By: Morgan Jenkins
The college football playoff committee has selected their top six teams for the college football playoffs. Four of those teams will go on to play on New Year’s Day. Clemson (2) and Ohio State (3) will face off in the Allstate Sugar Bowl while Alabama (1) and Notre Dame (4) will face off in the Rose Bowl. Let us look at what each team would need to do to gain a spot to play in the 2021 National Championship.
Predicted winner: Alabama 42-33
Alabama has made it to the college football playoff for six years. Last year was the first time when the Tide did not make it to the playoffs after having an 11-2 record. This season Alabama is out for vengeance to reclaim its title as the face of the SEC. Finishing with a perfect season record of 11-0 and two Heisman finalists, Coach Saban has built a perfect team.
Here are some key components that will help the Tide roll on to victory.
- Offensive Line protecting Najee Harris: Najee Harris (RB) run game this season has been phenomenal. He was the SEC Championship MVP and national college football leader in rushing touchdowns (24). If Notre Dame wants to win this game, they are going to target Harris to try and slow down the Tide’s run game. Notre Dame safety Kylie Hamilton said in a media conference that Notre Dame will not have the same problems other teams have had when it comes to stopping Najee Harris.
- Mac Jones efficient pass game: Mac Jones (QB) needs to be prepared to throw deep in the backfield to some explosive plays. As told, before the fighting Irish are going to target (RB) Najee Harris and slow down the run game. This is a tougher defense than what the Tide is used to. Notre Dame is currently ranked 6th in the nation for 3rd down conversion pct defense meaning the offensive line cannot rely on completing downs on a run game. Expect Jones to throw to (WR) Devonta Smith to complete those backfield passes. Smith leads the nation in receiving yards (1,511), receptions (98), and yards after the catch (768). Smith and Jones are both Heisman finalists for this season.
- Defense on third downs: Statistically Alabama has struggled on third-down defense. They are ranked 70th in the nation with 69-170. This is a weakness Brian Kelly will try to capitalize off to get some points on the board. The defense will have to rush the passer if they find themselves allowing Notre Dame (QB) Ian Book on the line of scrimmage on 3rd down.
Predicted Winner: Clemson
Predicted winner: Clemson 41-38
As a college football lover, I have to say this game has me excited. College football fans are going to be able to watch what now seems like a rivalry between Clemson and Ohio State. Last year the Clemson Tigers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. However, the score for this matchup is predicted to be closer than fans think. Clemson still has a bitter taste in their mouth from losing the national championship to LSU this past year. With a healthy and covid-free Trevor Lawrence, the Tigers are expected to win again.
Here’s how Clemson will clinch their spot for the national championship
- Protect Trevor Lawrence: The offensive linemen must keep Trevor Lawrence protected in the pocket with enough time to throw the ball downfield to wide receiver Amari Rodgers. The team has shown their weak spots whenever they do not have Lawrence playing (I.e., they do not win). Even if Lawrence is pressured inside the pocket, we know he will run and try to get a first down. If not, he can always feed the ball to Travis Etienne Jr, whose speed is ridiculous. Defensively Ohio State struggles in pass plays. The Buckeyes gave up 491 passing yards this season in their game against Indiana. If the o-line can keep Lawrence protected, he is going to have a good time throwing the ball all night.
- Defense stopping the running backs: Trey Sermon has been having a great season since he got to Ohio. The former OU running back has made a name for himself in the Big 10 conference, breaking the Ohio State record for most rushing yards with 339 yards. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is defensive linemen are going to have to stop the running game. Not slow down but stop. Buckeyes running backs Trey Sermon and Master Teague together have rushed for 1000+ yards this season. These players are strong, fast, and they will not go down without a fight.
- In addition to stopping the running backs, Clemson must pressure (QB) Justin Fields out of the pocket. Fields and wide receiver Chris Olave chemistry has allowed for the quarterback to have the throwing success he has had. Fields threw for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed 274 yards and five touchdowns in 2020. Fields had a thumb injury in the Big 10 championship game but says that he will not have any throwing issues.