Just Because: The College Football Playoffs
By Shailey Klein
Breaking Down the College Football Playoffs
No one knew if the 2020 college football season would even come to fruition. Nonetheless, five months after the Big Ten and PAC 12 cancelled and rescheduled its seasons and 139 regular season football games were cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, the finale of the 2020 season took place with the College Football Playoff (CFP).
How They Got Here
The four teams selected to the CFP were No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Ohio State, and No. 4 Notre Dame. Alabama swept its way through the SEC schedule 10-0 and defeated Florida in the SEC Championship to secure the top spot in the playoff. Clemson went 8-1 this year with its only regular season loss to Notre Dame, redeemed in the ACC Championship with a blowout 34-10 victory. Ohio State was the most controversial selection to the playoff with a 5-0 record in the regular season. Ohio State edged out a victory in the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern. College football analysts and fans questioned the legitimacy of selecting Ohio State to the playoff having only played six games. There were respectable teams such as Texas A&M which went 8-1 in SEC play this season, with a lone loss to Alabama, making a strong case for the CFP committee. Finally, despite the loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship, Notre Dame secured the fourth spot in the playoff, thanks to its undefeated regular season record.
With an unconventional Rose Bowl setting in Dallas, Texas at AT&T Stadium, Alabama pulled off a quick 31-14 rout of Notre Dame to cruise to the National Championship Game in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Rose Bowl Stadium is one of the most iconic sports venues in the world, with the Rose Bowl showered in traditions and festivities. Due to California’s COVID-19 guidelines in place, the players and coaches would not have been allowed to have any family or guests attend the game. Alabama and Notre Dame took a quick stand against this, arguing that they wouldn’t be where they were without the support of their families, demanding that tickets be available. This led to swift action by the Rose Bowl to move the game from Pasadena, Calif. to Dallas, Texas.
At the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Clemson and Ohio State clashed in a battle for the ages with plenty of extra-curricular chatter to go along with it. Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney released his ranking of the top teams at the end of the regular season and listed Ohio State at No. 11. This not only left the team out of the playoffs but put them eight spots behind where the team was ranked by the committee. Feeling disrespected and doubted by so many prominent names in the college football world, a fire was lit inside Ohio State resulting in a 49-28 rout of the Tigers, despite being seven-point underdogs. In the second quarter, Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields took a huge blow to the ribs that left him grimacing in pain, struggling to walk. Fields dug deep down and showed resiliency finishing out the game with five touchdown passes, despite being in evident pain. Fields’ fight in the Sugar Bowl proved there was no way he would be missing the National Championship game, no matter how much pain he was in.
The National Championship
Alabama entered the National Championship game as a nine-point favorite over Ohio State, despite the Buckeyes unexpected victory over the Clemson Tigers two weeks prior. Alabama’s high-powered offense was firing from all cylinders that Monday evening. With weapons on every inch of the field, the Buckeyes couldn’t stop the array of rising NFL talent from the Crimson Tide. 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith caught 12 passes for 215 yards, setting a national championship record in only the first half. Despite Smith leaving the game in the second quarter with a hand injury, the receiving core at Alabama did not let up with John Metchie III and Jaylen Waddle bringing in 11 receptions for 115 yards combined. Running back Najee Harris led the push from the backfield with 79 rushing yards on 22 carries. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones went 36/45 with 464 passing yards to pace the Crimson Tide to victory.
Ohio State suffered a big loss in the opening minutes of the game with the injury of running back Trey Sermon. Sermon went down during the first drive of the game with a collarbone injury and was ruled out for the rest of the game. “Sermon was grabbing the collarbone area on his left side and could not raise his hand at all during the game,” ESPN’s Maria Taylor reported. “He underwent an X-ray and was taken to Broward General Hospital,” she added.
Despite being unable to match Alabama’s numerous offensive weapons, Fields led Ohio State’s offensive charge with 194 passing yards and 67 rushing yards. Ohio State fell short 24-52 to Alabama, handing Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban his seventh National Championship, making him the winningest coach in college football history.