The tumultuous 2020 season comes to a conclusion on Monday night when the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Ohio State Buckeyes square off in Miami for the national championship.
This is a matchup between two explosive offenses, and we can expect that it will be yet another high scoring title game. The Irish Breakdown staff has analyzed the game and is ready to make predictions.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Alabama 44, Ohio State 37
I predicted Clemson to smack the Buckeyes, who did not look overly impressive in wins over Indiana and Northwestern, the only two decent teams Ohio State played. Not only did I get the prediction wrong, I was way off. Ohio State looked phenomenal against the Tigers despite missing several key players.
Now the Buckeyes have to take on a whole different animal when they face Alabama. The Crimson Tide toyed with Notre Dame, beating them in a 31-14 game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score dictated. Alabama has the nation's best offense, and although their defense is vulnerable, it has been significantly better than Ohio State's.
The key for Ohio State in this matchup will be once again exploding in the first half offensively. Alabama overwhelms teams early, and if Ohio State can't match them score for score early this game will get over quickly. If the Buckeyes can keep up early, or even jump on Alabama, it will give Kerry Coombs and the defense time to get caught up to Alabama's speed and to make the necessary adjustments.
Notre Dame ran the ball on Alabama in the first half, and Ohio State has been even better running the ball this season. Ohio State needs to get Trey Sermon and Master Teague going early, and if the line can provide them with room to run it will help control the clock and open up opportunities for shots down the field.
Of course, Ohio State should be able to throw it a lot better than the Irish.
The concern for Ohio State is its defense hasn't been nearly as good this season as it was in 2019. It has been extremely vulnerable to good pass attacks, and Alabama has an elite pass attack. Slowing down DeVonta Smith won't be easy, and if Alabama is able to establish some semblance of balance the Buckeye defense will have little chance at keeping Alabama out of the end zone.
When quarterback Mac Jones gets time to throw the Tide offense is unstoppable, and the Alabama line is the nation's best. If Ohio State can't get pressure on Jones the Tide will score, and score a lot. I expect this to be an exciting back and forth game with a lot of points, but in the end the advantage Alabama has on defense will allow it to make one more stop than Ohio State can make.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Alabama 49, Ohio State 35
They say the measure of a man is when he can admit to being wrong. After being married for almost seventeen years you would think I would have it down to a science by now. Well, I was wrong about the Ohio State vs. Clemson matchup on New Year's Day. I really thought that game would be over at halftime with Clemson in complete control. Boy was I mistaken.
Ohio State absolutely took Clemson to the woodshed and it was basically over at halftime in the other direction. Whether you want to say it was because coach Dabo Swinney opened his mouth or Ohio State is actually that good is anyone's guess, but I will contend that Alabama is a different animal altogether. Nick Saban is not going to give the Buckeyes the kind of bulletin board material that Dabo did. All we are hearing recently is about the Big Ten trying to push the game because of Covid concerns. Of course it is the Big Ten. Either way let's talk about the actual game.
From about the halfway point in the season I truly felt like it was Alabama and everyone else this season. Their offense is so explosive and they are so balanced. Quarterback Mac Jones is the perfect rigger man in that offense and knows how to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers.
Speaking of which there is talk that superstar receiver Jaylen Waddle might suit up for the Tide Monday night. As if they could get any better offensively. After watching the Ohio State defense struggle with the likes of IU and Northwestern this year, specifically in the secondary I just do not see how they will be able to contain this passing attack for Bama.
On the other side of the ball the Buckeye offense, specifically quarterback Justin Fields, played like a man possessed. As Bryan and I laid out while previewing the Notre Dame vs. Alabama game, there are holes in the Tide defense that Ohio State could potentially take advantage of. How will Fields's ribs be in this game? Will he be able to scramble? Will the offense be able to keep up on the scoreboard with Alabama?
In the end, I just do not see Fields repeating the six touchdown performance of the semis. I am looking for the game to be close early but Alabama pulls away down the stretch.
NATHAN ATKINS, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Alabama 45, Ohio State 42
Imagine having to stop the Heisman Trophy winner, Biletnikoff Award winner, and College Football Player of the Year in wide receiver DeVonta Smith. And if you stop him, there are still the threats posed by Doak Walker Award winner running back Najee Harris and Davey O'Brien Award-winning quarterback Mac Jones.
After adding the best offensive line in college football and arguably the greatest college football coach ever, we must ask the question- can anyone beat this 2020 Alabama team?
The Buckeyes indeed have the offensive firepower of their own; they've emerged as of late as an incredibly efficient running team. Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon rushed for 193 yards and a touchdown in the semifinal against Clemson while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. There was also his 331 yard, two-touchdown performance against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game.
While Alabama and Nick Saban appear to have changed their stripes, a team looking to emphasize the run and manage the time of possession plays into the hands of what the old coach has built a career around defending.
To beat Alabama, Ohio State will need to score early and often. The only concern with making this game a track meet is if the Buckeyes will find themselves like Florida - merely the Asafa Powell to the Crimson Tide's Usain Bolt-like season.
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