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The day has finally arrived. College Football’s National Championship game is upon us as Alabama and Ohio State square off in Miami on Monday night to determine who stands tall above the rest in the most unique and uncertain season in the history of the sport.
As you get ready to nestle in for what should be an exciting title tilt, let’s take a look at five players to keep an eye on inside Hard Rock Stadium between the Tide and the Buckeyes.
1 - DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Smith took home most of the hardware during award season this year, winning the Biletnikoff, Maxwell, and Heisman Trophies in one of the most remarkable seasons for a wide receiver ever. Smith leads the nation in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and is coming off a Rose Bowl where he had seven catches for 130 yards and three touchdowns, proving that the spotlight is not too bright for the future top-10 pick.
Smith will likely match up against OSU’s top corner Shaun Wade, who has an excellent opportunity to improve his draft stock in this high-profile showdown.
2 - Justin Fields - QB, Ohio State
Fields likely would have finished higher than seventh in the Heisman voting had the Buckeyes played more than six games this season. Still, the Ohio State quarterback took advantage of his opportunities in the Big Ten Championship, which led to a Sugar Bowl appearance against Clemson.
Despite taking a vicious hit that forced him from the game late in the first half, Fields gutted it out the rest of the way and tossed six touchdowns in the convincing upset of the Tigers. Alabama’s defense has holes, so we’ll see if the future first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft can exploit them.
3 - Najee Harris - RB, Alabama
Harris finished fifth in the Heisman voting and could end the year as the nation’s leading rusher. Harris is 185 yards behind Iowa State’s Breece Hall but leads the country in rushing touchdowns. He has combined for 303 yards in his last two games, including 125 on just 15 carries in the win over the Irish on New Year’s Day.
Either Harris or Clemson’s Travis Etienne will be the first running back off the board this April, and a standout performance on Monday could certainly give the edge to the back from ‘Bama.
4 - Trey Sermon - RB, Ohio State
The senior tailback might not have made this list if we were compiling it in November. Sermon was sharing time with Master Teague, and from October 24 - November 21 (four games), the senior totaled just 232 yards on the ground and never reached the end zone. But over his last three games, which include the Big Ten title game and the Sugar Bowl, Sermon has amassed 636 yards, scoring four times.
He’s clearly the lead Buckeye back now and could be the ultimate X-factor in the Championship Game. If Ohio State can control the time of possession using Sermon early and often, Ohio State has a chance to pull off the upset.
5 - Jaylen Waddle - WR, Alabama
DeVonta Smith is having the season most expected from Waddle entering the year. Waddle was a preseason Heisman candidate and a presumptive Top 10 in April, but an injury forced him to miss much of the year.
If Waddle comes back for Monday’s game, Ohio State might not have the talent to contain the explosiveness all over the field.