Alabama and Ohio State showed their muscle on Friday, dominating Notre Dame and Clemson respectively on their way to a rematch of their 2014 CFP Semifinal game in Miami on the 11th. Offensive firepower was the story in New Orleans, while the Rose Bowl was dominated in all three facets by Nick Saban’s group.
Rose Bowl, Roll Tide
As previously said, Alabama knocked off Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl, jumping out to a 21-7 lead at the half before cruising to a 31-14 victory. Mac Jones threw for 297 yards and four scores, while Heisman favorite Devonta Smith caught 7 passes for 130 of those yards and three impressive touchdowns.
- Something became clear in this one, and that is Mac Jones is one of, if not the best facilitator in the country. The senior and NFL Draft Prospect has a plethora of weapons at his disposal (Smith, Harris, Billingsley, Metchie III), and he has no issue putting the football exactly where it needs to be to let them shine.
- The Alabama defense has taken a lot of heat for their performances in both the SEC Championship and an early season contest against Ole Miss, but this group was really impressive on Friday. The pass rush made things really hard for Ian Book throughout the game, and Patrick Surtain II did some good things that don’t tend to show up in the box score.
- Najee Harris: fast, agile, tree trunk legs, can jump, can catch, can run, and hard to stop. That about sums it up.
- DeMarcco Hellams is the guy on this defense that not enough people talk about, and he came to play on Friday. Hellams had 12 tackles and a sack on Friday and was seemingly in on the action every play. Just a sophomore, Hellams cemented himself as a top NFL Draft Prospect next season.
- In a year where nothing has seemed normal, it was undeniably noticeable that the “Rose Bowl” was not being played in its normal setting. Frankly, that is a shame. The Rose Bowl has rarely played host to both Alabama and Notre Dame, and seeing them in Pasadena with all the pageantry that surrounds the game would have been really cool.
- Notre Dame just isn’t quite there. They ran into a buzzsaw in this one, but the sad storyline that was noted throughout the game was the severe lack of success for this group in big games. The win over Clemson was big for the program in 2020, but the Fighting Irish are in danger of writing themselves out of the conversation in the future.
Buckeyes Pour [It On] Some Sugar on the Tigers
Ohio State rebounded from an early 14-point deficit on Friday night, outscoring the Clemson Tigers by 35 the rest of the way to win by a final score of 49-28. Justin Fields was the star of the night, as the hobbled quarterback finished with nearly 400 yards passing and six touchdowns. Trey Sermon added to what has been an electric postseason, rushing for 193 yards and a score while also joining in the passing attack with 61 yards out of the backfield.
- After being up-and-down throughout the season, Justin Fields showed exactly why he is the No.2 quarterback on the NFL Draft board. It wasn’t just the stat line. Fields was consistently making the right read and using all of his weapons. The toughness following the big hit in the second quarter won’t go unnoticed, but the ability to adjust his game and stand in the pocket all second half was special.
- The Ohio State Defense: Like Alabama, this Ohio State defense had some serious question marks heading into the Sugar Bowl. While they weren’t perfect, the Ohio State defense made enough big plays and were able to create enough pressure to make things hard for Clemson after the first quarter.
- Jonathan Cooper heard his name called plenty in the game, and while he only had one sack to show for it, he was seemingly rushing Trevor Lawrence throughout the entire game. Cooper’s pressure from the edge was enough to give Dabo’s group fits, and the potential No.1 pick in the NFL Draft really paid the price.
- Sometimes it makes more sense to just keep your mouth shut. Now, I get the principle of leaving a 6-win team out of your Top 10, but the week before you play them in a win or go home semifinal? It just doesn’t make sense. No. 11 was trending on Twitter last night, and after feeling they let one slip away last season the effort from the Buckeyes last night was no surprise.
- The Targeting Rule Needs New Verbiage: According to the rule, spot on call for Targeting last night in this game; however, we really need to get to a spot where a hit like this doesn’t result in ejection. A tier one or tier two type of rule would allow for the rule to be executed correctly while also protecting a player that’s just making a football play. You have to feel for James Skalski, and he is just another player this affects until we look at the intention of the rule in the first place.
- Chris Olave makes a difference in this Buckeye offense. Olave made his presence known after it was obvious he was missing in the B1G Championship, catching a pair of touchdown passes and collecting 132 receiving yards. He is Fields’ big play threat, and that big play was called on multiple occasions Friday night.
Last night’s results mean we will see a rematch of the first CFP semifinal in 2014, when Ezekiel Elliot and the Buckeyes took down top-seeded Alabama 42-35. This year feels a bit different, but the Buckeyes still come in as the underdogs with a chip on their shoulder.
THINGS TO WATCH
- Shaun Wade vs. Devonta Smith: This matchup will be one Ohio State has to win (or maybe just manage) if they want to win. Wade was up-and-down against Clemson’s top man on Friday; however, Smith will pose a unique threat that Wade just hasn’t seen. If Smith can win this battle, I think we see the same methodical offensive prowess we have seen all season from the Crimson Tide.
- The Ohio State Offensive Line: The Buckeyes opened up some huge holes for Trey Sermon on Friday night, and the consistency of that rushing attack will be important again on the 11th. Sermon’s physical carries can wear on a defense as he gets to the second level, and his success also opens up a very dangerous play-action passing attack.
- Mac Jones vs Justin Fields: Mac Jones has been arguably the most steady and consistent quarterback in the country this season, and his ability to avoid the big mistake has been a huge part of Alabama’s success. Fields is more mistake prone, but the big play arm strength was evident in the semifinal win. There is a good chance the winner of this battle takes home the victory.
- Najee Harris: Harris has been excellent over the last couple games, and his ability to be a factor in both the rushing and passing attack is going to be a tough cover for this Ohio State linebacking core. If Harris can put together 150-175 all-purpose yards, I like the Tide’s chances in this one.
- Which Defense Can Get Stops? Two electric offenses, two defenses that have shown holes throughout the year. If one of these two defenses can step up and get some big stops to swing momentum throughout the game, I firmly believe that team will win. It may take plenty of scores to win, but someone is going to have to get that big stop.
My Early Prediction:
- 35-24 Alabama
- Devonta Smith 200+ Receiving Yards
- Justin Fields 350+ Passing Yards
- Alabama wins the turnover battle 2-1