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Sport Four keys to victory for Alabama and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff championship game

02:45  12 january  2021
02:45  12 january  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Alabama's Jones, Smith, Harris lead 6 Tide AP All-Americans

  Alabama's Jones, Smith, Harris lead 6 Tide AP All-Americans Heisman Trophy finalists Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith have been selected to The Associated Press All-America team, leading a contingent of five Alabama players on the first-team offense. Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris, tackle Alex Leatherwood and center Landon Dickerson are also first-team selections. No. 1 Alabama is the first team since 1980, when the AP All-America team began featuring two wide receivers and two running backs, to place a quarterback, running back and receiver on the first team.

Alabama and Ohio State are two of the sport’s traditional powers that have won national championships and Heisman Trophies across Alabama has three of the top five finishers in the Heisman Trophy race, including winner DeVonta Smith. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields finished

- We arrive here at the third College Football Playoff National Championship with no regrets. Alabama has fallen behind in each of the last four games . While they've answered each of those early deficits with convincing victories , Bama may not be able to Five keys to Alabama winning the title.

The story lines for Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game are what fans would hope for every season.

Alabama and Ohio State are two of the sport’s traditional powers that have won national championships and Heisman Trophies across decades dating to the middle of the last century.

The programs have only met four times with the last game coming six years ago in the playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl when the Buckeyes prevailed.

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Star power will be on display. Alabama has three of the top five finishers in the Heisman Trophy race, including winner DeVonta Smith. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields finished seventh in the voting that took place before his dominant performance against Clemson in the semifinal last week.

Alabama advances to the national title game with an artful offensive performance

  Alabama advances to the national title game with an artful offensive performance Alabama brandished some of the loveliest offense ever seen in college football in a 31-14 win over Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. In reaching its fifth College Football Playoff national championship game in the past six seasons and its eighth title game in the past 12, Alabama brandished some of the loveliest offense ever seen in college football, at least since LSU last year. So while its 31-14 win Friday over heavy underdog Notre Dame played out predictably, the Heisman Trophy candidates on its celestial offense played out dazzlingly.

Last championship game . 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship . was won by the Ohio State Buckeyes, who defeated the Oregon Ducks in the championship game .[2] After the first season, the playoff was dominated for several years by two teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide and

Ohio State won the championship in 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff . The Crimson Tide is loaded with playmakers on Alabama and Clemson played each other in four consecutive playoffs from 2016 through 2019, three times in the championship game and once in

a group of people playing football on a field: Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith dives over a tackle attempt by Notre Dame safety Shaun Crawford for a touchdown during the 2021 Rose Bowl in AT&T Stadium. © Gary Cosby, USA TODAY Sports Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith dives over a tackle attempt by Notre Dame safety Shaun Crawford for a touchdown during the 2021 Rose Bowl in AT&T Stadium.

There’s also the coaching matchup that has Nick Saban going for his seventh national championship, which would break a tie for first place with Bear Bryant, against Ryan Day, who is in just his second full season.

It shapes up to be an exciting and intriguing finish a historic season played under the looming shadow of a pandemic.

The four keys to victory for both teams:

Alabama

Make Fields uncomfortable: The health of Ohio State's quarterback remains uncertain after he threw for six touchdowns against Clemson. He was wincing throughout the second half after a hit to his torso late in the second quarter. It’s important for Alabama to find out early how significantly he may be injured. This will mean blitzing him on passing downs and forcing him to take hits if he wants to use his running ability.  The worst thing the Crimson Tide can do is back off and let him get into rhythm. He showed in the semifinal that when given time to throw, he will find open receivers even with the injury.

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How can Ohio State pull off an upset? We spoke to head coaches who faced or studied the Buckeyes this season to find the keys to slowing down For No. 3 Ohio State to upset No. 1 Alabama on Monday night, it needs to carry over the swagger from the 49-28 throttling of Clemson in the College

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Mac the knife: Alabama quarterback Mac Jones leads the nation in passing efficiency and is second with 36 touchdown throws. Much of his success comes from the offensive line that has protected him and opened holes for running back Najee Harris. By sticking to the same script against the Buckeyes and their pass rush, Jones should have time to find Smith and potentially Jaylen Waddle, who could be returning from injury, in the passing game. This typically ends in back-breaking big plays that demoralize a defense and let the Crimson Tide comfortably cruise to victory.

Play error-free: Defenses have found it difficult to stop Alabama’s offense that ranks No. 2 in scoring (48.2 points) and No. 6 in total offense (535 yards). Before last week’s semifinal, the Crimson Tide had scored at least 35 points in 24 consecutive games. The key against Ohio State is not to stop themselves. Alabama has mostly avoided penalties and turnovers. Jones has thrown just four interceptions in his 357 attempts. Its plus-11 turnover margin is third in the country. Doing what it has done for 12 previous games is the recipe for success.

Bold predictions for Alabama and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship game

  Bold predictions for Alabama and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship game Welcome to Before The Snap, For The Win’s college football show where we’ll break down the sport’s trending storylines, examine each week’s biggest matchups and track the College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy races. The College Football Playoff national ch ampionship game is Monday with No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State kicking off at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

College Football Playoff preview: Notre Dame vs. Alabama . With LSU's victory over Clemson in the 2019-20 College Football Playoff title game , the Tigers became the fourth 1, 2021. The national championship will be played Jan. 11. The four Playoff participants are Alabama , Clemson, Ohio

Players and coaches from both Alabama and Ohio State discuss their upcoming matchup for the national While Bama and Clemson have played four times in the past six years, and Ohio State and In 2014, they played in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals; six years later, they

Be solid on special teams: The third phase of the game is overlooked. However, it can impact field position and scoring plays and often leads to surprising developments. There are some areas where the Crimson Tide has shown weakness. They rank 106th out of 127 teams in net punting and 119th in kickoff returns. There are also some strengths. Smith, in addition to his prowess as a receiver, is averaging 24.3 yards on his nine punt returns. Will Reichard has been outstanding, making all 13 of his field-goal attempts and 77 of his PATs. As long as Alabama plays Ohio State even here then the scales tip in its favor.

Ohio State

Keep Sermon going: Trey Sermon became a dominant running threat for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game with a school-record 331 yards and followed that with 193 against Clemson. Establishing him as a threat will take pressure off Fields to carry the offense. This is especially important with the uncertainty around the quarterback’s health. Sermon has shown against two strong defenses he is physical and athletic enough to carry the load. He can continue to make plays and be incorporated into the passing game.

Former Bears stars frustrated with team over terrible playoff showing

  Former Bears stars frustrated with team over terrible playoff showing Former Chicago Bears players were beyond frustrated watching their old team stink it up in the playoffs on Sunday. © Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports The Bears lost 21-9 in New Orleans in the NFC Wild Card playoff game. Their defense played undisciplined football. They had a player get ejected. The offense couldn’t move the ball.Former Bears cornerback Peanut Tillman was frustrated over the offense’s inability to convert on third downs. 0-9 on 3rd down…it’s like watching someone drown in peanut butter #saintsvsbears — Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) January 11, 2021 So was former Bears DB Jerry Azumah.

a football player running with the ball: Ohio State running back Trey Sermon breaks the tackle of Clemson safety Lannden Zanders during the first half of the 2021 Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. © Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports Ohio State running back Trey Sermon breaks the tackle of Clemson safety Lannden Zanders during the first half of the 2021 Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Double DeVonta: Thesecondary has been considered Ohio State's weak link after allowing Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to throw for almost 500 yards. Now comes the biggest test of the season. While Alabama has depth in its receiving corps, Smith is the clear focal point with 105 of the team’s 288 catches and 20 of its 37 touchdown receptions. In passing situations, especially on third down, it is important to take away the first option for Jones and make him look another direction.

Start fast: What makes Alabama so difficult to defend is its ability to be balanced. The threat of a running game opens up its play-action passing and gives room to its talented receivers. If you add extra defensive backs to protect against the pass, the Tide will simply give the ball to Harris and let him grind out yards on the ground. One way to neutralize this balance is jumping out to an early lead. The Crimson Tide are not accustomed to playing from behind. The added pressure of the championship game could get them to press and become more predictable on offense.

Make my Day: This is undoubtedly the biggest game of Ryan Day’s coaching career. He’s won 23 of his 24 games in charge of the Buckeyes and proved himself in last week’s defeat of Clemson. But this is a different animal. He’s matching wits against one of the greats in college football who has tons of championship game experience. Day has Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer as mentors, which should be beneficial. He can’t make the moment too big and get out of his comfort zone. Be aggressive and maybe throw in some new wrinkles. If you do lose, you want to go down using all your options, rather than playing it safe.

Predictions for the College Football Playoff championship game between Alabama-Ohio State

  Predictions for the College Football Playoff championship game between Alabama-Ohio State The college football season will end when Alabama and Ohio State meet with the national title on line. Our experts make their game predictions.The Crimson Tide navigated 10 games in the Southeastern Conference before winning their conference title games. There were some minor hiccups along the way with coach Nick Saban testing positive and a close call against Florida. An easy win against Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl put them in their fifth title game in seven seasons of the playoff.

Follow USA TODAY Sports colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Four keys to victory for Alabama and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff championship game

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