The final game of the 2020 college football season is finally here, as the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football National Championship Game.
Can the favored Crimson Tide complete a perfect season? Will Ohio State have enough to stay within the number?
Here are our experts' best bets for Monday night's showdown:
Alabama Crimson Tide (-8, 75.5) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Adam Kramer: Alabama has assumed the role of college football’s most dominant team for the better part of three months. And while a history lesson will do us no good moving forward, I like the Tide. Schematically, this feels like a really good matchup. Ohio State is one of the few teams that can counter with athletes of similar caliber, but I don’t like what I saw from the Buckeyes’ secondary in the semifinal and I question whether the pass rush can deliver the same way it did against Clemson. Like everyone else, I also have concerns over Justin Fields’ rib cage. And given what we’ve seen, it’s hard not to.
As far as a total, I think we’ll see both teams sit on the ball some. For as both as both teams can and like to move, this game might take on a much different pace. Plenty of points, just not as many as most are expecting.
Pick: Alabama -8, Under 75.5
Wes Reynolds: These two programs last met in 2014 when Ohio State upset Alabama in the first ever College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl), 42-35 as a 6.5-point underdog. Alabama has failed to cover its last four National Championship Games under Nick Saban.
Both clubs have gotten here on the backs of their offenses. Alabama’s offense had three of the top five Heisman Trophy vote-getters, including the eventual winner WR DeVonta Smith (who actually started the season as the Tide’s No. 2 receiver behind Jaylen Waddle). The Crimson Tide are averaging over 48 ppg. They were held to only 31 points in the CFP Semifinal vs. Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish played ball-control in order to keep Alabama’s potent offense off the field and Alabama seemed to let it’s foot off the gas in the second half. Ohio State will not be playing ball-control, as the Buckeyes average 43.4 ppg and are more than willing to get into a shootout.
Both defenses can also be had. Alabama gave up 450 yards (335 passing) vs. Texas A&M, 647 yards (379 passing, 268 rushing) at Ole Miss and 462 yards (408 passing) vs. Florida. Meanwhile, Ohio State allowed Indiana to throw for 490 yards and Clemson to throw for 400. Both clubs have had their respective struggles on defense against the better opposition. Looking at this game’s total on the surface would indicate that it looks very high for a game with the highest of stakes, but it’s a big number for a reason.
Pick: Over 75.5
Matt Youmans: Ten days after throwing a near-perfect game, needs a repeat performance in Monday’s national championship game against No. 1 Alabama. The odds are not in his favor.
It’s tough for any team or player to follow an A-plus performance with another one, which is why betting on what you have seen most recently is not advised. The Buckeyes, disrespected underdogs and highly motivated, were at their absolute best in a 49-28 blowout of Clemson on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl. Tigers star Trevor Lawrence, the presumed No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL draft, was by far the second-best quarterback on the field.
Fields threw six incompletions and six touchdown passes. He went 22-for-28 for 385 yards in the finest performance of his career. However, it’s important to remember Fields struggled against the strongest defenses he had faced in the Big Ten this season, throwing a total of five interceptions and taking eight sacks in narrow victories over Indiana and Northwestern. Fields also took a hard shot to the ribs in the second quarter against Clemson, so the injury could hinder his ability to run and throw against the Crimson Tide.
Ohio State remains dangerous due to running back Trey Sermon, a powerful offensive line and a defensive line that suffocated Lawrence. Sermon, who rushed for 331 yards against Northwestern and 193 yards against Clemson, must be effective to make things easier for Fields. This is not one of coach Nick Saban’s greatest Alabama defenses, so the Buckeyes will move the ball, but it’s doubtful they can match scores with the Tide.
Alabama’s big-play firepower starts with quarterback Mac Jones and Smith, who can exploit Ohio State’s soft secondary. The Buckeyes ranked last in the Big Ten in pass defense in their first six games. Jones has completed 77% of his passes with 36 touchdowns and four interceptions, but he’s being overlooked amid the hype for this matchup. Do not overlook Najee Harris, who 24 rushing touchdowns, and the potential return from injury by star receiver Jaylen Waddle. The Tide offense is set to roll after letting off the gas and hitting cruise control in a 31-14 victory over Notre Dame.
The main focus of the Buckeyes’ offseason was avenging last year’s semifinal loss to Clemson, and duplicating that performance will be difficult. The total of 75 is a solid number. My score projection is 45-31. Saban is shooting for his sixth national title at Alabama, and he’s a good bet to get it because his team has been consistently better on both sides of the ball.
The pick: Alabama -8
Dave Tuley: When this line was first posted during the fourth quarter of Ohio State’s rout of Clemson, Alabama was -7. Later that night, a few books went to 7.5 and I tweeted that I took the Buckeyes 7.5 because I didn’t see it going higher. Well, I was wrong as it went to 8 over the weekend, back down to 7.5 by Monday and then back up to 8 at nearly all Vegas books as of Tuesday night. But I like the Buckeyes enough to bet it again -- though I’ll exercise more patience this time and wait to see if it gets any higher later this week or over the weekend.
Ohio State showed it was worthy of the College Football Playoff despite having played only six games, and Fields showed he’s capable of matching Jones and the Alabama offense score for score (though we’re also monitoring Fields’ injury status before making a bet). Assuming he’s a go, we believe it’s going to be a shootout, but I also like the Under as I think it should be closer to 65 than 75. I foresee a score of around 34-31, with either team winning, so that puts me clearly on the Buckeyes plus the points, as well as the Under.
Pick: Ohio State + 8 (or better) and Under 75.5
Tim Murray: Sermon has been an unstoppable force for the Buckeyes last two games, as he rushed for 331 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game and 193 yards against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Additionally, Sermon had a season-high four receptions for 61 yards against Clemson. Alabama has a pair of tremendous cornerbacks in Patrick Surtain and Josh Jobe, but its linebacker position is a weakness compared to the secondary. In Alabama’s CFP semifinal, Notre Dame made it an emphasis to involve its running backs and tight ends in the pass game: RB Kyren Williams had a season-high eight receptions for 31 yards and RB Chris Tyree had a season-high four catches for 37 yards. Tight end Michael Mayer pulled in seven receptions for 62 yards.
Fields has targeted Sermon 10 times in the last two games, I anticipate that to continue Monday night.
Play: Sermon Over 20.5 receiving yards (Westgate SuperBook)