The two teams meeting in this year’s national title game took very different paths to get here. The SEC (together with the ACC) was one of only two conferences to basically start the season “on time” and Alabama played ten regular season games, to go along with beating Florida in a shootout in the SEC title game and a convincing 31-14 win over Notre Dame in the CFP semifinal of the Rose Bowl. Ohio State on the other hand had three of their eight regular games canceled due to COVID concerns and it took the Big Ten to change their rules about the minimum amount of games played to qualify for a spot in the conference championship game, which they struggled with Northwestern through three-and-a-half quarters, but then surprisingly lit Clemson up 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl, to make it to the big game.
All those different factors that have led to the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes meeting in the CFP final don’t matter now, because while people may want to put an asterisk to this very unique season, in the end one of these teams can call themselves national champions. So now let’s see how these two teams match up and what I believe will happen. I will have one paragraph each for one team’s offense, the defense they are facing and how some of the matchups may favor either side, then I give you one X-factor for each team and finally get to my score prediction.
Just like I mentioned last week with the offensive edition, I put out my rankings of the top five at every position as collegiate players, rather than solely draft prospects. The criteria remains the same – must have played at three games this season, no season-long opt-outs or players that were knocked by injuries for the rest of the year early on. So this list doesn’t include names like Gregory Rosseau, Micah Parsons or Caleb Farley, which could all end up being top ten draft picks.
While there is validity to the “traits” over “production” methodology to scouting it’s hard to beat “Traits & Production” as Wide Receiver Devonta Smith of the Alabama Crimson Tide checks just about every box when watching him on film. A Couch Potato General Manager favorite and one of CPGM Juice’s draft crushes, Smith continues to gain considerable steam in draft circles and ground on the Alabama All-Time Receiving Record Book. After leading Bama in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2019, Smith elected to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season and has taken full advantage of a passing game of which he is the focal point. Short, intermediate, and deep Smith makes plays on every level of the field and is separating himself from the pack ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft particularly with a host of talented receivers opting out of the 2020 NCAAF season. Smith is slated to hear is name called early during the 1st Round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
I usually put out my positional rankings at the start of every college football season, but under these unique circumstances, where I personally believed we wouldn’t even see these kids plays, I decided to focus more on the NFL. However, now that all conferences are back in action, we’ve seen all teams play at least a few games and we’re in December, I want to give you my top five players at every single position. As always, in this edition I’m evaluating them as college players, not solely draft prospects. There is enough time in spring to evaluate how their skill-sets will translate to the next level. To make the cut in these rankings, you must have played at least three games this season. So top-five type prospects like Penei Sewell and JaMarr Chase won’t make this list, since they opted out for 2020.
In this edition we’ll look at the offense and next week we’ll shift over to defense!