The last time Ohio State won the national championship, the team had pieced together one of the all-time great stories in program history. They won a title with their third string quarterback starting the last three games of the year and the Buckeyes offense looked absolutely unstoppable in those contests.
But much of their success during that run was directly attributed to Trey Sermon ... uh wait, I mean Ezekiel Elliott ... kind of hard to tell the difference between the two, considering Sermon's success lately.
Their playoff impact on an Ohio State championship run is remarkably similar. And wouldn't you know it, just as the Buckeyes leaned heavily on Elliott against Alabama the last time the Buckeyes played Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, Ohio State will likely lean heavily on Trey Sermon against Alabama in the CFP National Championship game on Monday in Miami.
Elliott's rushing totals in the final three games of the 2014 season were so good, you'd think someone was joking with you if you didn't see it with your own eyes. In the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin, Elliott ripped off 220 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. Then against the vaunted Alabama defense, Elliott surged for 230 yards and two scores on 20 touches. To cap it off, Cardale Jones handed Elliott the ball 36 times against Oregon in the national championship game. Zeke ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
A three game stretch of 76 carries for 696 yards and eight rushing touchdowns, averaging 9.16 yards per carry in the three biggest games of the season.
How does Trey Sermon compare? It's actually pretty scary how close the numbers are.
In his last three games against Michigan State, Northwestern and Clemson: Trey Sermon has 70 carries 636 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 9.09 yards per carry.
That also includes a 331-yard school-record breaking performance against Northwestern and 524 yards in the last two games, which is the most in a 2-game stretch by any back in Buckeye history.
So how is Alabama going to try and stop Sermon?
"Well, he's playing outstanding football right now," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said on Monday. "There's no doubt about that. He had a fantastic game against Clemson. I think they have two really good running backs. Both are very capable. Their offensive line does a really good job of blocking your looks up front, getting a hat on a hat, and the runners are very talented.
"So the combination of the explosive ability that they have in the passing game, the good receivers that they have outside, the speed that they have, the way they can stretch the field with the playmakers they have, quarterback that can run or pass and can make all the throws, it's just a good all-around team and they have great balance, and I think that's what makes them very difficult to defend."
Sermon was also asked how aware he is of the comparison between Elliott's and his successive performances. You can see his answer in the video at the top of this story.
Meanwhile, Sermon perhaps brings a unique perspective to this upcoming game with the Crimson Tide because it's not his first dance with Nick Saban's defense.
As a second-year player for Oklahoma, Sermon and the Sooners played Alabama in the 2018 Orange Bowl - in the same stadium Ohio State and Alabama will play in on Monday. Sermon only carried nine times for 19 yards that night, as Lincoln Riley put more on Kyler Murray's shoulders in the passing game.
"I still just remember them being a tough, physical team," Sermon said of playing against Alabama. "I know at the time, I mean, they were flying around, which is the same that they do now. They fly around all over the defense. Another thing that I can take into this game is that it goes by quick. It's great competition and the games really go by fast. You definitely have to execute, and you just have to make sure that you don't have any mistakes."
Whether or not Sermon can replicate Elliott's performance against Alabama remains to be seen. His story is not yet complete. But the parallels between Zeke and Sermon are another fun storyline to follow as the Buckeyes ramp up their championship preparation.
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