Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
As the reality set in for the Ohio State faithful Monday, a simple look at the box score explained the story.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones had 342 yards and four touchdowns, and running back Najee Harris had accounted for 111 yards and two scores. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith—the Heisman Trophy winner—had caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three scores.
While the Buckeyes surely thought of their missed opportunities, the Crimson Tide didn’t have time to celebrate. They needed to head to the locker room first.
After all, there were still 30 minutes to play in the national championship game.
For one last evening, the Alabama offense was unstoppable.
The nation’s most efficient attack put up 7.5 yards per play in a 52-24 triumph. The dominant performance provided a fitting end to a spectacular year for this unit—an incredible collection of players and coaches who are now largely set for new destinations.
Smith, a senior, is a potential top-10 NFL draft pick. Despite missing the second half with a finger injury, he ended the 2020 season as the nation’s leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Jones and Harris will likely join Smith as first-round selections. Jones finished 36-of-45 with 464 yards and five touchdowns to zero interceptions, while Harris rushed for 79 yards, caught seven passes for 79 yards and totaled three scores.
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
For good measure, Jaylen Waddle returned from what was once thought to be a season-ending ankle injury to play a limited role, catching three passes for 34 yards. He’s also a likely first-rounder.
The NCAA is not counting 2020 as a year of eligibility because of the coronavirus pandemic, so all four must declare for the draft. They’ll leave, though, along with senior linemen Alex Leatherwood, Deonte Brown and Landon Dickerson.
Coordinator Steve Sarkisian is gone, too.
The former boss at Washington and USC, he accepted an offer Jan. 2 to become the head coach at Texas. On his final day with Alabama, Sark called a perfect game that put his players’ extraordinary skills on display.
Some of it was simple. On two 4th-and-1 plays in the red zone, Jones handed Harris the ball. Neither call deserves much praise, yet after a weekend full of NFL teams that played scared, it was refreshing that the Tide were aggressive early.
Sarkisian stuck to the basics, leaning on run-pass options, screens, play-action rollouts and zone-beaters. Ohio State played to its Cover 1-Cover 3 identity, so much of that was expected.
But Alabama also utilized some nasty schemes to score its touchdowns.
In the first quarter, Sarkisian sent Smith in motion, pulling two defenders across the field. Smith, though, reversed direction and sprinted away from safety Josh Proctor—who also needed to recognize a crosser from the opposite side.
It fomented chaos for the Buckeyes and created an effortless touchdown. Pretty good combination, no?
Later in the first half, Sarkisian dialed up another simple-for-Alabama-but-taxing-for-Ohio State call.
Smith went in motion, changed direction twice and sprinted for the right corner of the end zone. By doing so, he beat cornerback Sevyn Banks even before the snap. Jones hit Smith in stride, and he waltzed in.
That play was planned for a short-yardage scoring situation, but, more importantly, it gave Smith an ideal matchup. The latter point is most important for any play-caller, and Sark constantly arranged similar scenarios throughout the game.
Just look at Smith’s third touchdown.
Sarkisian knew Ohio State’s reliance on Cover 3 meant he could get Smith on a linebacker. Tuf Borland found himself in the nauseating matchup. It’s not his fault he followed the defensive call, but Borland had absolutely no chance.
Sark stressed the Buckeyes with jet motions, fake bubble screens, fake bubbles to wheel routes and on and on. He called a brilliant game in his Alabama finale.
But as Smith and Sarkisian deservingly landed the headline, Jones and Harris thrived, too. One play illustrated the impact they had.
On the Tide’s third possession, Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning forced and recovered a fumble after a perfectly timed blitz. On the next drive, Browning executed another blitz. But this time, Jones saw the pressure and lofted a pass to Harris, who made two defenders miss and scored his second touchdown.
No matter what Ohio State did, Sarkisian had an answer. His solutions, though, revolved around his playmakers.
And the Buckeyes could not stop Smith, Jones or Harris.
They’re in good company, of course. All three players finished in the top five in Heisman voting. No defense kept Alabama under six yards per play, and the Crimson Tide averaged 48.5 points per game en route to a 13-0 record and their sixth national championship in 12 years.
Barring a handful of stunning decisions, the offense will be substantially different next season. Alabama isn’t thin on talent considering 5-star talent Bryce Young will replace Jones and John Metchie III will lead the receiving corps. Still, it will field an overhauled unit led by new coordinator Bill O’Brien.
That is coming, but it can wait.
For one final night, the Crimson Tide were overwhelming. Smith, Jones, Harris, Sarkisian and Co. will leave the Capstone as the offense that couldn’t be stopped.
Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.