID-19 issues on the roster? Will Fields be as mobile without the adrenaline that clearly boosted him down the stretch against Clemson? There's a reason why Alabama keeps winning titles, and that has a lot to do with the fact that they have the biggest and fastest players in the nation, and they don't seem to need much in the way of external motivation. We like the Tide to win and cover.

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