Alabama 52, Ohio State 24: How the Crimson Tide dominated the Buckeyes for the national championship
MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — True to form, Alabama won Monday night’s College Football Playoff Championship game at Hard Rock Stadium with an offensive onslaught, burying Ohio State and cruising to a 52-24 victory.
In three ways, Alabama made sure its dominance over the sport was unquestioned.
DeVonta Smith leaving no doubt
Alabama allowed its Heisman Trophy winner to victimize whoever dared attempt to defend him. In other ways, it was offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian concocting ways to get him in advantageous positions, such as one-on-one with a linebacker for a second-quarter touchdown.
Alabama overwhelmed Ohio State’s defense, as it did every defense it faced on the way to a national championship.
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Smith ended the game with 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns, doing it all despite exiting early in the third quarter with an injured finger. Along the way, he broke the SEC records for single-season receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, plus the school record for single-season receiving yards and career receptions.
Timely, not dominating, defense
Flashes of truly dominant defense from Alabama were few and far between in 2020, and its national championship game was no different. In the first three quarters, it allowed six plays of 20 yards or more. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields averaged 16.5 yards per carry on his first four runs, and Alabama's season-long struggles with tight ends struck again on a 36-yard pass to Jeremy Ruckert.
Yet, with a supercharged offense like this one, Alabama doesn’t have to play dominant defense. It has to manufacture a finite number of stops, and it did more than enough against the Buckeyes.
A three-and-out to start the game gave UA the platform to take the lead, and two more at the end of the first half helped the Crimson Tide expand a four-point lead into an 18-point margin. In two of those three stops, freshman Brian Branch – in the place of injured starter Malachi Moore – successfully defended incomplete passes.
The exclamation point came on Ohio State’s final offensive play of the third quarter, a desperation fourth-and-1 attempt in its own territory, down by 21. Christian Barmore stuffed the run for a loss; Alabama scored six plays later; and the celebration was on.
Not just winning, but winning big
The 2009 team has been a consistent character in UA coach Nick Saban’s preaching to his teams. It was dominant on both sides of the ball, and it was his first Alabama team to win the national championship, giving the program proof of concept on Saban’s method.
More than those was that team's record: undefeated, 14-0. No UA team has been able to do it since until this team finished it Monday night.
The current team did it in more convincing fashion. As it blew out the Buckeyes, it closed out the season having just one one-possession game in its run, the SEC Championship Game win over Florida. The 2009 team played two such games in its season.
It’s one thing to achieve Saban’s standard of perfection in win-loss results; it’s another to go well above the required effort in almost every instance, as this 2020-21 team has now done.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson