In the most unpredictable season in recent memory, the 2021 College Football Playoffs ended in a more familiar fashion to college football fans. The Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) offense turned in an impressive performance in a 52-24 rout of Ohio State (7-1) to win its third championship in the CFP era.
Alabama put up 35 points and 389 total yards in the first half, dominated the time of possession, and seemed in control from the start. A 17-point halftime lead was more than enough cushion for the Alabama defense. Alabama’s 52 points are the most by any team in CFP history.
Coach Nick Saban earned his seventh national championship, the most for any head coach in college football history, and his sixth at Alabama. The Crimson Tide improved their record in the CFP to 8-3, which is by far the best of all eleven teams who have made playoffs.
Devonta Smith caps the Heisman-winning season with a record-breaking performance
Devonta Smith was breaking records early and often. A 22-yard grab on Alabama’s first drive gave Smith the SEC record for career receiving yards, surpassing former Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews.
With 12 receptions in the first half, he had already broken the record for receptions in a CFP game. Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the Texas Longhorns future head coach, put Smith in motion pre-snap to hide their star player and gain favorable matchups. He finished with 12 receptions, 215 yards, and 3 touchdowns, all in the first half, and was named the CFP MVP.
Smith left the game in the third quarter with a hand injury, which will be a storyline to watch heading towards the 2021 NFL Draft. According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Smith is the fourth overall prospect and the top wide receiver in the draft.
I’ll be alright,” Smith said when asked about his hand after the game.
Alabama defense keeps Fields, Ohio State Offense contained
Justin Fields came into the game with a ton of confidence following an impressive performance in the Big Ten Championship Game. Alabama’s secondary got the better of him in the national title game, holding him to 17-33 and 194 yards.
According to Kiper, Fields, the third overall prospect in the NFL draft, had early success finding receivers against Alabama defense’s the two-deep safety seats. The Crimson Tide responded by dialing up the pass-rush, which provided enough pressure to hurry the Buckeye quarterback and force inaccurate throws.
The graduate transfer running back, Trey Sermon, from Oklahoma, left the game during the first drive with a left shoulder injury. Losing its starting back early slowed down the Buckeye run game significantly.
Mac Jones, Najee Harris deliver late in potential final game for both.
After Smith’s exit, Ohio State seemed to have life. The Buckeyes followed an Alabama field goal with a three-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to 14.
Alabama turned to the other playmakers on their offense, and they delivered. Mac Jones, Smith’s fellow Heisman finalist, finished the game with 36 completions, 464 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Najee Harris finished with 22 carries for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns and catching the ball 8 times for 81 yards and another touchdown. The ability of Harris to catch the ball out of the backfield proved critical down the stretch with Jones’s favorite target out.
Harris is a senior and is the top running back in the draft, according to Kiper. Jones is a junior and could come back for his senior year, but he may choose to declare for the draft. Even in a quarterback-heavy draft, Jones is considered a late first-round pick.