The college football season concludes with the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0, 12-0 SEC) and No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0, 7-0 Big Ten) in the College Football National Championship, marking a rematch of the 2015 CFP semifinal matchup won by the Buckeyes. These teams rolled in their semifinal contests, with the Crimson Tide upending Notre Dame, 31-14, and OSU throttling Clemson, 49-28.
Monday night’s kickoff is at 8:00 P.M. Eastern inside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama is an eight-point favorite in the championship, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – Alabama Crimson Tide
Outside of a six-point win over Florida in the SEC Championship, the Crimson Tide have dominated every game they’ve suited up for this season. Alabama sports a 26.9 average margin of victory over 13 games, one of the highest college football margins in the sport’s history.
Alabama’s offense averages 48.2 points per game, and it all starts under center with senior quarterback Mac Jones. Jones completed 77% of his passes for 4,036 yards and 36 touchdowns, leading to a first-team All-American selection.
Najee Harris, another first-team All-American, wasn’t talked about as much as Jones or wide receiver DeVonta Smith but quietly pieced together a solid senior campaign. The running back carried the ball 229 times for 1,387 yards and 27 total touchdowns.
Smith is the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991. The senior wideout hauled in 105 passes for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns. Smith set numerous single-season and all-time school records at Alabama.
What to Know – Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State took care of business in a reduced conference schedule that had some individuals questioning if OSU should have even received a CFP selection. The Buckeyes let their actions speak and throttled the Tigers in the semifinals to reach the championship for the second time in the CFP era.
Justin Fields took a vicious hit in the semifinal win but finished the contest with extra padding added to his hip and rib area. The Buckeyes need Fields to be near 100% to have a shot to take down the Crimson Tide. Over seven games played, Fields threw for 1,906 yards, 21 touchdowns, and added 316 yards rushing and five scores.
Running back Trey Sermon has rushed for 528 yards over the last two games, scoring three touchdowns in that timeframe. The Buckeyes will want to keep Fields protected, so look for OSU to try and get Sermon going early against the Alabama defense.
Wideouts Garrett Wilson (40 receptions, 673 yards, five touchdowns) and Chris Olave (42 receptions, 660 yards, seven touchdowns) are the primary targets in the passing attack. The two account for just under 70% of OSU’s total receiving yards.
The Pick is In
The keys to the game will be Fields’ health and how the Buckeyes’ defense plans to defend all the weapons the Crimson Tide have on offense. Alabama’s defense has had lapses this season and has not faced a balanced offense or quarterback of Fields’ ability yet.
However, it is hard to believe that Fields will be playing at full health, and with that, it’s hard to see a way the Buckeyes keep up with the Crimson Tide.
The Pick: Alabama Crimson Tide (-8).