National championships are earned, not given.
That certainly was the case the last time Ohio State was on this stage. Its third-string quarterback was making just the third start of his career. The Buckeyes were taking on a Heisman Trophy winner in Marcus Mariota and the high-powered, quick scoring Oregon offense. But, at the end of the night, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes lifted the trophy.
Earned, not given.
Enter 2020 and the weirdest college football season ever seen. After an initial Big Ten cancellation, a late resumption of play, a shortened schedule with no bye weeks, three games cancelled due to COVID-19 and a convincing win over Clemson in the semifinal game after they'd heard the didn't belong in the Playoff from all corners of the country, Ohio State has certainly earned its spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Alabama now stands in the Buckeyes’ way - along with Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith, Heisman finalist Mac Jones and the Crimson Tide’s all-time leading rusher (yards gained and touchdowns scored) in Najee Harris.
An Ohio State national championship in 2020 would be earned, and then some.
This is exactly what Shaun Wade and Wyatt Davis opted back in for. This is what Justin Fields and Chris Olave and every other Buckeye have been dreaming of and training for - the chance to bring a national championship trophy back to Columbus.
But they won’t settle for just the chance. The goal wasn't to get here, it was to win the whole thing. They want it all. They want the trophy, the Scarlet and Gray confetti flying through the air and everything in between. This is everything they've fought for over the last several months. And while Alabama may have played more games, they didn't have to fight for a season that was taken from them the way Ohio State did.
A win on Monday night won’t come without major challenges, though.
Challenge No. 1 is stopping the best Alabama offense in school history. The Silver Bullets were up to the challenge in stopping Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers. Will they be able to repeat that performance for a second consecutive game?
Challenge No. 2 is the overall health of the Buckeyes. Justin Fields took a shot-heard-round-the-college-football-world in the ribs against Clemson and played through the pain en route to his best career performance as a starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Ryan Day indicated this past week that his team has dealt with continued COVID-19 issues, which likely leaves them short-handed yet again in the biggest game of the season. To what extent, we won't know until an hour or so before kickoff.
So far, Ohio State has been up to all of these wild challenges in 2020. They’ve played short-handed. They’ve held explosive offenses in check. Even though the calendar has turned to January, you wouldn’t expect anything less out of the 2020 Buckeyes for the final 60 minutes of the season than to do what they’ve already done.
They’ve earned the spot. They’ll fight to earn the title.
As LeBron James said in the championship game hype video, “Ohio, this is for you.”
Date: January 11, 2021
Where: Hard Rock Stadium - Miami Gardens, Florida
Expected Weather: Low of 64, cloudy, winds light and variable
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m.
Current Betting Numbers
Spread: Alabama (-8.0)
O/U Total: 75.5
Click here for some great information on the history of the Vegas odds in the National Championship games played since the BCS was instituted in 1998.
How to Watch/Listen
Streaming: Watch ESPN App
Announcers: Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Maria Taylor (sideline reporter), Allison Williams (sideline reporter)
Local Radio: Ohio State Sports Network from Learfield IMG College
Flagship: WBNS 97.1 The Fan
Announcers: Paul Keels (play-by-play), Jim Lachey (analyst), Matt Andrews (sideline reporter), Skip Mosic (pregame/halftime/postgame host)
National Radio: ESPN
Announcers: Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst)
All-time: Alabama leads, 3-1
First Meeting: January 2, 1978 … Alabama won 35-6
Last Meeting: January 1, 2015 … Ohio State won 42-35
Current Streak: Ohio State, 1 game
January 1, 2015 Sugar Bowl/CFP Semifinal: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35
January 2, 1995 Florida Citrus Bowl: Alabama 24, Ohio State 17
August 27, 1986 Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands: Alabama 16, Ohio State 10
January 2, 1978 Sugar Bowl: Alabama 35, Ohio State 6
- Ryan Day (Career record 23-1 in second season … Ohio State record: Same … Record against Alabama: 0-0)
- Nick Saban (Career record 255-65-1 in 25th season … Alabama record: 164-23 in 14th season … Record against Ohio State: 2-2)
- With the win over Clemson in the CFP semifinal, Ohio State moves to a 3-2 record in the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes won their first two games against Alabama and Oregon before dropping the next two, both to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
- Ohio State is 2-2 all-time in national championship games - BCS or CFP. The Buckeyes’ two wins came against Miami (31-24, 2OT in 2002) and against Oregon (42-20 in 2015). Overall, Ohio State is seeking its ninth national championship in the program’s 131-year history.
- Alabama is making its fifth appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in the last six years. The Crimson Tide own a 2-2 mark in the CFP title game, beating Clemson in 2016 and Georgia in 2018. They have won five of the last 11 national championship games.
- Only six total teams have competed for a national title in the College Football Playoff era, while Ryan Day becomes only the seventh head coach to lead a team to the CFP National Championship.
Some CFP National Championship Game Statistics
- No. 3 and No. 1 have some work to do as they are the two worst records by seed in the CFP National Championship. The No. 3 seed carries an 0-2 mark, while the No. 1 seed is not much better with a 1-3 slate. The only victory across both seeds came last season when Joe Burrow led undefeated No. 1 LSU to a convincing 42-25 win over No. 3 Clemson. No. 1 seeds had lost their previous three appearances prior to that matchup.
- 2021 marks the third consecutive CFP National Championship featuring two undefeated teams. In the first four years of the College Football Playoffs, only two total teams made it to the title game with unblemished records - Clemson in 2016 and Alabama in 2017. However, the Tigers and the Crimson Tide would not finish their season undefeated as each lost in the national championship (to the other, I might add).
- The winning team in the College Football Playoff National Championship has generally put on an offensive show. In six total CFP title games, four national champions put up 40+ points in their wins while five amassed 450+ yards of total offense. The only year neither mark was achieved came in 2018 when Alabama outlasted Georgia in overtime and only collected 371 yards of total offense. The 2021 edition of the CFP Championship looks to follow suit as both Alabama and Ohio State come into the game with prolific offenses. Alabama averages 48.2 points and 535.0 yards per game while Ohio State owns marks of 43.4 points and 544.9 yards per game.
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