For the sixth time under head coach Nick Saban, the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions, pulling away to defeat No. 3 Ohio State 52-24 on Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Saban now has seven national titles, more than any other coach in history.
“I’m just happy that we won tonight,” Saban said. “I really haven’t thought about that because you’re always looking forward. I just love this team so much and what they’ve been able to do. I can’t even put it into words.”
In addition to his six championships with Alabama, Saban won the national title when he was at the helm at LSU, with the Tigers winning the BCS title game in 2003.
At 13-0, Alabama ended a dominant season as the nation’s only undefeated team. The Crimson Tide also avenged their loss to the Buckeyes in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals in the 2014 season.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, despite being hobbled in the second half with a lower-body injury, set or tied multiple CFP title game records: His 36 completions (out of 45 attempts) tied Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Jones’ 464 passing yards surpassed LSU’s Joe Burrow by one yard, and his five touchdown passes tied Burrow for the record.
Before leaving with a hand injury, DeVonta Smith, the winner of this season’s Heisman Trophy, set the CFP title game record with 12 receptions (for 215 yards) and three touchdowns. Najee Harris rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns and also caught seven passes for 79 yards and one touchdown.
Heading into the fall, the initial outlook for these two teams were quite different. Like throughout the US, the pandemic wasn’t handled in the same manner across the college football landscape.
The Southeastern Conference didn’t waver, opting to play a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season. Though at times impacted by Covid-19 — including Saban having to miss his team’s game against Auburn after a positive test — Alabama had just one game postponed, which would eventually be played later in the season, against LSU.
For Ohio State (7-1), vying to become the first team to win a national championship with just an 8-0 record since Minnesota did it in 1941, it wasn’t so straightforward. In fact, it looked like Buckeyes wouldn’t get to play at all.
On August 11, the Big Ten Conference announced it was suspending fall sports, including football, because of health and safety concerns related to the pandemic. Just over a month later, on September 16, the conference reversed course, saying football season would resume in late October, including a specification that a team would need to play at least six games to be eligible for the conference championship game.
But Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the schedule, and Ohio State had to cancel its game against Illinois, while two other schools (Maryland and Michigan) canceled against the Buckeyes because of their own Covid-19 concerns. That left the Buckeyes, at 5-0, on the outside looking in for the Big Ten title game.
On December 9, officials from the Big Ten voted to amend its policy, which thereby extended Ohio State’s season. The Buckeyes would come back against Northwestern in the Big Ten title game, and then went on to crush Clemson in the Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal.
According to statistics provided by the College Football Playoff, Ohio State was one of 15 schools that had three games canceled and/or postponed without being made up. In all, according to the CFP, 111 games were canceled throughout the season because of the pandemic.