Alabama steamrolls Ohio State to win sixth national championship of Nick Saban's tenure

Nick Bromberg
·6 min read

Ohio State had no answer for Alabama’s offense.

Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith each scored three touchdowns as the Crimson Tide rolled up over 600 yards of offense in a 52-24 win over the Buckeyes.

The win gives Alabama (13-0) its sixth national title under coach Nick Saban and its third in the College Football Playoff era. Alabama’s championships after the 2015, 2017 and 2020 seasons are the most of any school since the playoff’s formation. Clemson, with titles after the 2016 and 2018 seasons, is the only other school with multiple playoff championships.

“This is a team that was always together. Everybody bought into the principles and values of the organization and program,” Saban said. “And they just did a great job. They played together. They supported each other. This is a great team.”

Smith, the 2020 Heisman winner and first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since 1991, did most of his damage in the first half. He had 12 catches for 215 yards as he outscored (18-17) and outgained (215-190) the Buckeyes himself in the first two quarters.

Saban now has seven national titles — he was the coach of LSU’s 2003 national championship team as well. No coach has ever won more claimed or official national titles than Saban. He entered Monday night’s game tied with Alabama legend Bear Bryant for the most titles of any college coach.

“I really haven’t thought about that because you’re always looking forward,” Saban said when asked about his record number of titles. “And I just love this team so much, what they’ve been able to do, I can’t even put it into words.”

Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III, left, congratulates wide receiver DeVonta Smith, after Smith scored a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III, left, congratulates wide receiver DeVonta Smith, after Smith scored a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Alabama cruises with Smith out

Smith left the game in the third quarter after he appeared to injure a finger on his right hand just after halftime. He was taken to the locker room after lengthy treatment on the sideline and returned halfway through the fourth quarter without his uniform and his right hand wrapped up.

That meant Alabama was forced to play much of the second half without its star offensive weapon. But that wasn’t a big deal. Alabama thrived without him. And it was so good with him that it didn’t really matter anyway.

Alabama was up 35-17 at the half after scoring four touchdowns in the second quarter. Smith scored to open the quarter on a gorgeous play call from outgoing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. And then he scored twice in the final 3:20 to extend Alabama’s lead to three touchdowns.

Ohio State (7-1) briefly got back into the game with 6:45 to go in the third quarter after a quick drive that pulled the Buckeyes within 11 points. But Alabama responded with an eight-play, 75-yard TD drive that took almost four minutes and culminated with a short pass from QB Mac Jones to WR Slade Bolden for a five-yard score.

The TD was the first of Bolden’s career.

[Alabama fans: Buy your Alabama national championship gear here]

Mac Jones’ big day

Jones, who was hobbled himself after an awkward dive while he was being tackled in the third quarter, was phenomenal all game. He was 36-of-45 passing for 464 yards and five scores as Ohio State’s secondary was no match for Alabama’s passing attack.

With Smith out of the game in the second half, John Metchie became the focal point. He had eight catches for 81 yards. Oh, Jaylen Waddle played too. The Alabama star saw his first game action since breaking his leg against Tennessee in October. He had three catches for 34 yards though he was clearly not 100 percent. Cameras showed Waddle limping off the field on multiple occasions.

The game was a great cap for Jones’ Alabama career. He went from career backup to starter after he was thrust into the role following Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury in 2019. He played admirably in Tagovailoa’s absence and kept his grip on the starting job entering the 2020 season. And he finishes the season with 41 TD passes and the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback.

“I wanted to win this game for these players,” Saban said. “Because this game was all about what they’ve done all year long. And I’m just so happy for our team and our players.”

Ohio State lost Trey Sermon on first drive

Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon was a huge part of Ohio State’s late-season push. Sermon rushed for 331 yards in a win over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game — a victory that wouldn’t have happened without Sermon’s amazing performance.

He rushed for 193 yards in the Buckeyes’ win over Clemson on Jan. 1 and was going to be the focal point of Ohio State’s rushing attack Monday night.

Sermon ended the game with just one rushing attempt. He gained two yards on Ohio State’s first play of the game and came up grabbing at the collar of his shoulder pads. Sermon continued to grab at his collarbone area for the next two plays and was taken to the locker room after Ohio State punted. According to the ESPN broadcast, Sermon was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation on an apparent shoulder or collarbone injury.

Justin Fields’ performance doesn’t match the Sugar Bowl

Ohio State beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl as Fields threw six touchdown passes and completed nearly 80 percent of his passes. Monday night, Fields didn’t come close to matching that performance, though Ohio State was forced to play from behind for much of the game and he was missing Sermon.

Fields threw just one TD and was 16-of-31 passing for 193 yards.

Watch out for Alabama again next year

The Crimson Tide will be missing Harris, Jones, Smith, Waddle and offensive linemen like Alex Leatherwood and Landon Dickerson in 2021. Yet it’s hard to bet against the Tide heading into 2021.

Five-star QB Bryce Young is poised to take over for Jones at QB and the receiving corps still has Metchie and players like Jahleel Billingsley and Xavier Williams. And it’s foolish to ever doubt Alabama’s running game and offensive line.

Throw in a defense that will return players like Christian Harris and Jordan Battle and you’ve got a team that’s going to be favored to win the SEC again and make it to the College Football Playoff for the seventh time in eight seasons.

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