Monday saw the final chapter of the 2020-21 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football season, with the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1) in the College Football National Championship by a score of 52-24. Alabama, who entered the game the consensus top team in the nation, played a near-flawless game in their dismantling of the Buckeyes, with four players making their marks on history in the game. One such player was Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, Heisman trophy finalist and leader of the Tide’s offense. Jones was surgical in this game, completing 36 passes on 45 attempts for 464 yards and five touchdowns. The 464 yards are a national championship record, beating Joe Burrow’s record from last year, and the five touchdown passes tie the record that Burrow also set. The only blemish on Jones’s day was his one fumble in the second quarter that set up an Ohio State touchdown drive. As impressive as these stats are, however, they would not have been possible without the next player to make his mark. That player, of course, is DeVonta Smith. Smith has arguably been the best player in college football this season, winning several awards including the famed Heisman trophy. Smith had a career day on the field, despite only playing in the first half and a few plays in the second before leaving the game with an injury. In that half of play, Smith recorded 12 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns, of which those 12 receptions are a national championship record. His three touchdowns were all in the second quarter, helping Alabama to jump out to a comfortable 35-17 lead at the half that seemed much greater than the score would suggest. To compliment the fantastic air attack put forth by Alabama, running back Najee Harris also had a great game. Although the numbers may not suggest it, with Harris rushing 22 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns, Ohio State had trouble trying to slow him down, especially in critical moments. Several times, the Buckeyes defense had stopped Alabama on second or third down, only to let Harris pound through them and convert for a first down. This was especially notable on Alabama’s first two drives, which resulted in touchdowns because Harris manage to convert on fourth and short.
Ask many coaches and you will hear many say that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Alabama’s offense did enough to win the game, but their defense helped them to take home the College Football Playoff (CFP) trophy. The leader of that effort, defensive lineman Christian Barmore, was one of the most impressive players in the game, coming up with five total tackles, including a sack and two tackles for a loss. His most impressive tackle of the day occurred in the third quarter, when tackled Ohio State running back Master Teague in the backfield on a fourth and two to force a turnover on downs. When Barmore wasn’t making tackles, he was disrupting the offense in other ways, putting pressure on quarterback Justin Fields or disrupting the running lanes. It’s fair to say that, if not for Barmore, this may have been a different ball game. These four players all made their mark on the game for Alabama, and they deserve the spotlight as does the Crimson Tide.
However, credit should go to the Buckeyes as well, as they never gave up on the game even when it seemed out of hand. For the first few possessions of the game, they seemed to be able to hang with Alabama, matching the first two touchdowns to keep the game at 14 apiece before they fell to Alabama’s might. Several key players from their roster were missing due to injury or COVID-19 protocol, and several more played through pain from previous injuries or were taken out due to injury. One such player was running back Trey Sermon, the transfer from Oklahoma who made waves in his previous three games and emerged as the number one running back. Sermon injured his shoulder and collarbone during the game’s first play, eventually having to be taken to a local hospital for diagnosis. Despite the injuries and the doubts, Ohio State still fought valiantly — they just couldn’t match up with Alabama. This game was monumental not only for the players but for the coaches as well. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day suffered just his second loss of his head coaching career, after having lost to Clemson in the semi-final last year. He avenged that loss this year in the Sugar Bowl; however, he fell short in this game. Despite this, many see promise in him, as he has led Ohio State to playoff berths in each of his first two years.
For Nick Saban of Alabama, this game meant a little more as he won his seventh national title of his career, breaking his tie with legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant of six national titles. There has been discussion over whether Saban was the best coach of all time, with some questioning him. However, with this win and now the sole person on top of the rankings, it becomes even harder to doubt that claim. Regardless of the answer, the Alabama Crimson Tide are your National Champions.