By Marc Lawrence — National College Football Championship —
Ohio State over Alabama by 3 —
If Ohio State head coach Ryan Day wants advice on how to beat Alabama’s Nick Saban, he should put in a call to Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. The offensive coordinator for the Tide under Saban from 2014-2016, Kiffin’s exit from Tuscaloosa was an ugly one after he told reporters he didn’t recall a time when Saban was happy with his play-calling but he did remember the “ass chewings.”
The reason we bring up this bad blood is because Kiffin’s new team dropped a season-high 48 points on the usually fearsome Alabama defense this season, and we’re sure he’d share some of his insights to get back at Saban tonight. But you know what?
After what we saw last week between Ohio State and Clemson, we don’t think Day needs ANY advice on how to win, regardless of the foe. Not only did the Buckeyes prove to Dabo Swinney and every other critic that an OSU team that had played just six games in 2020 was more than good enough to compete in the Playoffs, they humbled Clemson like we’ve seldom seen.
While Ohio State’s run defense held the Tigers to a mere 44 yards, the Buckeye offense absolutely squashed Brent Venable’s highly-touted stop unit, unleashing a balanced attack that accounted for 254 yards rushing and 385 yards passing – which totals out to 639 yards, 8 more than what LSU gained in last year’s Championship game destruction of Clemson.
Perhaps tonight’s clash is as it should be, a matchup between the only two Power Five teams that outgained every opponent they faced this season. Alabama’s stellar QB Mac Jones has passed for 3,739 yards with 32 TDs, 4 INTs and a 75.6% completion rate – and his 95.8 QBR is higher than any quarterback in college football history (LSU’s Joe Burrow was 94.9 last season).
But OSU QB Justin Fields doesn’t take a back seat to anybody with his 92.2 QBR this season (along with a 92.1 last year), plus he uncorked SIX touchdown passes in last week’s rout of Clemson. We’re all familiar with the exploits of Tide RB Najee Harris but Buckeyes RB Trey Sermon, a transfer from Oklahoma, has rushed for 524 yards in the last two games, the most over the same span in Ohio State history.
As for the opposing coaches, this will be Saban’s 9th appearance in a National Championship Game in his career since 1998 (Bob Stoops and Dabo Swinney are next with 4 games each). However, the Nick-tator stands just 1-5 SU and 0-5 ATS in postseason bowl games against foes coming off a SU underdog win, not to mention his 5-12 ATS mark as a single-digit favorite when coming off a non-conference game.
This might be Ryan Day’s first trip to the promised land but he’s an incredible 23-1 SU with Ohio State. His team was double-digit chalk in 21 of those contests, appearing as a dog against Clemson (last year and this). In addition, Day is 12-0 SU and 9-3 ATS versus foes who allow 15 or more PPG. The underdog role also fits like a silk glove, considering the Buckeyes sport a 14-0 ATS mark when taking 3 or more points since 2009, and that the underdog is 5-1 ATS all-time in College Football Playoff Championship games.
Yes, Bama is for real, ranked No. 1 in 24 of 43 CFP Poll Rankings, more than everyone else combined (19). Our concern here, though, is that Saban’s 5 National Champs allowed an average 243.1 yards per game, and this year’s unit allows 353.2, or an increase of just over 100 YPG.
Toss in Ohio State’s 38-2 SU mark in its last 40 games while Bama is 23-3 in its last 26 contests, along with the fact that teams who win a CFP Semifi nal Game SU as an underdog are 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS all-time in CFP Championship Games, and we’ve go the makings of a certified live dog in the Buckeyes. As Howard Cosell might say, “And down goes Alabama!