Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#499 Ohio State 75.5 vs.
#500 Alabama -8.5
Monday, January 11, 2021 at 8:00pm EST
Written by Ben the Pen

This article covers a past game!

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It's finally time to crown a champion of the 2020 college football season. And what a season it has been. It's been remarkable that we've gotten due to this point in the era of COVID-19, with so many postponements and cancellations. Playing the championship game on Jan. 11 wasn't a guarantee due to some more COVID issues on Ohio State.

Maybe people wanted to see Clemson against Alabama for the fourth time in the title game and fifth time in the College Football Playoffs. But Ohio State spoiled the party and they'll face the Crimson Tide from Hard Rock Stadium in the Orange Bowl on Monday night.

(Late line movements and injury reports were updated on Monday morning.)

Line Movements:

The line has moved slightly toward Alabama for this contest as the week has gone on. Alabama opened as a 7.5-point favorite when the lines came out and, as of Monday morning, now stands as an eight, 8.5 or nine-point favorite at the majority of sportsbooks for this contest. 52 percent of the bets ATS are backing the Crimson Tide giving the points as they look to earn the victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

The total for this contest has moved down slightly during this week. After opening at 76.5 points, the total has moved down to 74.5 or 75 points at the majority of sportsbooks. A slim majority, 51 percent, of the bets on the total for this contest are backing this one staying under the number.

Game-time Weather: It’s going to be a warm evening in the Sunshine State for this contest. At kickoff, the temperature is expected to be in the low-70s under cloudy skies. The mercury will hit fall into the high-60s during the game with the clouds remaining in the sky. There is no chance of precipitation in the forecast. Winds are expected from the east-southeast around six miles an hour with the wind gusts kicking up to about eight miles per hour during the game.

I guess they belong

Ohio State played just five regular-season games this season and there were questions whether they should play in the Big 10 title game because they didn't play six games. I think they made the right decision, considering the fact that the Buckeyes had a much better chance of getting this far than did Northwestern or Indiana. They struggled to beat a very tough Northwestern team 22-10 in the conference championship game and this time the questions were different. It was just whether OSU belonged in the third slot whether Justin Fields could play well in big games. The junior quarterback struggled against a formidable Wildcats' defense, completing just 12-of-27 for 114 yards with two interceptions. He also struggled in a 42-35 win over Indiana on Nov. 21, getting picked off three times.

Fields answered those questions on New Year's Day in the CFP semifinal against Clemson, completing 22 of 28 for 385 yards with six TDs and one pick. Fields did suffer an injury (ribs according to reports) in the second quarter, but should be fine in this game. He'll need another strong game, considering Alabama is tough against the run. Running back Trey Siermon has been spectacular over the last two games, rushing for 524 yards, which breaks the two-game record set by Ezekiel Elliott in 2015. Can he put up big numbers against an Alabama defense that allows just 107.6 yards per game on the ground to rank 12th in the nation?

Defensively, Ohio State will be tested big-time, though they certainly were against Clemson's high-powered offense. The Buckeyes allow just 357.5 yards per game overall and they rank seventh against the run (96.7ypg). The key will be slowing down that Alabama passing game as OSU is allowing 260.8 yards per game in the air (103rd).

Ohio State Injury Report:

OUT: CB Cameron Brown, DL Jacolbe Cowan, TE Patrick Gurd, WR Jaylen Harris, LB Cade Kacherski, LS Roen McCullough, DT Jaden McKenzie, WR Alec Taylor, QB Daniel Vanatsky, S Kourt Williams

Questionable: WR Mookie Cooper, DL Aaron Cox, LB Tommy Eichenberg, DE Tyler Friday, DT Haskell Garrett, OL Paris Johnson Jr., QB Jagger LaRoe, CB Lloyd McFarquhar, QB Jack Miller III, TE Joe Royer, LB Ben Schmiesing, OL Ryan Smith, RB Master Teague III

The team to beat

Ohio State is undefeated and they don't get the same respect as Alabama, because they have played seven total games. The Crimson Tide is 11-0 and has covered all but four. The only time they were really threatened came in the SEC Championship game when Florida gave them a tough time in a 52-46 Crimson Tide victory. In the semifinal game, Alabama cruised to a 31-14 win over Notre Dame, even though they didn't cover the 18.5, they were never really in danger of losing to the Irish. Mac Jones completed 25 of 30 for 297 yards and four TDs, Najee Harris ran for 125 yards on 15 attempts and DeVonta Smith caught seven passes for 130 yards with three TDs. Nobody in the nation possesses the kind of talent at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

Smith won the Heisman Trophy and deservedly so. He caught 105 passes for 1,641 yards and 20 TDs this season. He's also a very dangerous punt returner, who is averaging 24 yards per return on eight attempts. Jones threw for 4,036 passing yards to set an Alabama record, while throwing for 36 TDs and just for picks. The Tide could also be getting a luxury with the return of the dangerous Jaylen Waddle at receiver. Waddle, who has 25 catches for 557 yards and four TDs in just five games, has missed the last six due to an ankle injury. Waddle is considered a "game-time decision".

Offensively, Alabama is extremely tough to stop. They are averaging 354.1 yards per game in the air to rank 5th in the nation and 543.9 yards overall (5th). Defensively, teams have been able to throw on them (Ole Miss, Florida), and they do allow 243.5 yards per game in the air (76th).

Alabama Injury Report:

OUT: OL Landon Dickerson, RB Trey Sanders

Questionable: DL LaBryan Ray, WR Jaylen Waddle

Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

It's one thing to respect Alabama and another to overrate their value. They shouldn't be an 8.5-point favorite and even if Waddle plays, he won't be 100%. Are there concerns about who is missing from Ohio State? They've dealt with these issues for months, so Ryan Day understands how to get his team up and to get his reserves ready just in case. Fields had an exceptional game against Clemson and while he may not throw for six TDs again, he can have another big game against a mediocre pass defense. Alabama will be all over the run here and there will be opportunities to make big plays. On the defensive side, the Tide will move the ball, but expect the Buckeyes to disguise defenses and put some pressure on Jones. This should be a field goal game. Even if it's a touchdown game, the Buckeyes cover.

Prediction: Ohio State +8.5

Full-Game Total Pick

Insiders Status:

Rating:

It's hard not to think this is going to be a shootout, but I don't see both teams scoring in the 40's. Defenses have had over a week to prepare and they should be able to at least make their opponents work. The film work will play for the defenses, at least in the first half. Nerves will also be an issue to some of the players, playing on national television where everybody is watching. Not every player has nerves of steel and is used to this kind of spotlight, so you will see some early penalties, dropped passes and maybe early turnovers. Some mistakes could be expected despite the fact that these are two great teams.

Prediction: Under 75.5
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Written By Ben Hayes , "Ben the Pen"

Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for nearly 30 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13! Ben has had great success in handicapping college football, the NFL, college basketball, the NBA and MLB for 25+ years.