The Four Keys to Success for Alabama in the National Championship
For the fifth time in six years, the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0) are appearing in the College Football Playoff National Championship. In true 2020 fashion, the path to the title game has been tumultuous. From head coach Nick Saban missing a game due to a positive COVID-19 test to the Crimson Tide's third Heisman Trophy winner, this season will be remembered forever. Now, however, 'Bama's eyes are set on their matchup with the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0.) Here are the four keys to success for an 18th Crimson Tide national title.
1) Control the Trenches-
From their season-opening performance against Missouri to their most recent Rose Bowl victory, the Alabama offensive line has been dominant. This is evident in the line's acceptance of the Joe Moore Award for the country's best offensive line.
Though "big uglies" lost their anchor center, Landon Dickerson, in the SEC Championship Game, the Crimson Tide didn't skip a beat, thanks to senior offensive lineman Chris Owens. Owens, who has been a versatile key for the line, has been able to fill in wherever he was needed throughout the season and did so last week at center against Notre Dame.
This stout squad has allowed the Tide to average 48 points and 535 yards per game. From a rushing perspective, the line has provided blocking for 'Bama's stable of running backs resulting in an average of almost 186 yards per game.
Through the air, the offensive line has been even more successful.
'Bama quarterback Mac Jones is averaging 336 passing yards and three touchdowns per game. With the help of the line, Jones is getting plenty of time in the pocket and is only getting sacked around three times a game.
If the offensive line can keep performing at the high level they have all year, then the Alabama offense can operate at maximum efficiency.
2) Devonta Proving His Heisman Status-
Speaking of Alabama’s air attack, Crimson Tide fans were rewarded Tuesday with the team’s third-ever Heisman Trophy winner in Devonta Smith. The Louisiana native is the SEC’s first-ever receiver to win the award and the first receiver to win since 1991’s Desmond Howard.
Not only has the “Slim Reaper” passed Howard’s stats from his Heisman-winning season, but the senior has made a name for himself with his extraordinary circus receptions, humble demeanor, and stylish pregame outfits.
In 2020 alone, Smith has bagged 20 receiving touchdowns and even returned a punt for a touchdown 84 yards. In seven of his 12 games, Smith caught atleast two touchdowns and had eight games in which he recorded atleast 100 receiving yards.
“Smitty,” as his teammates call him, needs to prove that he deserved the Heisman and have a two-plus touchdown performance if Alabama wants to score on the Buckeyes.
3) Shut Down Trey Sermon-
While ‘Bama running back Najee Harris might be the more notable rusher going into Monday’s national title game, Ohio State running back Trey Sermon is still a force to be reckoned with. His stats might not be as gaudy as Harris, but Sermon has been a bellcow for the Ohio State offense. His speed and versatileness has allowed the senior Gerogia native has scored four times in the Buckeyes’ seven games and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
Alabama’s defensive line, while it might not have faced as good rushing talent, is only allowing around three yards a carry and 110 yards per game, but Sermon has the agility to run rampant on the defense.
The defensive front, headed by Christian Harris and Will Anderson has proved to be up for a challenge, and they need to come to play and shut down Sermon to force Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields to pass the ball.
4) Keep an Eye on Justin Fields-
Like previously stated, Fields is an athlete. Through the air, the quarterback is completing passes 73.4% of the time. He has completed 21 touchdown passes this season, which averages to around three per game. Fields is also averaging 272 passing yards a game.
On the ground, Fields is causing problems with his ability to scramble. He has taken the ball to the house himself five times and has recorded 316 rushing yards this season.
All that to say, Justin Fields is Ohio State’s best playmaker.
The Crimson Tide defense has intercepted enemy passers 11 times this season, two of which have been from star linebackers Dylan Moses and Christian Harris. In addition to these picks, these two have accounted for 143 tackles.
Since containing Justin Fields needs to be a high priority for the Alabama defense, one of these two playmakers needs to act as a “QB Spy” and always have an eye on Fields in order to stifle any big plays by the Buckeye offense.
If the Crimson Tide can nail all four of these keys throughout the National Championship game, then the Alabama faithful might be celebrating an 18th national title when the clock hits “triple zeros.”