Five Things: Alabama Shreds Outmanned Ohio State to Capture National Title

By Chris Lauderback on January 12, 2021 at 10:00 am
Devonta Smith burned Ohio State for 12 catches, 215 yards and 3 the first half.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Lol yeah that header photo is middle linebacker Tuf Borland caught in a mismatch for the ages trying to stick Alabama's Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver Devonta Smith. You can't fault Borland there but the image was pretty much a microcosm of the evening as the Crimson Tide wore out the outmanned Buckeyes, 52-24, in the College Football Playoff national championship. 

Ohio State entered the contest short key contributors in defensive linemen Tommy Togiai and Tyreke Smith and things only got worse from there as running back Trey Sermon suffered a game-ending injury on the Buckeyes' first offensive series and All-American right guard Wyatt Davis would go down later in the game. 

The Buckeyes found themselves in a 14-14 contest early in the second quarter before the wheels came off. Nick Saban's killing machine outscored Ohio State 38-10 the rest of the way and could've generated a much more lopsided score if it wanted. 

Under Saban's leadership, the Death Star now has six titles in the last 12 years alone. Like it or lump it, Alabama is truly the gold standard in college football. 

For Ohio State, it was tough set of circumstances to try and pull an upset and it wasn't meant to be. The defense, particularly the secondary, was a dumpster fire once again and with Sermon out of the game, the Buckeyes had zero running threat to help Justin Fields try and move the ball through the air. 

At one point, it felt like Ryan Day was trying to run clock and minimize the blowout as Ohio State ran it four straight times while trailing 45-24 early in the third quarter, gaining 7 yards, to turn it over on downs. 

Missing a chance to win a national title will certainly sting for a minute but the successes of the season shouldn't be taken for granted as the Buckeyes won another Big Ten title and shoved Dabo's head in a toilet along the way. 

But let's get to it – Five Things from a tough night in Miami. 


After blitzing Clemson with a 21-0 second quarter that saw the Buckeyes outgain the Tigers 229-34, the Buckeyes got a taste of that medicine against Alabama. 

Tied 7-7 entering the second quarter, the Buckeyes gave up a Devonta Smith 5-yard touchdown on the first play and 15 minutes later it was 35-17 bad guys. 

Smith showed why he coasted to a Heisman win, catching seven passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter alone. With the Buckeyes having absolutely no answer for Smith, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones completed 14-of-17 throws for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the decisive quarter. 

Meanwhile, Justin Fields misfired on 7-of-10 throws, managing 31 yards and zero touchdowns. The real dagger came as Ohio State took possession with 3:19 left in the half trailing 28-17 and in desperate need of a score. 

Instead, the Buckeyes went 3-and-out, running just 50 seconds off the clock to force a punt. Three plays later, Jones found Smith for a 42-yard score and a 35-17 lead.

The debacle served as only the third time in the last 60 years Ohio State gave up 28 or more points in a quarter. 


Yeah, Bama is really good and DeVonta Smith is from another planet but this isn't the first time Ohio State's pass defense has been eviscerated under defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs' leadership. 

Coombs' pass defense entered the contest ranked No. 116 in the country, giving up 281.1 yards per game. Last night, the unit went full Hold My Beer as Jones threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns while Smith recorded 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns IN THE FIRST HALF. 

Jones hit on 21 of 22 passes during one stretch, including 12 straight, as Alabama's supreme talent and scheme advantage made Coombs and company look silly. 

Poor Shaun Wade has taken a lot of flak from fans this year and he frankly again looked more like a safety or slot corner forced to play outside. At one point, somebody named Slade Bolden beat Wade across the field for his first career touchdown reception. Props to Wade for taking questions after the game though.

Too bad the postgame availability wasn't set up for Coombs to offer his thoughts too. I'm sure many fans would've loved to gain his point of view on the deployment of mostly four-linebacker sets, what the overall defensive game plan was trying do etc. 

The lack of a pass rush aided by the absence of Togiai and Smith didn't help things but Coombs has some work to do to shore up the team's weakest link. 


Justin Fields wasn't great last night, completing 17-of-33 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown to go along with 67 yards on the ground but the game plan was pretty much hosed after Sermon got hurt and the Tide forced the Buckeyes to play from behind. He didn't look 100 percent after taking a devastating shot the back/kidneys in the win over Clemson but hung in there against a physical Bama squad. 

Despite the loss, Fields went 20-2 over the last two seasons while exorcising the Clemson demon with a dominant performance, winning two Big Ten titles, two silver footballs as the league's best player, putting 56 on Michigan and recording 78 total touchdowns, good for 3.54 scores per game. 

He's the most-talented quarterback in Ohio State history for my money and his success under Day's tutelage has helped keep the recruiting machine rolling. I guess he technically has two years of eligibility left but please don't be the the one to offer "he should come back for another year (because that's in my best interest)" shenanigans. 

Also never forget, if Fields didn't transfer to Ohio State ahead of the 2019 season, you might've been staring down the barrel of the Tate Martell era (and a subsequent drinking problem). 


I don't like myself for saying this but I'm not really even that mad about last night. I can't manufacture much disdain for a team that methodically disemboweled its opponent, seemingly having an answer at every turn for what Ohio State tried to do. 

Beyond that, they didn't really flap their gums. They just showed up, shut up, handed out a beatdown and took the trophy home. While the game surely would've been closer, I'm not convinced full-strength Ohio State could've pulled the upset. Alabama's offense is just on another level. 

Najee Harris gets lost in the shuffle thanks to the Tide's high-flying wide receivers but that dude dragged Buckeyes for extra yards on a handful of occasions when the game was still a game and his soft hands cradled seven passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.  

The defense isn't great but it still forced three 3-and-outs in building an insurmountable halftime cushion. 

Credit to Saban for the program he's built. 


To borrow a term from Urban Meyer, Jeremy Ruckert is a damn war daddy. 

The tight end turned in a spectacular one-handed catch for a 36-yard gain on Ohio State's second possession of the night. One play later, Master Teague found the end zone, tying the game at 7-7 with 4:55 left in the first quarter. 

In a game in which the wheels fell off early, the play was ultimately rendered meaningless but at the time, Ruckert's catch was huge. Ohio State's offense knew it would need to match Alabama's prolific pace and after a 3-and-out on its opening possession, a second failed possession could've put the Buckeyes on their death bed even sooner.

Three possessions later, Ruckert went over the middle on a 3rd-and-11 route and nearly made another spectacular grab before Alabama's Jordan Battle unleashed a scary head shot causing the pass the escape Ruckert's hands. 

Battle got tossed for his troubles and Ruckert, down initially, recovered in time to not miss a snap.  The automatic first down led to a field goal and a 21-17 Alabama lead. 

The 36-yard catch wrapped up a 13-catch, 151-yard season for Ruckert. Not eye popping stats to be sure but he scored touchdowns in three different games and finished third on the team with five touchdowns catches. 

Ruckert really stood out as a blocker this year as Day employed more two tight-end sets and we already knew he had outstanding hands. I appreciate the dude's toughness and willingness to be leaned on for his blocking ability when he clearly has the goods to have been a bigger threat in the passing game. 

So.. how many days until spring practice starts? 

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