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Tide roll to another national title

A college football season like no other ends in familiar fashion as Alabama routs Ohio State 52-24

The Associated Press

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — DeVonta Smith was uncoverable, Najee Harris unstoppable and Mac Jones impeccable. With a performance that was both surgical and explosive, No. 1 Alabama won the College Football Playoff national championship game 52-24 against No. 3 Ohio State on Monday night.

The final game of a college football season in a pandemic, a season that was uncertain to be played in the summer and filled with disruptions in the fall, ended in the most predictable fashion: Alabama (13-0) as national champion for the sixth time in the last 12 years under coach Nick Saban.

For Saban, it was career title No. 7 overall, breaking a tie with Alabama great Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most by a major college coach.

“To me this is the ultimate team,” Saban said. “There is more togetherness on this team than on almost any team we’ve ever had. They’ve had to overcome and to persevere so much through this season, and they have done it magnificently.”

The celebration was at once familiar and unique. The confetti cannons sent a crimson and white shower into the air and the Tide players ran to the sideline to grab their championship hats and T-shirts. It’s a rite of passage if you have played for Saban.

But this time, the band playing the fight song was a piped-in recording and when “Sweet Home Alabama” blared, only a few thousand Tide fans were still in the building to sing along.

The Buckeyes fans were mostly long gone.

Ohio State (7-1) just couldn’t keep up. Justin Fields, playing what might be his last game before heading to the NFL, passed for 194 yards and a touchdown. Whether Fields was 100 percent after taking a brutal hit to the side during his brilliant semifinal performance against Clemson was hard to know for sure.

On the Buckeyes’ first drive, they lost star running back Trey Sermon to an injury, and in a game they needed to be running at top speed, facing one of great offenses in recent history, they sputtered too much. Ohio State has never allowed more points in a bowl game.

“I think there’s a feeling of, if you don’t score you’re going to get behind and then the pressure mounts,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said of the Tide’s prolific offense.

Fans can debate which team in the Saban dynasty is best, but none will be more memorable than this group.

“Everybody is so together,” Smith said. “People last year said the dynasty was over. We don’t stop. We just keep reloading.”

Only about 15,000 fans were at Hard Rock Stadium — capacity 65,326 — to see the last magnificent performance of Smith’s college career.

The Heisman Trophy winner had 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half as the Crimson Tide bolted out to a 35-17 lead. He hardly played in the second half, leaving with a hand injury.

Smith, who finished his freshman season by catching the 2017 national championship winning touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa, ended his Alabama career as the leading career receiver in Southeastern Conference history and the most outstanding offensive player of his third title game.

Jones, who finished third in the Heisman voting, was 36 for 45 for a CFP championship-record 464 yards and five touchdowns, operating behind a line that gave him plenty of time.

Harris had 158 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches, scoring three times to give him an SEC-record 30 touchdowns this season.

Smith and Harris surprised some by returning to college after last season for their senior years.

Boy, did it turn out to be worthwhile. Along with Jones, another member of that 2017 recruiting class, they will leave Alabama as the leaders of a team that managed to make an arduous march through the pandemic look easy.

“We all had a mission trying to end things the right way,” Smith said. We all went to work and it ended the way we wanted.”

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