National Championship X-Factors: Offense by Mike Scharf

Over the past century, whether it’s been on the field or in recruiting, the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide have been two of the most dominant programs in the sport. 

Ohio State has won 931 games to go along with 8 national championships. Alabama has won 928 games while claiming 15 national championships.

On. Jan 11. The two programs meet for only the fifth time in history — Ohio State has a record of 1-3 against Alabama — the last meeting coming in the first ever College Football playoffs in 2015, where the No. 4 Buckeyes defeated the No. 1 Crimson Tide 42-35 in the semifinals. 

The Buckeyes were heavy underdogs against Clemson, but showed the world even though only six games were played, they indeed deserved a playoff spot after dominating the Tigers 49-28 in New Orleans.

The Buckeyes get another chance to prove the doubters wrong as they square off with the Crimson Tide.

In order to win, the Buckeyes need to execute the game plan and come in with that underdog mentality. Not many will choose the Buckeyes in this one as Alabama has been clicking on all cylinders this season, but as we saw in New Orleans, don’t count this talented Buckeye team out.

Here are a few x-factors offensively that could prevail the Buckeyes’ to victory:

Justin Fields

There’s not much needed to be said about QB1. Fields proved all the critics from previous weeks wrong as he BALLED out against the Tigers in the semifinals throwing for 385 yards and breaking the Sugar Bowl record with six touchdowns. Ball security and decision making will be key in this matchup for Fields — one turnover could be a substantial changing point in the game — After taking a huge hit to the ribs, one of the biggest things to keep an eye on is how the injury will affect Fields’ play. Everytime Fields followed through on his throws he was in pain and was limited in the run game. Fields will need to use his legs in this one. Keeping the Crimson Tides defense guessing will be key. When it’s said and done there’s no other quarterback Buckeye nation wants heading into this one. Fields is a baller, competitor and has all the swagger to win a big time game.

Trey Sermon and the Slobs

The Buckeyes are averaging 545 yards per game this year, and poured 639-yards on the Tigers. Sermon and the front seven have a lot to do with that, especially the past two games (Northwestern/Clemson). Sermon has the most rushing yards in a 2-game span in Ohio State history with 524 yards. The front seven led by Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis are looking for blood, they have been dominating the line of scrimmage and look to continue that trend. Some big keys to the game are managing the penalties and controlling the line of scrimmage on both passing and running plays. Holding penalties can kill momentum and be a changing factor in this game. Every drive matters. As for controlling the line, pass protecting Fields and opening up holes for Sermon will lead to big plays as we saw in the past two games.

Garrett Wilson

The duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave have been one of, if not the best duo in college football. Wilson and Olave have been causing havoc for secondaries all season, but Alabama’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Patrick Surtain II has been locked down all season long for the Tide. Surtain II has 20 tackles, 1 INT, and 11 PD (tied-3rd). It’s more than likely Surtain II will be assigned to Chris Olave which will open plenty of opportunities for Garrett Wilson to make a statement championship game for Zone 6. Alabama’s team defense has been dominant of late, but containing both Wilson and Olave is a task many teams find trouble doing. The Crimson Tide has one of the best in Surtain II, which may limit Olave in some aspects, but Wilson will be ready on the opposite side of the field.

The Tight Ends

As we saw in the semifinals against the Tigers, the play of the tight ends can be an enormous x-factor in how the Buckeyes play and attack the defense. The use of tight ends seemed to be limited all season for the Buckeye offense, but in this year’s Sugar Bowl, Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert made game changing plays for the offense. In a 14-7 game led by the Tigers, 3rd and goal, Farrell caught a 8-yard bullet touchdown from Fields. While, Ruckert had himself a game with 3 receptions, 55 yards, and 2 touchdowns. These two will be a key in Fields’ passing game against a stout Crimson Tide defense.

This offense seems to have found it’s rhyme and If all these x-factors on the offensive side of the ball come to play and execute the game plan ahead we could see a similar result to the 2015 Sugar Bowl game — Ohio versus the world.

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