None of us were completely sure we’d get here, but the College Football Playoff national championship game is almost here. The Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday, Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida in a matchup between two of the biggest brands in the sport.
Ohio State and Alabama got here in different ways, and both should be praised for what they’ve been able to do in the strangest college football season we may ever see. Let’s take a look at how the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide put themselves into a position to win the title.
How Alabama got to the National Championship Game
It could be argued that Alabama has gone through one of the most difficult college football schedules of all time to get to where it is. Sure the season was shortened to no non-conference games for the SEC, but the Crimson Tide went 10-0 through their regular season and beat the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. That’s far more impressive than Alabama’s typical eight-game SEC slate in a 12-game regular season schedule that also includes FCS opponents.
In the first game of the CFP semifinals, Alabama handled the Notre Dame Fighting Irish fairly easily 31-14 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggests.
The Crimson Tide are led by another explosive offense, and that’s the reason this will be Steve Sarkisian’s final game as the Alabama offensive coordinator. He will be moving on to be the head coach for the Texas Longhorns after the game is over. This offense is led by Heisman trophy winner wide receiver DeVonta Smith, Heisman finalist quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris.
How Ohio State got to the National Championship Game
The Buckeyes took a much different route to the national title game than Alabama did. The Big Ten started about a month after the SEC did with an eight-game schedule and struggled through COVID-19 outbreaks. Ohio State finished the regular season at 5-0, which made the conference change its six-game minimum rule to qualify for the Big Ten title game. The Buckeyes trailed the Northwestern Wildcats in the second half of the conference championship but they ended up winning the Big Ten.
Ohio State pulled off the upset over the Clemson Tigers in the second of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games with a 49-28 victory thanks to a fantastic offensive performance from quarterback Justin Fields.
Fields is likely to be the story in this game as he took a big hit in the first half against Clemson and could be impacted in this one. His six-touchdown performance against the Tigers was the best Fields has looked all season long, and another game like that would give the Buckeyes a real shot at winning this game as the underdogs.