At the start of the 2020 football season, the B-10 (August 11), P-12, MAC (Mid-American Conference), & MWC (Mountain West Conference) all announced they were opting of the 2020 college football season. The conferences subsequently reversed their decision and the 2020 season was back in play … well, kind of back!
The ACC (11 games) & SEC (10 games), the ACC scheduled 10 conference games & 1 non conference while the SEC scheduled 10 conference (only) games! The B-12 scheduled 10 games, 9 conference & 1 non-conference game.
It should be noted, although rarely spoken of, that the Sun Bent Conference (SBC) had spring practice, they held them in February and early March (South Alabama being an exception). The B-12 lost all three games it played vs the SBC in their season openers, while beating American, C-USA, & FCS opponents by lop-sided margins, with the exception of the Oklahoma State Tulsa game, 16-7, hard fought Cowboy win!
The B-12’s image did not recover from these loses in 2020, yet, I would suggest that these loses occurred earlier in the year. The SBC had a great year in 2020, Coastal Carolina 11-1, Louisiana 10-1, Appalachian State 9-3, & Georgia Southern 8-5 and I would not underestimate the advantages of having spring practice! Just a thought in explaining the B-12’s woes in week one!
The B-10 scheduled 8 games and a 9th game on a TBD basis (all conference games), while the P-12 scheduled 6 games, all within their league. The P-12 struggled to get its teams’ on the field, Cal, Arizona State, Washington & Washington State were able to play only 4 games. In fact, Washington who won the North Division was unable to play in the championship game, do to a Covid-19 outbreak!
Just a review of the struggles that all of college football & these two finalists had to battle in 2020, their journey has been like no other in recent times!
So entering the season, what was the thinking about Ohio State & Alabama? I always begin the college football season with Phil Steele’s Preview, as his publication is more like a media guide than a onetime read! Here is what Steele had to say about these teams in June.
Steele thought that Mac Jones would win the job, but that Jones would be pushed by in-coming freshmen / all everything, Bryce Young & red shirt freshmen, Paul Tyson. Steele rated Bama QB position as the 44th best in the country. Pretty sure Phil threw away his crystal ball on this one.
OSU was another matter, Justin Fields was rated (2nd) behind only Clemson’s, generational QB, Trevor Lawrence. As he entered the 2020 season, Field’s was responsible for 51 TD’s (passing 41/running 10) and threw only 3 picks in 2019! His projected backup was, Kentucky transfer, Gunnar Hoek & 2 true freshmen, jack Miller & CJ Stoud.
Steele ranked Alabama as having the 2nd best staple of running backs in the country, led by, I can either “knock you out”, jump over you, or ‘run away from you’, Najee Harris. Harris ran for over 1200 yards and scored 20 TD’s in 2019! Najee was projected to be backed-up by the Robinson’s, Brian (441 rushing yards in 19) & Keilan ( 254 rushing yards with 6.5 YPC).
Ohio State was ranked by Steele as having the 16th best assemblage of running backs. The RB’s at OSU were projected to be led by OU transfer, Trey Sermon, who was injured for most of 2019, after having rushed for 947 yards and 5.9 YPC in 2018! Sermon, it was thought, would be supported by Master Teague (789 yards, 4 TD’s & 5.8 YPC in 2019) & Demario McCall (122 rushing yards, 2 TD’s & 6.8 YPC).
Alabama was projected to have the 3rd best receiving corps, behind LSU (remember, Ja’Marr Chase & Terrence Marshall opted out for 2020), & USC (Amon-Ra Saint Brown, Tyler Vaughn, & Drake London). Bama is led by DeVonta Smith (18.5 YPR), Jaylen Waddle (17.0 YPR), & John Metchie. Waddle when down with an injury (ankle) in the Tennessee game, October 24th! It was announced today (1/11/21) that Waddle has been medically cleared to play!
Ohio State was ranked 16th best receiving corps, by Steele, prior to the start of the 2020 season! Chris Olave (17.3 YPR) & their fastest receiver, Garrett Wilson (14.4 YPR). The stats provided here are from 2019 season (remember, this is a preview)! While the Bucks were viewed as the 16th best at the beginning, they are now clearly a top 5 receiving unit!
Alabama was ranked by Steele’s staff as having the best O-Line in all of college football! Four of the 5 starters are being identified as 1st or 2nd day NFL selections. They are led by LG, Deonte Brown & LT, Alex Leatherwood!
Ohio State was the 4th best o-line, in the preseason rankings, behind only, Bama, OU & ND! RG, Wyatt Davis, a preseason All-American, was projected to lead the way! The Bucks retuned 3 starters!
Ohio State was ranked 7th in the preseason by Phil Steele Staff! This speaks to their depth, as this unit lost the Defensive Player of the Year, Chase Young, in 2019. OSU has 10 players on the D-Line, that were ranked in the 25 of their respective positions / classes!
This is the most experienced D-Line Bama has had in the last 4 years. Bama has 11 players on their D-Line that were identified as very highly touted by Steele’s staff! The Tide’s DE, LaBryan Ray was identified as a pre-season All American!
Alabama was ranked 2nd, in the pre-season, as the LB position was being ranked nationally. Their unit was bolstered by the return of 2018 1st Team All-SEC, MLB, Dylan Moses & 2018 starter, Christian Harris
Steele ranked Ohio State as the 3rd best LB corps in the nation. The Bucks are led by Tuf Borland & Pete Werner. Both players were recognized as All-Big Ten pre-season selections!
The Tide was ranked @ the start of 2020 as having the 9th best secondary, in the country, led by, Pre season All-American, CB, Patrick Surtain!
The Buck were recognized as having the 11th best defensive backfield in the nation, led by pre-season, 1st team All-American selection, CB, Shaun Wade!
Alabama is ranked as having the 4th best special team(s) in college football! Bama will routinely plays starters on special teams (Smith, Waddle, Moses)!
Ohio State currently has the 4th best roster in all of college football. The Bucks are loaded with talent and the way for their backups get on the field (who would start in most programs) is on special teams. Steele ranked them as the 16th best special team unit for the 2020 season!
Phil Steele’s ‘Best Four’ for 2020 were, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, & Oklahoma! He correctly identified 3 of the 4 participants in the CFP (swap out OU for ND and he was spot on). His Per-season Top 4 were, 1) OSU, 2) Clemson, 3) Alabama, & 4) Oklahoma!
Tonight, we will see if the Bucks can make happen what Steele predicted last summer!
& as Always, Enjoy the Game!