Rapid Reaction: Perfection! Alabama dominates Ohio State to win 18th national championship, 6th under Saban
1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017…
It’s time to build another wing onto the Bryant Museum.
The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide won the program’s 18th national championship — and the 6th title in 14 dominant seasons under Nick Saban — by overwhelming the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
Alabama capped its 13-0 season — the Tide’s 11th unbeaten/untied season in 128 years and 2nd in Saban’s unprecedented era — in grand style in Miami Gardens. Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith ended his legendary Alabama career in much the same way he burst on the national scene, catching 12 passes for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns — all in the 1st half.
Tide quarterback Mac Jones, who finished 3rd in the Heisman voting, finished with a CFP-record 464 yards and record-tying 5 TD passes. And running back Najee Harris? The multi-purpose star who was 5th for the Heisman completed his storied collegiate career with 79 rushing yards and 3 total TDs.
Alabama’s 52 points broke the Playoff-era national championship game record for most points in a game, eclipsing its record of 45 set against Clemson in the 2015 title game.
Saban’s 6th crown in Tuscaloosa draws him even with legendary Crimson Tide coach Paul W. Bryant — who led his alma mater to 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978 and 1979 titles. Adding Saban’s 2003 BCS national title at LSU, the 69-year-old coach surpasses the storied Bryant as the coach with the most total national championships of all time with 7 overall. Only 1 other active coach has multiple national titles — Dabo Swinney at Clemson in 2016 and 2018.
The Crimson Tide, who entered the game scoring at least 35 points in 25 straight games and at 48.2 points per game was 2nd nationally only to Kent State’s 49.8 points per game over 4 games, racked up more than 600 yards of total offense on the Big Ten champs. Alabama piled up 389 of those yards in a dominant 1st half that saw Jones go 25-of-30 for 342 yards and 4 touchdowns and the offense average an astounding 9.0 yards per play.
Alabama dressed out both electrifying wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who broke his ankle Oct. 24 against Tennessee, and senior center Landon Dickerson, who had knee surgery after injuring it in the 4th quarter against Florida in the SEC Championship Game. While Dickerson’s contribution Monday night was limited to the pregame coin toss, Waddle made his presence felt on the Tide’s 1st drive — catching a critical 3rd-and-3 shovel pass for 15 yards down to the Buckeyes’ 7.
Alabama needed all 4 downs from there to record its initial score, as Harris piled in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead. After stonewalling Ohio State on its 1st drive, the Tide defense bent on its next effort — with Ohio State marching 75 yards aided by a 1-handed 36-yard grab by Jeremy Ruckert and a Master Teague 8-yard burst into the end zone.
After going for it on 4th down only 3 times in the entire season, Saban rolled the dice again on the Tide’s ensuing possession, as Harris burst for 3 yards on a 4th-and-1 at the 10 to keep the drive alive. The gamble worked, Smith hauled in a 5-yard touchdown pass for a 14-7 Alabama advantage early in the 2nd quarter.
Jones coughed up a rare turnover on Alabama’s next possession, as he was stripped of the football by Ohio State’s Baron Browning during a sack to gift the Buckeyes the football at the Tide 19. An Alabama pass interference penalty pushed it to the 4, and Teague barrelled in from there to tie it at 14.
But unlike his younger attitude that earned the nickname “McEnroe” for lack of focus after mistakes, Jones showed exactly no ill effects of the miscue. The Heisman finalist directed the Tide down the field with his arm — and legs via a rare 7-yard scamper up the middle — before tossing a beautiful screen pass that Harris converted into a 26-yard TD for a 21-14 lead.
Ohio State continued to gash Alabama’s rush defense, though, as Fields — who was fighting off a nasty hip pointer sustained against Clemson 10 days prior — scrambled for 28 yards and then Teague rumbled for 29 more down to the red zone. Alabama looked to have Ohio State stopped, but Jordan Battle was called for targeting on Ruckert and ejected. Still, the Tide stopped the Buckeyes from there and forced a 23-yard Jake Seibert field goal that made it 21-17.
It was at this point that Smith showed exactly why he was the first wide receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991 to win the Heisman. The player on the receiving end of the Tide’s magical 2nd-and-26 overtime TD pass against Georgia as a freshman in 2017, Smith torched Josh Proctor on a 44-yard reception on the ensuing possession and then waltzed in on a 5-yard touchdown pass for a 28-17 advantage.
Alabama finally asserted itself on defense when the Buckeyes (7-1) got the ball back, forcing a 3-an-out that included a 3rd-down stop with just 10 players on the field. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who was headed to Texas as the Longhorns’ head coach after the confetti fell in Miami Gardens, took full advantage of Ohio State doubling Smith by dialing up back-to-back screens to Harris for 18 yards before Smith again toasted the Buckeyes secondary on a 42-yard TD reception and a 35-17 cushion.
The Tide got the ball to start the final 30 minutes of the 2020 season, and motored down the field intent on scoring again. This time, Ohio State kept Alabama out of the end zone — forcing a 20-yard field goal by Will Reichard (who converted on all 98 of his field goals or PAT attempts in 2020 as a Lou Groza Award finalist) that made it 38-17. Smith injured his right hand on Alabama’s possession, though, and spent several minutes in the injury tent before being escorted to the locker room. His night was done.
Even though Ohio State was without running back Trey Sermon, who injured his collarbone on the Buckeyes’ 1st possession and was transported to a medical facility, the Buckeyes kept battling. Fields gutted out a 33-yard scamper up the middle into scoring range, and then found Garrett Wilson on a 20-yard TD pass that cut the Tide lead to 38-24.
Even without Smith and with a clearly-hobbling Waddle, the Tide offense geared back up and put it back in the end zone. Waddle caught his 3rd pass on basically 1 leg to keep the drive alive, and backup running back Brian Robinson Jr. bulled his way for 32 yards on 4 carries, and little-used weapon Slade Bolden caught his 1st career touchdown pass via a 5-yard screen from Jones to make it 45-24.
After defensive tackle Christian Barmore stopped Teague a critical 4th-down stop to give Alabama the ball back with a short field, the Tide offense made Ohio State pay to start the 4th quarter — as Harris returned for his swan song by waltzing in for a 1-yard score that sealed the victory.