Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban celebrates after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama closes National Signing Day with record-setting class

National champion Alabama regained the title of No. 1 football recruiting class on National Signing Day on Wednesday, topping Ohio State.

The Crimson Tide have had the top-rated class in the nation in three of the past five years, according to national recruiting service 247Sports. The crown has been in Tuscaloosa in the odd-numbered years, with Georgia taking the title in 2018 and ‘20.

The bulk of the players nationally were signed in the early signing period in late December, with a few top players left to announce their choices on Wednesday.

The 247Sports Composite Team Rankings give a score to each team’s class, and Alabama set a record with a 327.91 score, besting the record of 324.67, set in 2010 by Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators.

Alabama cemented the record with the signing of a pair of blue-chip prospects on Wednesday: Camar Wheaton of Garland, Texas, a five-star signee who is ranked as the No. 2 running back in the nation, and four-star safety Terrion Arnold of Tallahassee, Fla. Arnold is the No. 3-ranked player at his position, per the 247Sports composite.

“We’re obviously very excited to have two additional guys to add to the class of people who signed in December,” Saban said.

In all, his class consists of 27 commits, including seven five-star prospects. Arnold and cornerback Ga’Quincy McKinstry, who signed in December, both are expected to play basketball for Alabama, too.

“We don’t have an issue with guys playing other sports,” Saban said, adding he and basketball coach Nate Oats “have a good idea of how we’re going to do it.”

Following Alabama in the ranking were perennial powers Ohio State (309.49 points), Georgia (294.55), LSU (291.37) and Clemson (291.20).

Ohio State’s class didn’t add any signees on Wednesday, but coach Ryan Day undoubtedly will be satisfied with the 21 commits — including five, five-star prospects — already signed.

The biggest signings of the day, other than from Alabama, came in the next group of five teams.

No. 6 Oregon inked Avante Dickerson of Omaha, Neb., the No. 8-ranked cornerback in the nation. He’s one of 19 four-star recruits for the Ducks, who finished No. 11 in the team rankings in 2020.

No. 7 Texas A&M added the nation’s No. 4 running back, LJ Johnson of Cypress, Texas. No. 8 Southern California picked up Raesjon Davis, the fourth-ranked outside linebacker in the country from area powerhouse Mater Dei.

Notre Dame finished in the No. 9 spot after falling to No. 18 in the Class of 2020.

Michigan, which signed coach Jim Harbaugh to a contract extension last month, closed out signing day with the No. 10 class after flipping a pair of players previously committed to other programs.

The Wolverines convinced Rayshaun Benny, a four-star in-state defensive tackle, to decommit from Michigan State. They also signed defensive tackle Ikechukwu Iwunnah from Garland, Texas, who initially committed to Colorado.

The other significant signing of the day belonged to Ole Miss, which inked Tywone Malone of New Jersey, the nation’s sixth-ranked defensive tackle. Coach Lane Kiffin’s Rebels finished with the No. 18 class in the country, up from No. 34 in 2020.

–Field Level Media

Aug 24, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Tate Martell (18) works out prior to the game at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Ohio State, Miami QB Tate Martell to transfer again

Miami quarterback Tate Martell is in the transfer portal again.

The former four-star recruit began his collegiate career at Ohio State before transferring to the Hurricanes prior to the 2019 season.

After Houston transfer D’Eriq King won the starting job for Miami last July, Martell opted out of the 2020 season.

He was a four-star recruit from powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas and was ranked by the 247Sports composite as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation in the Class of 2017.

He redshirted at Ohio State in 2017 and sat behind Dwayne Haskins in 2018, appearing in three games. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown and added two scores on the ground.

Martell appeared in five games for the Hurricanes in 2019, completing one pass for 7 yards and rushing seven times for 7 yards.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts as he walks off the field after losing to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State QB Justin Fields declares for NFL draft

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Monday, a move that was expected.

Fields is projected to be one of the first two quarterbacks taken on Day 1 of the draft, scheduled for April 29 in Cleveland.

“Growing up, my dream was to one day play the game that I love at the highest level,” Fields wrote in a lengthy post on Twitter. “… I am in a position to turn that dream into reality. And for that reason, I am foregoing my senior year and declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft.”

Fields finishes his career with 5,701 yards passing and 67 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He also rushed for 1,133 yards and 19 touchdowns in 34 games with the Buckeyes and Georgia Bulldogs (2018).

Fields led Ohio State to the CFP playoffs in his two years at OSU. The Buckeyes lost to the Clemson Tigers in the semifinals in 2019 and lost to Alabama in the title game in 2020.

Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019, compiling one of the greatest statistical seasons in Ohio State history. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards while accounting for 51 touchdowns (41 passing, 10 rushing). He became the first quarterback in Big Ten history with 40 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in the same season.

Fields was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year for 2019 and 2020.

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon declared for the draft on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes running back Trey Sermon (8) scores a rushing touchdown against Clemson Tigers defense in the first quarter during the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State RB Trey Sermon declares for NFL draft

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Sunday.

“I am truly excited for the opportunity to pursue my dreams at the next level,” he posted on social media. “I know the best is yet to come for me!”

Sermon rushed for a Big Ten title-game record 331 yards in a Dec. 19 win against Northwestern and ran for 193 yards in a victory against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal on New Year’s Day in the Sugar Bowl.

In Monday’s national championship game against No. 1 Alabama, Sermon was injured on his first carry and did not return. The No. 2 Buckeyes went on to lose, 52-24.

A transfer from Oklahoma, Sermon rushed 116 times for 870 yards and four touchdowns and added 12 catches for 95 yards in eight games for the Buckeyes this season.

He rushed for 2,076 yards and 22 scores and caught 36 passes for 391 yards and three TDs over three seasons with the Sooners (2017-19).

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban celebrates after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama-Ohio State (18.7M) lowest-watched finale in 16 years

The Alabama-Ohio State College Football Playoff finale Monday averaged 18.7 million viewers across the ESPN networks, making it the least-watched title game since 2005.

The ratings declined 27 percent from LSU-Clemson (25.6 million) last year and 26 percent from Clemson-Alabama in 2019 (25.3 million), according to Sports Media Watch. The Crimson Tide won 52-24.

The previous low (21.4 million) for a national title game was USC-Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl in 2005, a blowout win by the Trojans, 55-19.

The Bama-OSU finale drew fewer viewers than the two semifinal games, the first time that’s occurred in CFP/Bowl Championship Series history. Ohio State-Clemson garnered 19.2 million viewers and Alabama-Notre Dame drew 18.9 million on New Year’s Day.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) celebrates with the CFP National Championship trophy after beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

CFP champion Alabama already 2022 favorite

The celebrations were barely underway Monday night after Alabama’s latest national title when the Crimson Tide were installed as one of the favorites to claim the championship again next year.

Clemson, which lost in a national semifinal on Jan. 1, is the co-favorite or second favorite at various sportsbooks.

BetMGM and DraftKings had Alabama at +300 and Clemson at +350. FanDuel listed the Crimson Tide at +350 and the Tigers at +400, with Georgia also at +400. SportsBetting.com tabbed Alabama at +300, Clemson at +400 and Georgia at +500.

Alabama and Clemson topped PointsBet’s list at +300, with Ohio State next at +500. The Buckeyes also were the third choice at DraftKings at +400, third at BetMGM at +500 and fourth at FanDuel at +600.

The fourth choice at DraftKings was Oklahoma at +800, with Georgia at +1400. The Sooners were the fourth choice at SportsBetting.com at +600 and the co-fourth choice at FanDuel at +600, along with Ohio State. Georgia and Oklahoma shared fourth for PointsBet at +800.

Top-ranked Alabama (13-0) demolished third-ranked Ohio State 52-24 on Monday at Miami Gardens, Fla., to give coach Nick Saban his record seventh national championship.

The Buckeyes (7-1) couldn’t control Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, who piled up 215 yards and three touchdowns on 12 first-half receptions before exiting with an injury.

–Field Level Media

Jan. 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) catches a 42-yard touchdown behind Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tuf Borland (32) during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama rolls to 35-17 halftime lead over Ohio State

Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and No. 1 Alabama were nearly unstoppable in taking a 35-17 halftime lead on No. 3 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship game Monday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Smith had 12 catches for 215 yards and touchdowns of 5, 5 and 42 yards. In just one half, the senior wide receiver already had set the receptions record for a Bowl Championship Series or CFP title game, and he was second for most receiving yards in a BCS or CFP championship contest, which date to 1998.

Najee Harris added a 1-yard TD run and a 26-yard TD catch as the Crimson Tide scored on five of their first six possessions.

The only blemish was quarterback Mac Jones being strip-sacked by Baron Browning with Browning recovering the ball at the Crimson Tide 19. The second TD run of the game for Ohio State’s Master Teague III, playing for the injured Trey Sermon, made it 14-14 early in the second quarter.

Harris’ subsequent touchdown catch made it 21-14. After the Buckeyes pulled within 21-17, Jones connected twice with Smith.

Jones was 25 of 30 for a 342 yards and four TDs before the break.

Sermon, who had 524 rushing yards in the previous two games combined, carried for 2 yards on the first play from scrimmage, then left with a possible collarbone injury and did not return.

The Buckeyes had 13 players unavailable, including three starters, defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, defensive end Tyreke Smith and kicker Blake Haubeil. The school did give reasons for their absences, although the team has been hit hard by COVID-19 issues.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes place kicker Blake Haubeil (95) kicks a 43-yard field goal against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half of the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Doug McSchooler-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State PK Blake Haubeil tests positive, will miss title game

Ohio State senior placekicker Blake Haubeil will not participate in Monday’s night’s College Football Playoff championship game against Alabama after testing positive for COVID-19.

Haubeil, who has made five of his seven field-goal attempts this season, announced his status on social media. He said he has not seen family members in four months in an attempt to avoid the virus, and claims to have not violated team safety protocols in recent days.

“Football isn’t just something I do, it’s a part of who I am,” Haubeil wrote in an Instagram post. “Knowing I have so much more to give, and not having the opportunity to do so tonight, is one of the most gut-wrenching feelings I’ve ever experienced.”

In addition to his five field goals, Haubeil has made all 24 of his extra-point attempts this season, including all seven in the semifinal victory over Clemson. He has made 28 field goals in his Ohio State career on 35 attempts and has made all 146 of his PAT attempts over the last three seasons.

Freshman kicker Jake Seibert, who was ESPN’s fourth-ranked player at his position in the 2020 recruiting class, is expected to handle the kicking duties. Seibert missed his only field-goal attempt of the season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) celebrate a touchdown pass from Jones to Smith at Bryant-Denny Stadium during the second half of Alabama's 41-0 win over Mississippi State. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

Action split as Alabama moves to 9-point favorite

Alabama climbed to 9-point favorites hours ahead of Monday’s College Football Championship, leading to more split betting action on the title game.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide opened as 7.5-point favorites over No. 3 Ohio State, but had been bet up to 9-point favorites at DraftKings and PointsBet by Monday afternoon.

Alabama is being backed by 52 percent of the spread line bets at DraftKings, with the Crimson Tide also backed by 56 percent of the total bets and 59 percent of the handle with a -315 moneyline. The 75-point Over/Under was being backed with 59 percent of the bets on the Under.

The action has been more split at PointsBet, where director of communications Patrick Eichner told Field Level Media on Monday that more bets have come in on Alabama but more handle on Ohio State.

“Despite the line movement, the book is actually seeing strong two-way action on the spread as of now,” Eichner said in an email. “Will be interesting to see where our liabilities stand closer to kickoff and if the line continues to move.

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is the favorite to win game MVP honors at +275 by PointsBet, ahead of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith is third at +500, followed by Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris at +600.

Among DraftKings team props is a 32.5-point Over/Under on Ohio State’s total points, with Alabama’s Over/Under being offered at 41.5.

Coverage of the 2021 CFP championship game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Gardens, Fla. begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The game can also be live streamed on fuboTV and Hulu.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) and Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Gee Scott Jr. (13) celebrate after defeating the Clemson Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama, Ohio State set to fly to Florida for title game

No. 1 Alabama passed its latest round of COVID-19 testing and will fly to Miami on Friday in preparation for Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game.

“Just got the test results and we are good to go,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne tweeted Friday afternoon.

And their opponent, No. 3 Ohio State, was set to fly to Miami on Saturday, ESPN reported, ending speculation that COVID-19 would force the postponement of the title game.

Ohio State declined to state on Friday when its latest results would be released, but CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN he expected no hitches.

“As I have said all week, the game is on,” Hancock said. “Nothing has changed. Alabama’s team will be traveling to Miami tonight, and Ohio State’s guys will be arriving tomorrow. We are looking forward to a great night for college football.”

The game will be played without two prominent media members on hand, however.

ESPN’s Holly Rowe announced on Twitter that she tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the game, which was to be her first opportunity to be part of a college football title game broadcast in her 25 years with the network.

“I’m definitely experiencing symptoms and not feeling great,” she said in a video posted to Twitter.

Todd Blackledge was scheduled to work the game as an analyst for ESPN Radio, but he also tested positive and will not be on air, the network announced. Sean McDonough and Greg McElroy will call the game.

Blackledge was the quarterback of Penn State’s national championship team in 1982.

The game is set for 8 p.m. Monday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

–Field Level Media