Stuckey’s College Football National Championship Guide: Betting Value on Over/Under
Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: DeVonta Smith (6), John Metchie III (8) and their Alabama Crimson Tide team mates.
Ohio State vs. Alabama Odds
I’m not even sure last year’s Ohio State defense could really slow down this Alabama offense. And that was a unit with a generational pass rusher in Chase Young and three starters in the secondary who were drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, including two first-round cornerbacks.
The Tide have a record-setting offense that ranks first in almost every advanced metric for a reason.
They boast an excellent offensive line, a top-three quarterback, a dominant running back and the best group of wideouts in the country, highlighted by Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith.
I’m not sure how a defense slows down this group.
Ohio State’s defense did rise to the occasion against likely No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson offense. However, the Buckeyes had a few things working in their favor:
- Clemson was without its offensive coordinator and normal play-caller Tony Elliott. After scoring 14 points on their first two drives, the Tigers scored only 14 the rest of the way.
- Ohio State’s defensive line won the battle in the trenches against a vulnerable Clemson offensive line.
- The Tigers also had a very subpar group of receivers relative to what we’ve seen the past few seasons.
Alabama has none of those three issues.
Also, Ohio State is rumored to be a bit shorthanded along the defensive line — although it does look as if Tommy Togiai will play after news broke he simply had a false positive COVID-19 test. He would’ve been sorely missed.
I ultimately just don’t trust this Ohio State secondary against the Alabama receivers. The Buckeyes rank outside the top 100 in defending pass explosiveness. That spells disaster against Mac Jones and Company.
Despite making the AP All-American first team somehow (Ahmad Gardner was robbed), Shaun Wade had a subpar year. He just doesn’t look as comfortable on the outside as he did a year ago as the nickel surrounded by pros.
Out of 211 corners with at least 200 coverage snaps, Wade ranks 202nd in snaps per reception. Fellow corners Sevyn Banks and Marcus Williamson rank 89th and 199th, respectively. Wade also ranked 189th in passer rating allowed.
I do like that Ohio State recently moved Josh Proctor to the single high safety spot in favor of Marcus Hooker, but this corner group is in for a long day.
There’s a reason the Buckeyes have been bailing on coverage so much as opposed to last year when we saw a ton of press-man. Ohio State’s own staff knows this group is very vulnerable.
It’s a different story for the Buckeyes on the other side of the ball.
Ohio State also has a future top-five pick at quarterback in Justin Fields, who ripped apart Clemson in the semifinal. There are questions about his health, but I think he’ll be ready to roll at close to 100% from everything I’ve read.
If for whatever reason he wasn’t able to go or got hurt during the game, my guess is Ohio State would turn to the highly-touted CJ Stroud over Jack Miller.
Stroud is more of a dual-threat quarterback who has a game that more closely resembles Fields in this offense. From a point-spread perspective, I have about a touchdown drop from Fields to Stroud.
Fields does take a few too many sacks because he tends to hold onto the ball too long at times, but he’s working in front of an outstanding Ohio State offensive line that ranks in the top five nationally in both Line Yards and Opportunity Rate, per Football Outsiders.
The Buckeyes also have an extremely talented group of wide receivers, led by speedster Chris Olave.
The Ohio State offense has elevated to another level since the emergence of Trey Sermon as the No. 1 running back. The Oklahoma transfer has been running like a man possessed over the past few games.
In his past three games, he’s carried the ball 70 times for 636 yards — good for an absurd clip of over 9 yards per carry.
I know Alabama has the best cornerback in the nation in Patrick Surtain and its other corners have graded out well this season, but I still think this Ohio State offense will put up its fair share of points. Elite offenses can attack Alabama’s safeties and linebackers through the air.
Plus, the Ohio State receivers are just too talented to not make a handful of big plays on the outside, especially considering this Alabama defense doesn’t really feature an elite pass rush, ranking 58th in Passing Down Sacks Rate.
Saban likes to play a lot of man-to-man defense, which has left his defenses vulnerable to teams that can spread them out with a mobile quarterback. Ohio State checks both boxes.
Maybe Alabama takes a page out of Northwestern’s book and drops eight, which gave Fields trouble (although Sermon then ran for 300+), but I think the Tide will trust their corners as usual.
Ultimately, this total will likely be decided by how Ohio State elects to play this out.
I bet the Notre Dame-Alabama under assuming the Fighting Irish would play slow and lean on their run game to eat up clock and keep the Alabama offense off the field. That would be disastrous for the over here, but I don’t think that’s the route Ohio State will take.
I expect Ryan Day to utilize tempo throughout the night and try to keep up with Alabama. It’s just too difficult to sustain drives the way Notre Dame did and expect to match Alabama.
I think Ohio State will try to do what we saw Ole Miss and Florida do: win a shootout. Those two teams covered and had point totals of 98 and 111.
The Buckeyes need to play aggressive, unleash Fields and hope to steal a possession or two — whether it be at the end of the first half while getting the ball to start the second half — or via turnovers.
Based on my projections and manual adjustments, I made this total a touch below 79 (crazy!), so I took some over 74.5 and would play anything 75 or below.
In regards to the side, I make it a touch under 7, so I do see a tiny bit of value with Ohio State. However, with some of the uncertainty surrounding Fields and the COVID-19 situation, I’d need 10 or more to consider the Buckeyes.
My prediction is Alabama wins a high-scoring showdown with the difference being one too many stalled drives as a result of Fields taking sacks after holding the ball too long.
In the props department, I’m targeting overs and touchdown props for tight ends on both sides.