There were only a few spectators left to attend the celebration, a small fraction of the roughly 14,000 fans allowed into the facility given all the restrictions in place. Any other year, the field is bombarded with friends, family, media, photographers, event staff in a grand celebration that spans 10 minutes along the makeshift stage. On Monday night, a lone player made snow angels in the fallen confetti as his teammates hugged only the team’s staff.
Alabama winning it all felt like the inevitable end, of course, as the sport’s most dominant coach assembled the most dominant team with the most dominant players. For those who just logged into the National College Football Playoffs presented by AT&T against the State of Ohio on Monday, believing they could just see a competitive game, they saw Exhibit 13 showing why the Buckeyes just didn’t stand a chance.
There was Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith who so completely owned the state of Ohio, he snatched several match records for the title before half-time and would have broken more if he hadn’t dislocated a finger on his right hand. There was running back Najee Harris, who bulldozed through the Buckeyes with such force, their collective will inevitably shattered. Quarterback Mac Jones led it all, orchestrating another nearly flawless offensive performance while setting, yes, his own championship records along the way.
The Crimson Tide could not be stopped during the season. They couldn’t be stopped in a championship-winning 52-24 performance that no one will soon forget.
“For me, this team has accomplished more than any other team,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who won a record-breaking seventh national title. “Played 13 games, remained undefeated with all the disruption we’ve had this season. I think there is quite a bit to write about when it comes to the legacy of the team. ”
This Alabama team will have its special place in history, and rightly so. What this team has accomplished goes beyond points and fancy stats and Heisman. Players across the sport have sacrificed more than they ever have; they endured more than ever; they have been challenged both physically and mentally in a way that remains difficult to understand.
They played football during a pandemic.
It could be that this season is not truly remarkable until much later, perhaps years later, with time to reflect on the extraordinary circumstances under which it all happened.
“It’s been an unprecedented year with a lot of adversity,” said Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood. “But we just stayed the course. We tried to stay focused and took it all day in and day out and we really convinced everyone and got locked into what we wanted to accomplish – and we came out victorious. ”
Ohio State also pushed for the opportunity, feeling they also had a championship-caliber team with Justin Fields in the lead. Although the Buckeyes started their season later than Alabama, they’ve dealt with a myriad of coronavirus issues to get to this point – and even discussed whether to postpone this championship game because they had more. of COVID-19 issues over the past week.
All this testifies to the uncertainty that has filled this season. No one really knew if college football would make it to the finish line, as the coaches basically told anyone who would listen, “You’re as good as your last test. The season was precarious every day, with coaches, players and coaches holding their breaths as they awaited coronavirus test results.
This only increased the pressure on the players as they did their best to follow all safety protocols to keep playing. As the SEC teams dealt with outbreaks and Saban dealt with the coronavirus himself, only one team felt really safe: Alabama, thanks to Smith, Harris, Jones and everyone. Yes, there were a few close calls along the way. But this is a team that failed to score 40 or more points just twice and three players finished in the top five for Heisman – and you could make a very real case today they should have finished. 1-2-3.
This doesn’t just happen by accident, of course. Saban recruits the best players and then develops the best players. But that kind of offensive performance wasn’t predetermined either. Saban saw the changing landscape of college football towards at-will offenses and changed with it – reinventing the Crimson Tide into an unstoppable offensive force. Consider the first two times he won a national championship with Alabama: The Tide scored a total of 58 points – just six more than where they ended up on Monday night.
Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian once again called the game masterful. Knowing full well that Smith would be key in every game, he put Smith in new and different lineups to give him the ball. But most of the time, Smith comes right behind and outshines the Ohio State defenders. By the end of the first half, Smith had 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns, broke three career SEC records, set a BCS / CFP championship game record, tied another and set a bowl record. school.
“He does a really good job of calling a game,” Saban said of Sarkisian. “He knows what the other team is doing, knows how to attack it, knows where to put the players to put them in position so that he can play these games against what the other team is doing. He just did a fantastic job. year. ”
Jones, meanwhile, threw for 464 yards – breaking Joe Burrow’s BCS / CFP championship record and tying Burrow’s passing touchdown record with five.
A year after college football pundits declared Burrow’s LSU team the greatest offense of all time, Alabama claimed that crown. None of this should come as a shock: Alabama missed the playoffs a year ago and saw Division rival Tigers go through everyone the same way. Did anyone think Saban would just be okay with this?
Jones, who hobbled on a bruised leg for much of the second half and still delivered one perfectly placed pass after another, went further than declaring Alabama the biggest offense.
“I think we’re the best team to ever play,” Jones said. “No team will play an SEC schedule like this again. But at the same time, we’re so happy to win this game and put the icing on the cake. There wasn’t a lot of pressure; we just wanted to go play the game we’ve all been playing since we were 5 years old. ”
Despite all the unknowns about how this season will unfold, Crimson Tide is committed to each other.
“We had a mission,” Smith said. “Everyone wanted to end things the right way. We all came to work every day and got down to business. We got the result we wanted.
And finally, the result that we all could see coming.