Alabama vs Ohio State: CFP National Championship Early Prediction, First Thoughts

Tim Heitman, Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama vs Ohio State: CFP National Championship Early Prediction, First Thoughts

College Football Predictions

Alabama vs Ohio State: CFP National Championship Early Prediction, First Thoughts

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Alabama vs Ohio State: CFP National Championship early prediction and first thoughts.


Alabama vs Ohio State CFP National Championship Broadcast

Date: Monday, January 11
Time: 8:00 ET
Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Network: ESPN

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Alabama (12-0) vs Ohio State (7-0)

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CFP National Championship First Thoughts

It’s really sort of weird that it’s Alabama vs Ohio State for the College Football Playoff National championship, and yet it seems sort of … fresh?

These are hardly two Little Engine That Could programs, but Ohio State hasn’t been in the national championship since the end of the 2014 season, and Alabama didn’t make the CFP last year and got destroyed by Clemson the year before in Santa Clara. Nothing against Clemson, but the idea of Tide vs. Tigers yet again just didn’t seem to have a whole lot of national sizzle. This will.

Just a guess … Nick Saban won’t be talking about how Ohio State only played seven games and might be the 11th best team in college football.

The seven-game season, though, might be a thing. It shouldn’t be – personally, I think it was far more negative for the Buckeye squad that didn’t jell until it arrived in New Orleans – but that looked like one fresh team against Clemson. It looked and played way, way faster.

Totally anecdotal and in a for-what-it’s-worth sort of way, the Alabama people I know – not with the team, but close to it – are a bit spooked. Clemson was the devil they knew and expected. They knew Bama was better than this Tiger team, and they still think Bama is better than Ohio State. However, the Buckeye team that showed up against Clemson is a whole different animal.

It’s going to be really, really hard for Ohio State to keep that same intensity and energy through January 11th. While everyone says the national championship is and was the goal, beating Clemson was the thing after the way last season ended.

This is written before Indiana plays Ole Miss in the Outback. It shouldn’t be this way, but if Indiana wins big – the Rebels pushed Bama a bit earlier in the year – watch for the Ohio State love to start gushing. Wisconsin and Northwestern took care of their respective bowl games – maybe the Big Ten starts to get more respect.

In terms of motivation, watch what happens on Heisman night this Tuesday. It’ll be DeVonta Smith or Mac Jones winning it, and Justin Fields might find that extra little bit of juice that seemed to take him to another level against Clemson.

How bad is he hurt? That didn’t look like any old shot Fields took to the midsection/ribs, but he was able to play through it and be more than fine.

– Lost in the amazing performance by Ohio State was Trevor Lawrence and the 400 yards he bombed away for. They mostly came in comeback/desperation mode, but he also spread the ball around a ton. Mac Jones will need to use all of his options – and will have to use Najee Harris even more as a receiver – after the Buckeyes spend the next ten days figuring out how to stop DeVonta Smith.

Ohio State only came up with two sacks against Clemson, but it provided a whole lot of pressure on Lawrence and battered him around a bit. The Alabama line won’t let the Buckeyes get to Jones all that often, but everything will have to go a half-click faster than it has all year.

Jones didn’t force anything against Notre Dame. His job was to not take chances or give the Irish any easy opportunities in a game the Tide had in hand right out of the gate. He’s going to have to press a bit more against the Buckeyes.

The Florida game is important. The Gators were able to keep pressing Bama with the deep passes to the NFL-caliber receivers, and Ohio State should be able to do the same. The Tide got into a track meet, and Florida really did have a chance to win if the defense wasn’t so completely miserable.

– Florida showed potential flaws in Alabama … defensively. So did Ole Miss. However, there hasn’t been so much as a speed bump for this Bama offense all year. Ohio State is going to have to gear up the O and keep pressing.

– Note: I almost just typed that Ohio State will have to outscore Alabama. I apologize for the flirtation with disaster. As a warning, that I was even thinking the phrase shows how things might not be working right.

– Here’s the freaky part about this matchup. Justin Fields can hit 22-of-28 passes for 385 yards and six touchdowns against Bama – just like he did against Clemson – and it still might not be enough.

– Honestly, I’m torn. I’ll need this entire layoff to try figuring out if the Clemson win was the be-all-end-all for Ohio State, or if that’s a sign that this is the hot team at the right time.

– Alabama always does this. It always looks and plays in a business-like fashion in the CFP semifinals, going 5-0 in them since losing to Ohio State in the 2015 version. But …

– No one saw the 44-16 clunker in the 2018 season CFP National Championship coming. However, Alabama needed a minor miracle to get out of the SEC Championship alive against Georgia, and it turned the machine off in the 45-34 Orange Bowl win over Kyler Murray and Oklahoma. There were signs that not everything was running right.

Alabama vs Ohio State CFP National Title Early Prediction

– The 2017 Bama team was the 4 seed and came into the national championship roaring after a dominant win over Clemson. The 2016 team was a bit off in the 24-7 win over Washington in the Peach, and then lost to Clemson. The 2015 team was humming in a blowout over Michigan State and then got past Clemson. What does any of this mean?

– Alabama has struggled in SEC Championships before and went on to win the national title. In the CFP era, when there’s been something off in the semis, it has lost the national championship. When it rips through the semis, it wins the title.

– There was hardly anything more than a yawn in the go-through-the-motions win over Notre Dame.

– By the way, the Ohio State 42-35 win over Alabama in the 2015 College Football Playoff has NOTHING to do with anything that’s about to happen.

Don’t get hung up on Ohio State holding Clemson to 44 rushing yards. The Tigers and Travis Etienne struggled a bit all year to get the ground game rolling. When and if Alabama wants to pound away with Najee Harris, it will.

Alabama hasn’t faced anyone who’s running like Trey Sermon. Texas A&M can run, and Georgia could pound a bit, but Sermon has been otherworldly over the last two games for the Buckeyes.

Alabama has an under-appreciated pass rush, but Clemson came into the Sugar Bowl averaging four sacks per game – the most in the Dabo Swinney era – and it didn’t matter all that much against an Ohio State offensive line that was close to flawless.

– I know, the College Football Playoff needs to expand. I know, I want there to be a way for everyone to have a shot to play into the tournament, too. However, at the end of the day, no sport takes the fluke factor out of its championship better than college football.

– You can’t Cinderella your way into this game. You can’t get hot from three and get into the Final Four, you can’t be one of 14 teams in an any-given-Sunday NFL that finds the right magic, and you can’t get here because of a hot pitcher or goalie who stands on his head. There’s no such thing as a cheap or questionable College Football Playoff national champion.

NEXT: CFP National Championship Early Line, Prediction

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