This is as good an intro as any, I suppose.
Alabama and Ohio State most recently met during the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2015. Behind coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes won the Allstate Sugar Bowl semifinal 42-35 and went on to a national title.
Since that loss, Nick Saban and Alabama have won two national championships and played in two other title games. Ohio State, now led by Ryan Day, is making its first trip to the championship game since winning that title in 2015.
Two of college football’s true blue bloods meet again on Monday in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T in Miami Gardens, Florida (8 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN App).
There are many similarities between the two unbeaten teams, from the collection of potential first-round NFL draft picks, to a pair of top-five scoring offenses nationally, to defenses that have uncharacteristically given up points in bunches at times this season.
Alabama and Ohio State have also dominated their conference brethren. Since the start of the 2014 season, Alabama is 59-5 against SEC opponents, and Ohio State is 59-4 against Big Ten foes.
‘Bama is currently an 8-point favorite and the over/under is 75 points. The focus going in has been on both teams’ passing attacks, naturally enough (Alabama is first in passer rating, Ohio State is fifth), but I find myself a little curious about which team has success on the ground.
Here are the relevant yards per rush numbers and national rankings:
- Offensive yards per rush: Ohio State 6.04 (3rd); Alabama 5.08 (24th)
- Defensive yards per rush: Ohio State 3.20 (10th); Alabama 3.21 (11th)
Ohio State averaged 5.77 yards per rush against Clemson, the seventh-best rushing defense (based on defensive ypr) in the country. In his last two games, Trey Sermon’s been an absolute beast, averaging 30 carries a game. I know it’s popular to say that Justin Fields is going to have to have another big game for Ohio State to win, but he’s got an awfully nice backup there whom Alabama’s defense is going to have to account for. Can either defense stop the run in order to put more pressure on the opposing quarterback?
By the way, both teams excelled at turnover margin. Ohio State is third nationally at +1.29 per game; Alabama, at +0.92, is twelfth.
I don’t think the Buckeyes are going to surprise the Tide the way they did Clemson, but I don’t see Alabama running away with this one, either. There’s way too much talent on both teams, methinks. Bottom line, I’ll take ‘Bama to win (it’s hard not to), but not to cover.
Have at it in the comments.