No. 1 Alabama has returned to the top of the college football mountain, rolling to the 18th national title in program history with a dominant 52-24 win over No. 3 Ohio State in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship. Undefeated at 13-0 and unchallenged through much of the season, the Crimson Tide put themselves in a special light even among the program’s six national championship-winning teams to play for Nick Saban.
The departures of multiple stars put the spotlight on an offense that had plenty to replace, but quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris and especially Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver Devonta Smith more than answered the call as they led one of the best offenses in Alabama history and showed out for the biggest game of the year with 621 yards of total offense. Their 52 points are the most ever scored by Alabama in a national title game and the most in a Crimson Tide bowl game since 1953.
Smith was nearly unstoppable, pulling in 12 catches on his first 13 targets for 215 yards and three touchdowns before leaving the game with a hand injury. Jones got banged up a little bit as well but still finished with 464 yards and five touchdowns on 36-of-45 passing.
“I heard somebody say he set some kind of record in the first half of the game, heavens knows what he would have done if he played the whole game,” Saban said after the game. “But you’re talking about the ultimate warrior, ultimate competitor. I’m so happy for him that he was recognized as the best player in college football because I don’t think anybody’s done more for their team than he has for our team.”
Harris, who like Smith was one of the few current Alabama players to be on the team during its last national title run, was an all-purpose machine with 178 yards from scrimmage (79 rushing, 79 receiving) and three total touchdowns.
Ohio State entered the game with a chip on its shoulder fermented through weeks of doubt regarding its status as one of the best teams in the country. Playing less games than those in the ACC and SEC brought out plenty of criticism and nitpicking from the Buckeyes’ body of work, but most of those questions were silenced in a dominant win against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl semifinal to book a spot in Monday night’s title game. There were notable setbacks, like starting running back Trey Sermon leaving the game after one drive with an injury and having numerous players unavailable (some a result of COVID-19 protocol), but the lopsided result was more a reflection of Alabama’s distance from the rest of the sport int his 2020 season.