2021 NCAA Football Championship: Ohio State/Alabama Preview

by Alec McMordie

Ohio State and Alabama will play for the 2020-21 College Football National Championship at 8 PM ET on ESPN. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, is the site for the game.

The Buckeyes reached this pinnacle game by upsetting Clemson in the national semifinals on January 1st, 49-28, as a 7-point underdog. Ohio State generated 639 yards against the Tigers’ defense while outgaining them by 195 yards. Their 8.9 yards-per-play average was their highest output in a game since 2017 when they averaged 9.2 yards-per-play against Rutgers.

Justin Fields completed 22 of 28 passes in the victory. The junior quarterback passed for 385 yards with six touchdown passes, which were both career highs. Fields has completed 73.4% of his passes this season for 1906 yards with 21 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He also rushed for 316 yards with five scores.

Running back Trey Sermon has stepped to rush for 524 yards in the Buckeyes’ last two games after rushing for 192 yards against Clemson. The former Oklahoma transfer broke Ohio State’s school two-game rushing record set by Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for 476 yards over two games in 2015. After not rushing for more than 215 yards in their first three games, the Buckeyes have gained at least 254 yards on the ground in their last four games.

Ohio State enters this game with a 7-0 mark in a COVID-shortened season. The Buckeyes defeated Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game and Penn State in the regular season.

Alabama has won five more games with victories against Georgia and Texas A&M before defeating Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide then beat Notre Dame in the national semifinals, 31-14, as an 18.5-point favorite on January 1st.

Mac Jones completed 25 of 30 passes for 297 yards with four touchdowns and without an interception in the victory. The junior completed 77% of his passes for 4036 yards with 36 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Jones’ top target was DeVonta Smith. The Heisman Trophy winner caught 105 passes for 1640 yards with 20 touchdowns.

Alabama won 11 of their 12 games by at least 15 points. They were riding an NCAA record 24-game streak where they scored at least 35 points before the Fighting Irish held them to 31 points.

Crimson Tide center Landon Dickerson is out the season with the knee injury he suffered in the SEC Championship Game. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle will be a game-time decision with the ankle injury that has kept him out the last seven games.

Fields is probable for Ohio State despite the mid-body injury he incurred mid-game against Clemson. The Buckeyes are still dealing with the COVID outbreak that has limited their roster since the Big Ten Championship Game. Running back Myian Williams revealed on Twitter that he did not make the trip to Miami. Ohio State will also rely on freshman kicker Jake Siebert with their two other kickers, Blake Haubeil and Dominic Dimaccio, out with COVID. Defensive linemen Tommy Togiai and Tyreke Smith have also tested positive, with their status in doubt. There is speculation that Togiai had a false positive test and that the team may bypass Big Ten protocols for CDC protocols in allowing Togiai to play. There is speculation that the remaining players impacted by COVID are backups, but the Buckeyes may be down to just four defensive ends for this game.

Ohio State makes their first appearance in the National Championship Game since 2014 when they won the title. The Buckeyes defeated the Crimson Tide in the semifinals by a 42-35 score, which was the last time these two teams played on the gridiron. Alabama will be playing in their eighth championship game since 2009. The Tide's last appearance in this game was on January 8th, 2018, when Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to lead their second-half rally to defeat Georgia in overtime by a 26-23 score. The Crimson Tide has won five national championships under head coach Nick Saban.

BetAnySports lists Alabama as an 8.5-point favorite with the total set at 75.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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