The Crimson Tide and Buckeyes are on a collision course for the CFP National Championship Game on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
When: Monday, Jan. 11, at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN and ESPN app
Odds: Alabama -6.5 (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
This is a rematch of the 2015 Sugar Bowl, when Ohio State upset Alabama en route to becoming the first team to win the College Football Playoff.
That the Buckeyes made the playoff at all was the source of some controversy as the CFP selection committee picked them ahead of a one-loss TCU and Baylor. In what might be a good omen, their inclusion this year was somewhat contentious, too, since they played only six games in the regular season and needed the Big Ten's intervention to qualify for the conference championship.
Ohio State answered its skeptics—with Dabo Swinney among them—Friday night.
Almost from the outset, a Clemson-Alabama championship battle seemed inevitable. This version of Ohio State will give the Crimson Tide a run for their money.
Alabama took down Notre Dame 31-14 in the Rose Bowl in the first of two CFP Semifinals. The final score is somewhat deceiving because the Fighting Irish's second touchdown came inside the final minute.
The Tide dominated and showcased how quickly their offense can strike. Only one of their five scoring drives took more than three minutes off the clock as they gobbled up yards in big chunks.
Imagine having to draw up a defensive game plan that needs to account for both DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris.
However, Alabama doesn't have the same kind of lights-out defense that has often been a hallmark of the Saban era. Georgia gained 414 yards, which was before the offense started really firing with JT Daniels under center. Kyle Trask went 26-of-40 for 408 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort in the SEC title game.
Justin Fields looked a bit sluggish in Ohio State's final two games against Michigan State and Northwestern. He was back to his best against Clemson, throwing for six touchdowns.
Fields had a pair of long heaves find the end zone, and those are the kind of plays you need to make in order to topple Alabama.
Fresh off running for 331 yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern, Trey Sermon had another monster game. He carried the ball 31 times for 193 yards and one score.
Ohio State's early underdog status isn't surprising, though.
In retrospect, Clemson's profile might have been somewhat inflated since two of the Tigers' biggest wins (No. 7 Miami on Oct. 10 and No. 2 Notre Dame on Dec. 19) don't look as good with the benefit of hindsight. That's not to downplay Friday's win, but don't let it color your judgment to a significant degree.
And for as good as the Buckeyes offense is, Alabama's might be even better.
Smith is the best individual offensive player in the country and deserves to be bringing the Heisman Trophy to Tuscaloosa. John Metchie III has stepped up nicely for the injured Jaylen Waddle, catching 44 passes for 782 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season. If you gear up too much to stop the pass, then Harris will carve you up on the ground.
No matter what side of the fence you fall on, one thing is looking clear.
The last two CFP championships were pretty one-sided. This year's installment could trend closer toward Alabama and Clemson's back-to-back clashes in 2016 and 2017, which were decided by nine combined points.
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