Vince’s View: CFP National Championship Score Prediction, Notes

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) runs past Tennessee defensive back Kenneth George Jr. (5) during a game between Alabama and Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Each week this season I’ve shared my predictions and info on SEC football games.

Below is broadcast info and analysis for the College Football Playoff National Championship game between Alabama and Ohio State.

2020 SEC Bowl Game Prediction Record: 7-1 (88%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record: 65-12 (84%)
2019 SEC Game Prediction Record: 103-20 (84%)

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State

Monday, January 11, 2021 • 8 p.m. ET
Miami Gardens, Fla. • Hard Rock Stadium

THE TEAMS:  Alabama (12-0, 10-0 SEC) will face Big Ten Champion Ohio State (7-0, 6-0 BIG) in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Alabama is looking is looking to win its sixth national championship since 2009 under Nick Saban.

NATIONAL RANKINGS:  Alabama is the No. 1-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings, while Ohio State is ranked No. 3 by the CFP. Last season LSU became the first No. 1-ranked team in the CFP rankings to win the national championship in the College Football Playoff era.

SEC IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:  This will mark the 14th time in the last 15 seasons, and 16th overall since 1998, a team from the SEC has advanced to the national championship game. Ten times since 2006 the SEC has won the college football national championship. Overall, the SEC has won 12 of the previous 22 national championship games since the 1998 season, while appearing in 15 prior to this season.

TELEVISION:  ESPN will televise the game nationally for the ninth straight year (Chris Fowler, Play-by-Play; Kirk Herbstreit, Analyst; Maria Taylor and Holly Rowe, Sidelines). ESPN has aired the game nationally since the 2011 BCS National Championship Game when Auburn defeated Oregon. ABC carried the game 1999-2006, and 2010, with Fox Sports owning broadcast rights in 2007-09.

RADIO:  ESPN Radio will broadcast the game (ESPN Radio:  Sean McDonough, Play-by-Play; Todd Blackledge, Analyst). The game is available on SiriusXM  Channel 80, with the Alabama broadcast airing on Channel 84. ESPN Radio has carried the game since 1999.

SERIES:  This is the fifth time Alabama and Ohio State have squared off and the second time in the College Football Playoff. The two teams met previously in the CFP semifinals following the 2014 season, with Ohio State winning 42-35. Alabama won the three meetings prior. The first meeting was in the Sugar Bowl following the 1977 season, and the teams next met in East Rutherford, N.J., to start the 1986 season. Alabama defeated the Buckeyes 24-17 to win the 1995 Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

SEC vs. OHIO STATE:  Ohio State is 1-9 all-time versus the SEC in the postseason, with the lone victory coming in the Sugar Bowl Semifinal during the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff, as Ohio State defeated Alabama 42-35. That was the only season since 2006 a team from the SEC failed to advance to the national championship game.

SEC IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF:  The SEC is 10-4 all-time in College Football Playoff games, playing in five of the previous six CFP National Championship Games, while winning three. The SEC is 7-1 in CFP Semifinals, and 9-3 overall in CFP games not versus each other. The SEC leads the nation with eight teams advancing to the Playoff since its inception in 2014.Three different programs (Alabama, Georgia, LSU) have made Playoff appearances in the SEC. The league also leads the nation in the CFP era with championship game appearances (7).

POINT SPREAD: Alabama -8

VINCE’S VIEW: I’m certainly thankful that it looks like we’re going to cross the finish line of the season, with this battle of college football titans, when it looked so bleak earlier in 2020. It is interesting that both ends of the conference COVID-19 handling approaches are the last two standing.

The SEC was patient and calculated in making decisions on playing the season, ended up getting all but a couple of games in and had it’s marquee program back where it’s often been under Nick Saban.

The Big 10 wasn’t going to play, took intense criticism, had it’s marquee school stand against the conference in desire to play, had it’s marquee player in Justin Fields outspoken in players wanting to play and gathered support to ask to play, decided to play, changed it’s rules along the way and ended up with that top program in the title game in the end. Can you imagine if The Big 10 gets to brag about a champion when it originally wasn’t going to play?

Ohio State has four players from the state of Tennessee on the roster, including former starting running back Master Teague from Murfreesboro. Alabama has two from the state of Tennessee.

Some of the season defensive numbers for Alabama are deceiving. Bama is playing better, but in today’s offensive world of college football and with the Tide playing so much football when games are out of hand already, I think those unspectacular defensive stats are overblown. Patrick Surtain II is a big, elite CB. Dylan Moses is a stud LB. The D-Line is strong and effective even without a nationally acclaimed star. One area that will be interesting to watch is Ohio State’s TEs vs. Bama defending the TEs. OSU was great at it vs. Clemson and Bama has struggled in that area, but if the game gets away from the Buckeyes, it may not matter, like it usually doesn’t vs. the Tide.

Ohio State obviously depends on Justin Fields to be the semifinal game quarterback rather than the BIG10 title game QB. However, what’s elevated the Buckeyes to this point and being a real threat in this game is the emergence of RB Trey Sermon, who has been unreal. They are comparable on offense to the Zeke Elliott Buckeyes national championship team of 2014. Will Fields either be limited physically with the injured ribs or will OSU limit his run game involvement to protect him? If either happens, that’s a problem. Also, we’ll see if Ohio State has any key players out with COVID-19 protocols.

The difference is that, as strong as OSU’s defense is, Alabama’s offense is on another level. Nobody slows down the Heisman Trophy winner, WR DeVonta Smith. Mac Jones may have electrifying wide receiver Jaylen Waddle back in this game as well. If so, I’m not sure how the Buckeyes can deal with all the weapons. Then there’s stud RB Najee Harris, a dynamic TE, perhaps the best o-line in the nation and exceptional play-calling. Pick your poison.

Scoring first and playing from in-front are two very important factors for Ohio State, more than Alabama. A one-dimensional Ohio State having to throw to catch-up is not the same as a one-dimensional Alabama that’s so prolific passing the ball. Ohio State has a much better chance to boss the line of scrimmage and be effective calling plays with the lead. Alabama is not used to being in that position of playing from behind, so maybe it has a domino effect there.

Bottom line is, answers and options. Bama has more ways to win and a greater margin of error than Ohio State. The Buckeyes certainly have the talent and coaching to win, but I don’t see OSU playing on such a high level in consecutive games against elite teams. Alabama is so explosive, confident and consistent that I think the Crimson Tide wins by a couple of touchdowns over the Buckeyes in a high scoring, fun game.

SCORE PREDICTION: Alabama 45 Ohio State 31

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