Bottom Line analysis: Alabama takes Ohio State to the woodshed

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra

Ohio State believed it had figured out the formula to beating college football’s best team in the national championship game. But when the Buckeyes started mixing ingredients, the concoction blew up in their faces. Bringing only a pinch of pass defense was a disastrous decision, but the offense left a New Coke taste on the tongue, too. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein 

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Offense (2 leaves) 

For whatever reason — Justin Fields’ lingering pain issues, Trey Sermon’s fresh injury — the Buckeyes often looked as if they had worn construction boots to line up for a 100-meter dash. The speed wasn’t there, the throws were a touch off, the line never developed any kind of earth-moving foundation on which to build a base. The offense had to be perfect to run with ‘Bama, and it came up empty.

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Defense (1 leaf) 

Of course it didn’t help that OSU was missing Tommy Togiai and Tyreke Smith up front, but the hard truth is that the Buckeyes’ secondary has been an ugly baby all year whom everyone insisted was a cutie. No sir. Granted, Alabama has the best offense college football has seen since, well, LSU last year. Except for one Baron Browning play, this was an embarrassing mismatch from the drop.

Answers for Ohio State on how to defend Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith in the first half of the national championship game: Zero.

Special teams (3 leaves) 

Essentially moot. The absence of Blake Haubeil because of COVID pushed Drue Chrisman into triple duty — punter, holder and kickoffs. His work in the latter category was fine, though his boots looked more like 6-iron shots than 3-woods. Curiously, however, Alabama kick returners were willing to call fair catch and take the ball at the 25.

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Coaching (2 leaves) 

For sure there is a pick-your-poison nature to defending the three-headed hydra that the Alabama offense presents. But it’s as if the Ohio State brain trust pulled the wrong lever every time, then watched money spill onto the Crimson Tide sideline. On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes could never elicit the same magic they had enjoyed against Clemson in New Orleans. By halftime, they knew the deal.

Fun quotient (3 leaves) 

On one hand, sure, watching Ohio State get its rear end kicked up to its shoulder blades always goes down like a plate of Alpo Bolognese to Buckeye Nation. But the clinical precision with which Alabama — especially DeVonta Smith and Mac Jones hooking up in the passing game — was in many ways impressive to watch and easy to respect. Besides, people need their sleep.

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Opponent (5 leaves) 

The Crimson Tide threatened to make a mockery of the five-leaf maximum rule in this space, such was the jaw-dropping domination it showed in a nearly flawless first half offensive performance. It wasn’t merely the execution of the plays by the best players, but the creative schemes deployed by coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who was always three steps ahead of the Buckeyes — like Smith against Tuf Borland.

Officiating (3 leaves) 

Blessedly, the officials were hidden figures throughout the decisive first half. They let the players make the plays, and it just so happened that Alabama made the better ones. Replay made for some interesting second-half conversation regarding touchdown catches that OSU receivers either made or didn’t make, but that was merely filler until the confetti fell.

rstein@dispatch.com 

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