By Stephen Hawkins, AP Game writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – When Ohio State upset Alabama in the semifinals of the first College Football Playoff en route to the Buckeyes’ last national title, it looked like the start of a budding Postson rivalry between the two traditional powers.
Instead, Clemson became the nemesis of the Crimson Tide and over the next five years became the biggest challenge for Nick Saban’s Alabama dynasty.
Six years later, Ohio State and Alabama reunite, Ted is still rolling and the Buckeyes look troubled again.
SEC champion Crimson Tide played deep in the heart of Texas after nother Dame 31-14 rolled into the Rose Bowl, with the Big Ten’s No. 3 Bucket beating Clemson 49-28 in the other CFP semifinals in the Sugar Bowl on Friday. The night before Justin Fields’ six touchdowns.
How Fields is feeling will be the main story line in the title book. He worked hard in the second quarter against Clemson, but managed to play with pain.
“He couldn’t do everything but a fierce performance, which is a tough and special young Justin Fields,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said after taking over from Urban Mayer.
Clemson, like Alabama, was trying to get into the title game for the fifth time in seven seasons of the four-team playoffs. This will be the fourth Tigers-Tide game for the CFP Championship.
Instead it is a matchup of storied events playing since January 11 in suburban Miami that determine the champion of this most unusual season played in the shadow of an epidemic.
Alabama was top-seeded in the first four-team playoffs after the 2014 season, but Ohio State defeated 42–35 in the semifinal Sugar Bowl behind Meyer, Ezekiel Elliott and Cardell Jones.
Those Buckeyes faced double their playoff eligibility. In 2014, Ohio State had to come back from an early-season loss to Virginia Tech to slip into the final playoff spot on the last weekend of the regular season.
After beating Alabama, the Buckeyes won the national title 42–20 over Oregon that year, but lost to Clemson twice in the semifinals.
While this season’s CFP provided the third consecutive title-game matchup of undefeated teams, it is slightly different.
Alabama played 12 games through the conference-only season before outscoring Florida 52–46 in the SEC Championship Game and then winning the Ros Bowl. The semi-final was transferred from Pasadena, which would have kept the family – or any fans – from participating in the game due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Ohio State’s emphatic win in the Sugar Bowl was only the seventh game of the season.
The Buckeyes’ three regular season games were canceled due to virus issues due to the Big Ten not starting its season until the end of October. The league changed its rules to allow them to represent the East Division in the conference championship game after only six regular seasons after the opening five seasons of play.
Ohio State also found it easy to play as the Big Ten canceled its fall season in August, only to do the reverse course in September,
Ohio State linebacker Tuff Borland said, “Everything that’s been happening with this team for the past 10 months, I’m very happy for the people in this group.”
Alabama opened as a touchdown favorite over Ohio State, a prolific offense that had two Heisman Trophy finals.
The following week, DeWinta Smith, the favorite to win Heisman, caught three touchdown passes from fellow finalist Mack Jones against Not Dame.
Smith took seven catches for 130 yards, while Jones completed 25 of 30 passes for 297 yards.
“Smiley has done as much for our team as any player can do for any team,” said Saban, who will seek his sixth national championship with Alabama and seventh overall.
Heimann had voted before the semi-finals. Finishing fifth in Alabama, overtaking Nazi Harris and the order of the Final Four will be revealed Tuesday night, with Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Kyle Tusk of Florida.
Fields was left out of Heiman’s conversation, playing only six games. Especially after a poor performance in the Big Ten title game against Northwestern.
The Chinese Bowl was viewed as one of the best players in the country, as the Buckeyes avenged the painful CFP losses of Lawrence and Clemson last season.
Dey said, “In life, you don’t usually get a second chance. “But you can’t miss a second time.” So, I don’t know that we are very excited about this. We have a chance to play for the National Championship or the fact that we have avenged that loss. “
AP college football writer ralph d. Russo contributed from New Orleans.
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