There is a lot to talk about in advance of the National Championship Game between No. 3 Ohio State and No. 1 Alabama. Nick Saban is one win away from his seventh national championship as a head coach (2003, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017) while Ryan Day is trying to win his first.
The Buckeyes set 10 different program bowl records in the Sugar Bowl blowout over Clemson, including most points in a bowl game (details below), most touchdown passes (6 by Justin Fields), most total yardage as a team (639) and for an individual (427 by Fields).
Saban has a win over Ohio State when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 (while coaching Michigan State in 1998), and has also lost to Ohio State as a top-ranked team (see below).
Ryan Day is 5-1 against top-10 teams as the head coach of Ohio State. He has wins over No. 2 Clemson and No. 9 Indiana this season, No. 9 Penn State, No. 10 Michigan, and No. 10 Wisconsin in 2019. His only loss came against No. 3 Clemson last year.
Nick Saban is 32-11 against top-10 teams since the start of the 2008 season, and 17-5 when facing teams ranked in the top-10 since the start of the College Football Playoff era in 2014.
The Buckeyes are 5-9 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the nation. They lost their first four games against top-ranked opponents, but are 5-5 since 1952, 4-4 since 1968, 3-3 since 1985, and 2-1 since 2002.
Their five wins over top-ranked teams came against Wisconsin (1952), Purdue (1968), Iowa (1985), Miami (2003), and Alabama (2015).
Alabama has been ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for at least one week in 13 consecutive seasons (2008-2020). That’s the longest streak in AP poll history. Miami holds the second-longest run at seven years (1986-1992).
Alabama has won all of its games this season except for one by 15 points or more. The Tide beat all of its regular season SEC opponents by 15 points or more, and held leads of 18 in the first half and 14 in the fourth quarter before beating Florida by six points in the SEC Championship Game.
In the semifinal win over Notre Dame, they had a 24-point lead until the Irish scored a garbage-time touchdown with less than a minute to play.
Despite what you may have thought based on the messaging from certain national sports networks, Ohio State’s record against current SEC members is well above .500 all-time.
The Buckeyes enter the National Championship Game against Alabama with a 22-13-3 mark against all current SEC members.
By far the most common opponent historically has been Missouri (10-1-1).
There are five current SEC members who the Buckeyes have played, but never beaten. They are South Carolina (0-2), Florida (0-2), Auburn (0-1-1), Tennessee (0-1), and Georgia (0-1). Most of those were bowl games during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Alabama is 25-6 in neutral-site games under Nick Saban. This includes season-opening games in Atlanta and Arlington, SEC Championship Games, bowl games, and College Football Playoff appearances.
Ohio State is 3-1 in neutral-site games under Day, and was 10-3 on neutral fields under Urban Meyer. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Buckeyes are 13-2 in neutral sites, with the only losses coming to Clemson in the 2016 and 2019 College Football Playoff semifinals.
Ohio State is now back to .500 in bowl games all-time after beating Clemson. That total includes the vacated Sugar Bowl win against Arkansas in the 2010 season.
The last time the Buckeyes had a bowl record better than .500 was after a win over Texas A&M in the 1987 Cotton Bowl, making them 11-10 all-time. John Cooper lost his first four bowl games and finished 3-8. After beating Clemson, OSU is 12-7 since Jim Tressel took over in 2001.
Alabama has scored 30 points or more in 25 consecutive games. That’s the longest active streak in FBS, and the second-longest in FBS history behind UCF, which had 31 between 2017-2019.
The Tide had a streak of 24 straight games with 35+ points before throttling down at halftime against Notre Dame on New Year’s Day and finishing with 31.
The 49 points Ohio State scored in a semifinal win over Clemson is the most in program history for any bowl game. The previous record was 47 against BYU in the 1982 Holiday Bowl.
The most points Alabama has ever scored in a bowl game was 61, against Syracuse in the 1953 Orange Bowl. More recently, they scored 49 against Michigan State in the 2011 Citrus Bowl.
The most points Ohio State has ever given up in a bowl game was 42 against USC in the 1973 Rose Bowl. Alabama allowed 47 to Colorado in the 1969 Bluebonnet Bowl, 45 to Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, and 44 to Clemson in the 2019 National Championship Game.
Trey Sermon has rushed for 524 yards in the Buckeyes’ last two games (331 vs. Northwestern, 193 vs. Clemson). That is the most in any two-game stretch in Ohio State history. Ezekiel Elliott held the old record of 476, set during the Buckeyes’ last playoff matchup against Alabama (230) and Oregon (246).
Elliott rushed for 696 yards in the final three games of that season (Wisconsin and the two Playoff games). Sermon would need to rush for 172 yards against Alabama to match that total.