Alabama, Ohio State shaping up as high-scoring title game
Ohio State will be the underdog again in the CFP championship game vs. top-ranked Alabama on Monday in Miami Gardens, Fla., but Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban won’t add motivation for the No. 3 Buckeyes.
“We’re excited about having the opportunity to play against a great Ohio State team,” Saban said Monday. “These guys are really well-coached. Ryan Day has done a great job there. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country in terms of points allowed. Tough to run against, really explosive on offense, really good skill players outside.”
No bulletin-board material there by Alabama (12-0) to fuel Ohio State (7-0), which was rankled before its semifinal game when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney ranked the Buckeyes 11th in the coaches’ poll.
Throw in a loss to the No. 2 Tigers in the semifinal a year before and the Buckeyes’ 49-28 win on Friday was even sweeter, but Day cautioned his players that the job is not done.
“Well, the goal was never just to beat Clemson,” he said Monday. “The goal was to win the national championship.
“While it was an emotional win, that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to win this one. And so, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t play well in this game.”
The game should be high scoring even though the Crimson Tide’s NCAA record of scoring 35-plus points ended at 24 games after a 31-14 victory against Notre Dame in the other semifinal on Friday.
Alabama boasts Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith at wide receiver and finalist Mac Jones at quarterback. Smith has 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. Jones’ 4,036 passing yards is an Alabama season record and he has also thrown 36 touchdowns against four interceptions.
Smith said Monday he had bigger concerns than the Heisman hype.
“I’m just trying to come in with the team this week and just look forward to getting on to the game plan for Ohio State,” he said.
Alabama will be without center Landon Dickerson, who had a season-ending knee injury against Florida in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19, but receiver Jaylen Waddle, out since Oct. 24 with an ankle injury, may be back.
The question for the Buckeyes is the health of Justin Fields, who sustained a mid-body injury in the second quarter vs. Clemson but still had career highs in passing yards (385) and touchdowns (six).
“Yeah, I definitely expect him to play, but we don’t get into specifics on injuries,” Day said. “We put out our availability report at the end of the week and that’s always been our policy.”
The Buckeyes’ running game is led by Trey Sermon, whose 524 yards in the past two games is an Ohio State record for consecutive games, breaking the record of 476 by Ezekiel Elliott in 2015.
“He’s playing outstanding football right now,” Saban said. “There’s no doubt about that. He had a fantastic game against Clemson (193 yards).”
Ohio State last played the Crimson Tide in the 2014 season semifinal, won by the Buckeyes 42-35 en route to winning their most recent title with a win over Oregon.
Alabama’s last championship was 26-23 in overtime vs. Georgia on Jan. 8, 2018.
–Field Level Media