Ohio State’s dream season came crashing to an end on Monday night, falling to Alabama and the Crimson Tide’s explosive offense 52-24 in the National Championship game.
My 10 Instant Observations from a tough night for the Buckeyes in Miami.
1.Credit to Alabama. The Crimson Tide were the better team the whole way. That was a special offense this season and while it was a given that they were going to score 30+ points, that was a total clinic from coaching staff to players. Ohio State had no answers and looked like much like Clemson looked 10 days ago.
2. Just an unbelievably special performance from Devonta Smith. You knew he was going to put up numbers in this game, but Ohio State’s inability to keep him contained after the catch did them in early. No Heisman jinx here, Smith was the best player in college football this season and was the best player on the field on Monday night. Scary to think what the final stat line might have looked like if he didn’t injure his hand.
3. You hate to see guys like Wyatt Davis and Trey Sermon go out like that. Davis has been such a warrior and is one of the best guards to ever play at Ohio State. Losing Sermon right away stings, absolutely. He’s the only difference maker at running back on the roster right now, but even in hindsight it’s hard to put too much of this game on that injury. They had no shot of winning with that type of defensive effort.
4. So many of the keys to the game that were talked about consistently over the past week didn’t go Ohio State’s way. Ohio State didn’t get pressure on Jones, Fields didn’t play at his very best, and the defense did not come up with those red zone stops to turn touchdowns into field goals. At least two of those three things had to happen for Ohio State to win, and maybe all three, not making any of them happen really made it a no chance situation.
5. It likely would not have mattered, given that the defense really gave Ohio State no shot in this one, but things really started to get sideways when Fields missed Garrett Wilson in the end zone and the Buckeyes settled for a field goal. Forget for a minute that field goals weren’t going to win the game for the Buckeyes, but that was a pitch and catch after Wilson made a great move to separate from Surtain. That has to be six points in a game with these stakes.
6. That was about as poor of a tackling effort as I’ve seen out of an Ohio State defense. From missed tackles leading to explosive plays, to missed tackles at the line of scrimmage leading to 4-5 yard gains and keeping Alabama on schedule, to poor angles, this was a game many in the defensive back seven are going to want to forget. Really only Proctor and Browning looked like they belonged out there tonight.
7. I promise I didn’t pass the keyboard to our Ross Fulton on this one. But Ohio State needed to play nickel tonight to have a chance. Not enough speed and cover guys out there defensively. Tuf Borland should never be asked to run down the seam with Devonta Smith.
8. I actually thought the front four did a pretty good job against the run, especially given the circumstances without Togiai and Smith. Not a good effort in run support from the back seven with a lot of missed tackles when the front won the line of scrimmage. While Harris’ final rushing stats don’t look special, he got the yards he needed to get when he needed to get them and largely turned those 0-1 yard plays into 4-5 yard plays, rarely going down on first contact.
9. My biggest question mark heading into the off-season is actually not the upcoming quarterback battle. I believe whoever emerges from that battle (my prediction is C.J. Stroud) will be talented and prepared enough to guide a potentially explosive offense next fall. My big question right now is the secondary, the corners in particular. The cornerback room is just not where it needs to be to be able to slow down these high powered passing attacks. I love the young guys that are coming in, but that’s a very tough position to excel at as a true freshman. The Buckeyes need some answers there and it wouldn’t shock me if the portal was closely watched to get one more guy in that room with some experience.
10. This was still a great season for Ohio State. There was a time when we didn’t think they were even going to have a season. Then some injuries and illnesses piled up and they fought through that and then demolished Clemson in the semi’s. They simply lost to be a better team tonight. With the way this staff is recruiting, it’s hard to imagine they won’t be back in this position sooner rather than later.