Ohio State will again be the underdog in the CFP championship game against top-ranked Alabama on Monday in Miami Gardens, Florida, but Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban will not add motivation for the No. 3 Buckeyes.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to play a great team from Ohio State,” Saban said Monday. “These guys are very well trained. Ryan Day has done a great job there. They are one of the best defensive teams in the country in terms of points allowed. Tough to run, really explosive on offense, really good players. Off.”
No bulletin board material there for Alabama (12-0) to fuel Ohio State (7-0), which was enraged before its semifinal game when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney ranked the Buckeyes in the spot. 11 in the coach survey.
Add in a loss to the No. 2 Tigers in the semifinal a year earlier and the Buckeyes’ 49-28 win on Friday was even sweeter, but Day warned his players that the job is not done.
“Well, the goal was never just to beat Clemson,” he said Monday. “The objective was to win the national championship.
“While it was an emotional victory, that was not the goal. The goal was to win this one. So I would be disappointed if we didn’t play well in this game.”
The game should be high-scoring despite Crimson Tide’s NCAA record of scoring more than 35 points ended in 24 games after a 31-14 win against Notre Dame in the other semifinal on Friday.
Alabama features Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith at wide receiver and runner-up Mac Jones at quarterback. Smith has 105 receptions for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. Jones’ 4,036 passing yards is an Alabama season high and he has also thrown 36 touchdowns against four interceptions.
Smith said Monday he had bigger concerns than Heisman’s hype.
“I’m just trying to get in with the team this week and I hope to move forward with the game plan for Ohio State,” he said.
Alabama will not have center Landon Dickerson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Florida in the SEC Championship Game on December 19, but wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has been out since October 24 for an ankle injury could be back.
The question for the Buckeyes is the health of Justin Fields, who suffered a mid-body injury in the second quarter against Clemson but still had career highs in passing yards (385) and touchdowns (six).
“Yes, I definitely hope he plays, but we didn’t go into details about the injuries,” Day said. “We publish our availability report at the end of the week and that has always been our policy.”
The Buckeyes’ running game is led by Trey Sermon, whose 524 yards in the last two games is an Ohio State record for consecutive games, breaking Ezekiel Elliott’s record of 476 in 2015.
“He’s playing exceptional football right now,” Saban said. “There’s no question about that. He had a fantastic game against Clemson (193 yards).”
Ohio State last played the Crimson Tide in the 2014 season semifinal, won by the Buckeyes 42-35 en route to winning their most recent title with a victory over Oregon.
Alabama’s last championship was 26-23 in overtime against Georgia on January 8, 2018.
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.