Featured in this article:
  • Alabama is 7-1 ATS in their last eight games against the Big Ten.
  • Justin Fields (ribs) says he'll be good to go Monday night.
  • Crimson Tide receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy this week.

Unlike the NFL, which only experienced a handful of pandemic-related disruptions prior to the playoffs, college football’s path to the postseason and upcoming College Football Playoff National Championship was full of uneven turbulence. The fact that Alabama played a 10-game regular season compared to Ohio State’s five-game Big Ten slate – that saw three games cancelled due to coronavirus concerns – is quite the dichotomy. But you can only play the next team on your schedule and Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban isn’t the type of guy to make excuses. Online sportsbooks still have Alabama pegged as heavy favorites over the Buckeyes.

After a convincing College Football Playoff semi-final win over Notre Dame, Alabama heads into Championship Monday 12-0 overall and 8-4 against the spread. Ohio State’s upset of Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers in the Sugar Bowl improved the Buckeyes record to 7-0 overall and 4-3 against the spread.

2021 National Championship: Ohio State vs. Alabama Game Info
Date: January 11, 2020, 8:00 p.m. ET
Stadium: Hard Rock Stadium
TV Coverage: ESPN
Opening Odds: Alabama -7 | O/U 76.5
How to Bet: Best Online Sportsbook Reviews

Line Movement

Alabama opened as 7-point favorites, but has ticked up to Crimson Tide -8 at most online sportsbooks we track. The Buckeyes’ moneyline opened at +255, while the point total opened at a monster 76.5 before a significant pullback – yet huge number – 75. The total has gone OVER in four of Ohio State’s last five games with an average total of 73.5 in those four contests.

Alabama is 7-2 against the spread in their last nine games as the favorite.

Ohio State News and Notes

Five things to know:

    1. Quarterback Justin Fields suffered a significant injury to his ribs in Ohio State’s win over Clemson. He left the game for a little bit, was examined in the blue medical tent and returned to lead the Buckeyes to the victory. However, questions remain “how” he was able to get back into the game so quickly and what the actual injury diagnosis is thought to be. Ohio State’s coaching staff has been vague on those two points, but Fields told reporters this week, he’ll be good to go Monday night.
    2. Senior running back Trey Sermon has played out of his mind the past two games as he’s averaged 262 rush yards per game, 8.7 yards per rush and three touchdowns. Per the norm, Alabama’s defense allowed just 3.2 yards per rush and 110 rush yards per game this season.
    3. The Buckeyes are 8-1 against the spread in their last nine games playing as an UNDERDOG.
    4. Though it’s only a seven-game sample size, Ohio State’s pass defense currently rank 116th against the pass. This is sub-optimal when facing Mac Jones and Alabama’s fifth-ranked pass offense that averages nearly 350 pass yards per game.
    5. Head coach Ryan Day said on Thursday that his team was healthy enough to play as scheduled Monday night despite several reports earlier in the week that coronavirus concerns and contact tracing could postpone the National Championship game. Based on Ohio State’s season-to-date, don’t be surprised if one-or-more key players are inactive due to coronavirus protocols.

Alabama News and Notes

Five things to know:

  1. Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith won this year’s Heisman Trophy Award for his 105 receptions, 1,641 yards and insane 20 touchdowns. Mac Jones’ favorite target caught seven balls for 130 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame last week and now faces a porous Buckeyes secondary.
  2. The Crimson Tide converted nearly 92% of their red zone trips and scored 48 touchdowns on 62 trips inside their opponent’s 20-yard line. That’s uber-efficient.
  3. Alabama are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games against the Big Ten.
  4. If Fields’ rib injury limits his mobility, the Crimson Tide’s pass rush could play a pivotal role in slowing down the Buckeyes offense. Alabama averages nearly three sacks per game.
  5. Junior receiver Jaylen Waddle has a good chance to suit up Monday night after missing most of the season with a fractured ankle. He averaged 22 yards per reception with four touchdowns before the injury suffered against Tennessee.

Game Pick: Ohio State +8.5

Fields’ impact on this game can’t be understated. How much and how well he plays will impact the Buckeyes shot at hitting the moneyline, covering the spread and hitting the extreme point total OVER. So long as Justin Fields’ ribs injury isn’t too serious (or extremely numb) and he can participate on every Ohio State offensive snap, the Buckeyes have a shot to hang with the top team in the country. If you believe in the, ahem, talents of Ohio State’s medical staff to get Fields ready for Monday night, the Buckeyes cover and the OVER hits. If you don’t believe, take the UNDER.

Ryan Fowler

Ryan has covered sports on every media platform over the past 17+ years. The first seven years of his professional career were spent as a sports anchor and reporter at various local television stations, while he picked up side gigs as a freelance sports columnist and recurring radio guest before he decided to jump to the web. As content manager of sports simulation website WhatIfSports.com and senior editor of FOXSports.com's fantasy baseball and football coverage for the better part of this decade, Ryan embraces advanced metrics, trends, and outside-the-box angles to find his edge. You can follow him on Twitter @FreelanceFowler.

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