Alabama Crowned 2020 NCAA Playoff Champs

Once again, college football powerhouse the University of Alabama climbs to college football’s peak, dominating the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 on Jan. 11. The Crimson Tide under Head Coach Nick Saban brings the trophy home to Tuscaloosa for the 18th time in program history. The team accomplished a perfect 13-0 record this season while navigating the complicated, unprecedented protocols of the 2020 season. 

With concerns about the possibility of COVID-19 affecting the football season, fans and players alike were relieved when the SEC announced in July that they planned to hold a 10-game conference-only regular-season capped by a conference championship. Throughout the season, players were tested for the virus daily, and some members of the team, including Nick Saban, were forced to quarantine after receiving positive tests. 

However, week after week, the few absences did not seem to affect the Crimson Tide as they comfortably sat atop of the rankings all year. No team they faced was able to stop the high powered, fast offense led by quarterback Mac Jones and Heisman winner DeVonta Smith. 

On Dec. 19, the Tide defeated the Florida Gators in a high-scoring 52-46 SEC Championship win, claiming their spot in the four-team playoffs. Jones threw for over 400 yards and five touchdowns, and Smith received for just under 200 yards and two touchdowns on 15 receptions. 

As the regular season concluded, the team prepared to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Rose Bowl, the semifinal game, while facing a dilemma off the field. Nick Saban had to decide whether his players could return home to be with their families for the winter holidays, ultimately choosing to let his boys take a three-day break. Coach Saban made this decision as  he “didn’t have the heart to tell them they couldn’t go home for Christmas.” Nevertheless, the Tide returned to campus, and most of their key players tested negative for the virus, ready to take on the Irish on New Year’s Day.

The Rose Bowl has seen some of the best matchups in college football history, usually taking place in Pasadena, California. However, this year the No. 1 seeded Alabama traveled to Arlington, Texas, where they defeated the fourth-seeded Irish 31-14. Once again, Smith entered AT&T Stadium ready to play, punching in three touchdowns on just seven receptions. The Bama defense shut down the skilled Irish offense under quarterback Ian Book, holding them to only two scores. Later that same day, the Buckeyes upset the ACC Champions, the Clemson Tigers, led by the projected No. 1 overall NFL draft pick, Trevor Lawrence.

Alabama and Ohio State met in Miami on Jan. 11 to claim a champion in the seventh annual college football playoffs. Early in the second quarter, the game was tied 14-14, but it was all Tide from there. In the first half alone, Alabama running back Najee Harris rushed for two touchdowns early, and the player of the game, DeVonta Smith, recorded three touchdowns before exiting the game due to a finger injury. Smith broke the national championship record for most catches in a game with 12. (The previous record was 10.) With 215 yards, he was just six yards shy of the record for receiving yards. 

With the score 35-17 at the half, Alabama put 17 more points on the board in the second half compared to Ohio State’s 7. In the end, red confetti rained from the sky, and the trophy was presented to Nick Saban, making him a seven-time national champion, the most of any coach in history. 

Photo: Heisman winner DeVonta Smith broke the national championship record for most catches in a game with 12 receptions. @alabamafbl on Instagram

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