Alabama and Ohio State last met during the first college football playoffs in 2015. Behind coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes won the Allstate Sugar Bowl semifinals 42-35 and took home a national title.
Since that defeat, Nick Saban and Alabama have won two national championships and played in two other title games. The state of Ohio, now led by Ryan Day, is making its first trip to the championship game since winning that title in 2015.
Two of the true blue blood cells of college football will meet again on Monday at the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T in Miami Gardens, Florida (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN app).
There are many similarities between the two undefeated teams, from collecting potential NFL draft picks in the first round, to a pair of top 5 national-level crimes, to defense mechanisms that are sometimes unusually high in groups this season have submitted.
Alabama and the state of Ohio have also dominated their conference brothers. As of the start of the 2014 season, Alabama is 59-5 against SEC opponents and Ohio State 59-4 against Big Ten opponents.
We surveyed coaches who have faced Alabama and the state of Ohio this season to determine the factors that will affect Monday’s game and which team should win the national title.
Fields against Alabamas D.
Ohio state quarterback Justin Fields was spectacular in Clemson’s 49-28 semi-finals at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. He finished the 22-of-28 race for 385 yards with six touchdowns and only one interception. He also rushed for 42 meters.
It might not take six touchdown passes to beat Alabama, but the Big Ten and SEC coaches agree that Fields must be at his best again for the Buckeyes to win. At the start of the Clemson game, Fields had thrown 15 touchdown passes and five interceptions in six games and had been fired 18 times.
“He’s had a couple of games where he looked pretty human,” said a Big Ten head coach. “He has to be at the top of his game. He has to be really sharp. You just need all of your weapons [to play well]. “
One SEC head coach said the Clemson game was the best he’d ever seen at Fields, partly because the Ohio State running game opened so many things to him on the field. Trey Sermon rushed 193 yards against the Tigers.
“I thought Indiana confused Fields and Northwestern confused him,” said the SEC coach, noting that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is one of the best in the business when it comes to messing with the heads of the quarterbacks.
“So I thought [Venables] Fields would rattle, and to his credit he wouldn’t let that happen. We’ll see if Alabama can do that. But the key was the Ohio State Run game. That helped calm Fields and allowed him to take those shots in the field. “
A Big Ten coach credited Ohio State Day with the failure of Venables and Clemson to steal the Buckeyes’ signals. The state of Ohio consistently attacked a Clemson defense that didn’t know what was to come.
“Fields came from the Big Ten championship where he just looked dazed and confused, and against Clemson he looks like the best player in the country,” said a Big Ten offensive assistant.
Fields is a constant threat to the run. He has run more than 40 meters four times this season and of course plays outside of the pocket.
“Alabama has problems with quarterbacks that can run,” said an SEC head coach. “I think Ohio State can keep them off balance if Fields can do it. If they can, they can play with Alabama. But you have to be good in third place to have a chance against Alabama and that Control pace. ” Fields gives you the ability to do this with his skills. “
If Fields is playing anywhere near as well as he did against Clemson, an SEC offensive assistant said, “It’s going to be a hell of a game of football. It could be the Alabama against that.” [Clemson quarterback] Deshaun Watson game [in 2017] again, and we saw what Watson did to some Alabama defenses that were better than this one. “
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Winning (or Avoiding) a Track Meet
Alabama and Ohio State average more than 43 points per game, and both offenses are designed to earn points.
However, an SEC defensive coordinator said the last thing the state of Ohio wants to do is get into a game where both teams score at will.
“Ohio State looks like the closest team that could do this,” said the coordinator. “But when you do meet with Alabama, you’re probably running for the silver medal, not the gold. Alabama has never been more explosive on the offensive under Saban, but they can still beat you in the game.” .
“They have an elite that is running back [Najee Harris], an elite offensive line and an elite playcaller [offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian]. This is dangerous.”
A Big Ten head coach said the top seven in the Ohio state defense will be key to slowing Alabama down and not allowing it to become a track meet.
“Can you generate a Pass Rush?” said the trainer. “You can follow up [Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade]but they’ll play three-deep, hold it in and in front. I think they’re going to force Alabama to earn it. “
The same Big Ten head coach said there was always a chance Sarkisian, who was recently named Texas head coach, would be distracted.
“But that Ohio State Front 7 is damn good now. They dominated Clemson. Dominated,” said the coach. “Those supporters and the D-Line, there isn’t a Superstar on the D-Line, except maybe [tackle Haskell Garrett], but if they do what they did in the sugar bowl, the front eight they turn could be a problem. It will likely be the best D-Line Alabama has ever played. “
The Crimson Tide has won twice this season by giving up 46 or more points, a 63-48 win over Ole Miss on October 10 and a 52:46 win over Florida on December 19 in the SEC championship game.
An SEC head coach said it was vital for the state of Ohio to play some explosive games, but it was equally important to minimize Alabama’s possessions.
“But if you want to do that you have to score on your drives and while you have to take a few shots on the field you have to be able to meticulously move the ball on them I think you can take on that defense, if you are patient, “said the coach. “They’re a really good defensive football team. They’re not a great defensive football team.”
The same SEC head coach said it would work for Ohio State to get Alabama into the fourth quarter, especially in a high-scoring game.
“Make it a close game because you really haven’t played one,” said the coach. “As Florida kept hitting, Alabama had a little panic on his face. They hadn’t been hit like that.”
Alabama’s offensive line versus Ohio State defensive line
Several Big Ten coaches identified Ohio state high school as the weak link on the team. Even Wade, a potential NFL first-round draft pick, didn’t thrill coaches in the league. A Big Ten coach said security Josh Proctor is the most formidable defender in the state of Ohio.
A vulnerable high school likely means disaster against Alabama’s passing game, but the state of Ohio has the line of defense to create some flood problems.
“That may sound crazy, but you have to do it [Alabama] one-dimensional, “said the coach.” You have to win first. You have to put them behind the chains because Mac [Jones] can’t run. So you have to get the kid to hit you. “
As talented as Ohio State is on the defensive, an SEC head coach said the best part of Alabama’s team is the offensive line, despite the Crimson Tide taking a hit when the Landon Dickerson senior center went down in the SEC Championship game with a knee injury.
“The part of your team that no one talks about enough and the best part of your team overall as a group is the offensive line,” said the coach. “Najee Harris is a good player but he isn’t [former Alabama running back] Derrick Henry. What he has are five professional offensive linemen in front of him. I think Mac Jones will likely be a first round election, but neither is he Joe Burrow. Again, Mac is a really good player who never flips it. But if that line of scrimmage were average, it would be average. “
A Big Ten offensive assistant said the state of Ohio needs to find a way to put pressure on Jones without flashing, which is easier said than done.
“They don’t need to apply pressure because they usually get pressure from their D-line a lot,” said the assistant. “They have some pressure, but people are afraid to pressurize Alabama because they are afraid to give up some big pieces.”
And even if the Ohio state’s line of defense goes down, an SEC head coach said the Buckeyes should be better able to attack in space.
“You just can’t let Alabama go yards after the catch,” said the coach. “Look at three of their touchdowns against Notre Dame. The quarterback takes the ball and throws it to a man like he was in 1980. But that’s how good Alabama is at his skills, especially DeVonta Smith.
“It’s not that Sark is committing a crime that no one has seen before. He only has the best players so you’d better get them to earn them and not get yards off the hook.”
As good as Smith is, as evidenced by his 20 touchdown catches and the Heisman Trophy, an SEC head coach said the thought of preparing for Smith and Jaylen Waddle is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator. Waddle has been training for the past week after breaking his ankle on October 24th and will be a game time decision.
“Smith is unreal, but the broad recipient group as a whole is not the same without waddle,” said the coach. “With him and when he plays, watch out.”
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The decisive advantage
According to an SEC offensive assistant, the state of Ohio’s best chance of winning is to take Smith out of the game entirely. But good luck with that. He has received two or more touchdown passes in six of his last seven games.
“To let [John] Metchie walks 100 meters, “said the assistant.” Its 100 meters will be excavation routes where it will be attacked or crossing routes where it will be attacked. But DeVonta catches intersection routes? He doesn’t catch her. These are touchdowns. I would hire two people for DeVonta at any time.
“If Ohio State can’t contain it, Alabama will win big.”
Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss have amassed a total of 647 yards on Alabama this season, and they did so with a quick attack that left the Tide defenses in disarray. An SEC head coach said Ohio State’s best chance at this game is to use a certain pace, but he doubts the Buckeyes would be able to match the pace that the rebels saw on Oct.10 had achieved.
“Ohio state can go fast, but nobody can go as fast as Lane,” said the coach. “And you can’t set the pace like that in a week. The state of Ohio messed with Clemson but hid their formations and waited and waited and then played a piece and hurt Clemson a few times when they weren’t in line. But to do it against Alabama, you have to do it four times in a row, like Lane did.
“It can be catastrophic because if you do that and you don’t get a first retirement, you will be beaten 14-0 because Alabama will score.”
A Big Ten offensive assistant said this was not old Alabama, which could only win games on defense. He said if the horse chestnuts can force two or more turnovers and / or generate a big game for special teams, then they have a chance to win.
“The state of Ohio will earn points,” said the assistant. “You should be able to go head to toe. It will be, ‘Who is turning the ball or what defense can stop?’ I don’t know who to choose in this game. It’s not like there are clear choices. “
An SEC head coach expects the state of Ohio to do its best to attack Alabama’s two nickel-and-dime newbies (Malachi Moore and Brian Branch) like Florida.
“That was a tough match for Alabama because it showed that the two real newbies had to face Florida’s two best players [Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney]”Said the trainer.” Ohio State is more traditional. Now Chris Olave is … a great player. How well? I think we’re going to find out because Olave is playing outside, and that’s where Bama’s strength lies with Patrick Surtain and Josh Jobe. “
In a game like this, one player rarely matters, but a Big Ten coach wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
“For me, the only way Alabama loses the game is if Mac Jones plays the worst game he has all season, similar to Tua Tagovailoa against Clemson two years ago,” said the manager.