2020 College Football Playoffs – National Championship Preview

Posted: January 12, 2021 in All Things Power Spread
That Guitar Man from Central Park!

Well it has been quite a shitshow for the past year. For the World, for Sports, for Ohio State Football and over the last week for me.

I can’t tell you exactly what OSU was going through except that they supposedly had another Covid outbreak on the Team right before the National Title Game. I can tell you that I had my website break down on Saturday and then my computer. In the middle of Playoff Season of which I work professionally and also attempt some posts here on Power Spread.

The computer amazingly turned back on late that night, but I was unable to post anything Sunday until now. My friend in Ohio, Kelly, saved the day so that I could get this NC Post out. The formatting will be off, but it should be readable. I will be changing all of this very soon – stay tuned…

Magic

So why the video by my friend and amazing fellow Artist, David Ippolito. A NYC Urban Legend with adoring fans all over the world. So he knows a little about Magic.

He had his own shitshow to deal with this year as he wasn’t allowed to play live in Central Park all year. The Silver Lining? He has created a big following on the Internet with his Weekly Shows and is now on the verge of some big things in the Theater World as well.

Ohio State Shitshow

There is always a Silver Lining. Those that can see it and focus on it always find a way. This year, OSU has found a way.

They’re shitshow started long before 2020. Since their last National Title in 2014, they have dealt with old outdated schemes, an off the field scandal and finally the retirement of their legendary coach Urban Meyer.

In 2018 they were ridiculously left out of the 4 Team Playoff for a team that had no business being there. In 2019 they made the Playoffs, then lost to a lesser team in the most improbable way imaginable. They actually beat that same team last week in what seemed like a Year Long 8 Quarter Game!

Now, this past week, they supposedly have been dealing with another Covid outbreak. This after originally having the season cancelled, then having to cancel several games from Covid. They have only played a total of 7 games and may be going into this game with some 20 players away from the Team.

The Good News? We Don’t Know Shit!

Cleveland Browns Upset for the Ages

The Browns – another team from Ohio – also was dealing with massive Covid issues coming into their Playoff Game vs the Steelers last night. A blowout for the Steelers, right?

Wrong.

Cleveland, with players missing, plus their Head Coach along with other coaches, jumped out to a 28-0 1st Qtr lead and hung on to win!

Their HC Kevin Stefanski may not have the best schemes or the best talent but he is proving to be a great leader. Focusing on the Silver Lining at all Times. A Rock. He has brought together a miserable franchise into the light of Faith, Trust and Team within a grand total of ONE YEAR!

Reverse Letdown?

So with all the covid, should this game even be played tonight? And now that it is, will we even have a fair, competitive match up?

Well this is exactly what many were asking about the Steelers-Browns game. Incredibly, the Browns showed up with a ton of Energy and the Steelers were flat! Could this happen again.

I was talking to my Mom earlier before that Steeler game and we were talking about how all this talk of Covid may actually be having a reverse effect. That’s all the opponent hears all week. A noncompetitive joke of a contest, while the other Team, with nothing to lose, galvanizes for the fight of their lives!

Even before I saw this game, I felt this could be the case with the Buckeyes. They have been through so much. Not just this year, but for 5 years. And while I don’t expect Alabama to come out flat like the Steelers, I wonder.

The Steelers did not have good practices during the week and were taking time off to let players “heal”. Something you can’t know unless you are a part of the Team.

If Bama is listening to the hype or expecting an easy game – or just possibly, dealing with their own fatigue – be it psychological or otherwise – then we may be in for another big surprise.

HEART

More than all the above is the great Morale that Ohio State has developed over the course of this year and last under HC Ryan Day.

Faith in Self. Faith in Team. The main reason Clemson overcame OSU last year. Why the Browns won last night.

2020 has enlightened many of us in the miracle of Faith and Trust. All great leaders have known that an ounce of faith (c2) is worth more than one’s weight in gold (m=Talent/Technique/Scheme). Look at Einstein’s Energy equation – m vs c2 – and decide for yourself. It’s not complicated. 🙂

So no matter what the deal actually is, they are playing the game. It may look bad for OSU, but don’t assume that it will be. This Team has Magic about it right now – beyond the easily perceived or understood – so we shall see.

2020s – Don’t Assume Anything

There are many reasons that heavily favored Alabama may lose this game

Bama may be overrated.

I’m not saying they are, but…

The SEC had a somewhat down year. Yes there was Texas A&M and Florida, but I think these teams also may be overrated because of a down year by the SEC. Of the games I saw the only team I saw really play Alabama tough was Florida in the SEC Ch and that was only on the offensive side of the ball.

Also, Notre Dame came out as Flat as the Steelers last night. I have been told that ND was dealing with non-covid illness on the Team. I’m not sure what, but even their previous game – a blowout loss to Clemson – they looked like a different team. They were fired up and fought Clemson tough in the first half. A late score to end the half by Clemson, led to the game getting away from ND, but even late they were still fighting.

They had none of that fighting energy versus Alabama, except briefly to start the 2nd Half. For that matter, Alabama’s own energy wasn’t really that great. The Clemson/OSU game was far more energized, though some of Bama’s lethargy probably had a lot to do with what they were receiving from the other side of the field.

Which leads me to another reason Bama could lose.

Could Bama suffer their own Letdown after a long season?

If you watch the Interviews with Saban and Day, they both look weary and tired. For Day it is understandable after all the Buckeyes have been through, but what is going on with Saban?

Could it be that this year is just wearing on everyone at this point? Someone in the comments section said it looked like these 2 coaches just want to get the season over with. While I don’t think there is any real truth to that, the point is taken. Unlike OSU, Bama has played a full slate of games. Is this long year and all the covid talk this week finally taking a toll on this Team?

Bama has also had their own injures this year and our missing their star C and probably their NB for this game. Ohio State, even with all their issues, actually have a lot of depth and are more used to this than Bama. Their ride this year hasn’t been nearly as smooth. So again, we will see.

The Teams

Is Bama still the most talented team?

The first half of the previous decade, no one was even close to Bama in terms of Recruiting. Slowly OSU and Clemson were creeping up. As of now, I feel OSU has caught them. Meyer’s last recruiting classes were his best. There’s even an argument to be made that OSU has more talent this year.

Heisman Skill Players – QB/RB/WR

Most would give Bama Heisman winner WR Devonta Smith and Heisman candidates QB Mac Jones and RB Najee Harris the nod over OSU’s skill players. But from what I have seen on the field I don’t feel the same, except for Harris.

  • Smith has had an incredible year, but we have a WR named Garrett Wilson, who I feel is potentially better. He’s a better athlete – tops in the country – and has great hands like Smith. Smith runs the best routes in the country, but Wilson is not far behind. Wilson hasn’t been as consistent but if he shows up to play, watch out! He could potentially outshine Smith!
  • QB Justin Fields has better mobility than Jones. Jones reads defenses better maybe than anyone in the country. Both our great leaders and tough, but Fields is really special. His improv ability and that added “magic” make him the best in the country this year – for me. He didn’t play enough games to qualify for the Heisman race, but if he’s healthy enough tonight, he may put on another big show like last week.
  • Finally at RB, OSU’s Trey Sermon has really come on the last 2 games. He singlehandedly saved the B10 Championship debacle and possibly last weeks game.
    • OSU threw an interception in the endzone to start the 2nd Half and Clemson promptly went the length of the field for a TD. OSU Energy was trending downward fast! On a big 3rd down and a dangerous Clemson team gaining momentum, Sermon caught a little flair pass and just went berserk!! Smashing through players and almost busting for a TD!
    • Even though the TD was called back, OSU had an important first down. More importantly the OSU sideline was going crazy – full of energy again! A couple of plays later, Fields threw a long bomb touchdown, effectively putting the game away!
  • In the end I would give the nod to Bama’s Harris over Sermon. Harris has more power and is a great receiver – even when split wide. But it is close and if you again add in the Magic Factor – that may go to Sermon!
  • One more thing about the skill positions on Offense. Bama has a talented TE, but OSU has two! Bama has a great complimentary WR to Smith, in Waddle, but he’s coming off a long term injury hiatus. OSU’s great counterpart to Wilson is Chris Olave and he’s on fire!

So potentially, regardless of all the Heisman Hype – OSU has more talent at the skill positions. At the least, this is a Tie, not to the Tide.

The Trenches

Again, many would say Alabama. Not so fast.

  • The 3 best Olines in the country this year were probably Bama, with OSU as a close 2nd and then Notre Dame 3rd. But without their C, Dickerson, I think OSU gets the nod – or at least a Tie again. Bama’s backup C, Owens, is actually very good, but not as good as Dickerson. OSU has probably the best combo of size and athleticism in the country. While Bama’s is the biggest and most powerful.
  • Both of these Olines rank with the best of all time and are the most underrated part of this whole game, imo. It is a big part of why both these offenses are so amazing this year. But like the entire Offense, Bama does not have the edge and may possibly not be as talented right now as OSU.

Now on Defense, many are recognizing that Alabama no longer plays the kind of amazing Defense fans are used to seeing from a Saban team. Part of that is up front on the DLine.

  • Bama is still talented and very good, but OSU is better. DT Haskell Garrett was amazing most of the year. Those who didn’t analyze OSU’s games may not be aware. His DT mate, Togiai was also very disruptive in the middle. They may be the best DT tandem in the country.
  • Also, OSU has a ton of speed on the outside that has been very disruptive in the opponent’s run game as well as pressuring QBs – even without the big Sack totals.
The Back 7

Here it is almost identical between these two teams. Speedy, talented LBs who help destroy the opponent’s run game and also help with the pass and talented, but inexperienced DBs that have given up big plays all year. In addition each team has a great lockdown CB, though Bama’s guy, Surtain, has had the better year.

  • For me this brings up another good point. Our own lockdown CB, Shaun Wade, has taken a lot of abuse by the fans this year. He seems to be much better as a Slot Corner – where he played last year. I also think his head wasn’t in the right place for a lot of the year as he was slated to go into the NFL Draft before the Big 10 decided to have a season.
  • I have a feeling that Wade is going to be locked down on Smith a lot this game. Most would expect Smith to burn him repeatedly, but Im not so sure. Wade is sick of the talk and I have a feeling he’s going to be extra physical and more motivated than he’s been all year.
  • Wade isn’t that strong or big – and even though Smith is stronger than previous years – he’s still not an overpowering WR. So Wade may have more success in this match up than fans will expect.

So the answer to the question is no. I do not believe Alabama is more talented than OSU – IF these players I detailed actually play for OSU, which at this point is impossible to know. If OSU’s covid issues are more minor than what’s being reported, then they may actually have the talent edge.

Technique + Scheme

Saban and Day are both execution oriented head coaches. Thus they keep the Pro ideals of Timing+Details meshed within the new simpler, but more creative PS concepts.

Both teams had their disruptions this year. Especially Ohio State, who we know had disruptions this week. Except for the B10 Championship, those disruptions didn’t show up on the field in terms of execution. Some 2nd half letdowns with huge leads not withstanding.

PS Pro Offense – Sarkisian vs Day

Alabama’s OC Steve Sarkisian was the ignitor for me – the biggest reason I started talking about Schemes so much then Power Spread back in 2009. He comes from a BYU – college version of West Coast passing scheme – background and took to the Power Spread in this last decade. His route designs and creative concepts and play calling are second to none.

He has a new job in Texas, but by all accounts, this hasn’t interfered with his job this past week to get Bama’s offense ready to roll one more time. For me he has a lot to do with the success of WR Smith and QB Jones. In fact, I feel that Sarkisian and that great Oline of Bama’s are bigger reasons for the Offense’s success than the skill players everyone adores.

Ryan Day is no slouch either. His background is more PS – with Chip Kelly as his mentor – but he came from a heavy Pro Power background – as did Kelly. He loves the Timing Pass Designs of the West Coast style scheme and mixes it brilliantly with a wide range of PS space design – wide, middle, short, deep – every piece of the field is exploited by Day. To boot, his play-calling is maybe the best in the country!

Kevin Wilson is a big help for OSU on this side of the ball. He’s been an excellent coordinator and coach for a long time. He loves the Power in PowerSpread, but knows how to really open space and take advantage of the Power. He was one of the first – at Northwestern in the late 90s – to popularize a PS Offense with a dual threat QB in as spread passing game.

4-3 Hybrid Mix – Mattison/Coombs vs Saban/Golding

Both of these defenses are based in fundamentals with a mix of m2m and zone with surprise blitzes, but OSU is definitely more creative at this time. Mattison was always solid and has really improved his aggressive mix of late. Coombs spent time in the NFL for 2 yrs with the Titans and got to learn some of Dean Pees “Psycho” PS Defense he brought from Baltimore.

OSU definitely mixes a bit more than Bama at this point. Saban used to have DC Jeremy Pruitt who was brilliant, but of late has kept with Pete Golding and a more conservative package. Saban no longer builds his team around Defense, choosing rather to minimize big plays and hang in the game until his offense takes over.

I don’t think this is something he likes doing as he is a long time brilliant defensive mind himself. But I think Nick simply hasn’t come up with a better solution in this age of PS Offenses that can be almost unstoppable. So if you can’t beat em, join em. He has focused his attention on getting great offensive minds and building great a PS Offense with the immense talent he has accumulated. That change, while not perfect, has continued to keep Bama in the National Title conversation yearly.

Prognostication

Do the Buckeyes have a chance after another Covid Outbreak? I think you know my answer.

Schedule Prep

The SEC had a down year as did the Big 10. I don’t think many would agree, but I don’t think teams like Florida and Texas A&M were as good as people thought. I felt that the best team Bama was going to play all year was Notre Dame and they didn’t show up for the game.

Bama may be shocked by the speed and talent of OSU at the start of the game. Similar to how OSU had to get used to Clemson’s talent after having faced less talented Big 10 teams during their shortened year. Really, Bama’s only real challenge this year was from Florida in the SEC Championship Game.

On Defense they struggled once again with QB Runs (too much m2m coverage called) and DBs getting burned for big plays. Even Surtain was badly beaten by former OSU WR Trevon Grimes. On Offense their big hulking Oline was burned by Florida speed more than once.

OSU has more speed on their Defense than Florida and a better running QB (if healthy) and better WRs and RBs. They also have a much better Oline. If Bama plays like they did vs Florida they will give up a lot of points and probably not score enough to make it up.

Scheme Technique Talent

Day and Sarkisian have excellent schemes and depending on practices this past week, both offenses should have big games with their explosive talent. Mattison/Coombs have the edge for now on a Saban defense that plays shows less aggression and has a little less talent than in prior years.

Covid has wrecked havoc with OSU once again, which had to effect their practice week. but how about Bama? Were they effected in a way we don’t know yet – similar to ND or the Steelers? The only way to know is to have been at the practices and with the teams last week. So the speculation is that OSU was more effected and may show some effects in a lack of execution throughout the game, but we can’t know for sure.

Talent – as I covered – edge Ohio State. IF… they actually field a full team. Again we won’t know until gametime. If OSU really has 20 players missing, well, then, obviously it’s edge Alabama. But even then, it depends on the players and doesn’t necessarily mean OSU has zero chance. As we saw last night with the Browns.

Prediction – 2020 is the year for Ohio State

As I have repeatedly said – 2020 is an Asterisk Year.  I even have questions whether it should have been played. In saying that – so much positive has happened throughout the year.

This may be a game similar to what they saw last year from Clemson. A momentum of Team + Trust that has been building for years. Or like last night from Cleveland. A galvanized team overcoming all odds and bypassing any chance for a letdown. 

2020s – Anything is Possible

1- Bama a reverse letdown. OSU not as bad a covid situation = OSU blowout win.

2- Bama overated and/or not ready for such a top tier team. OSU missing players but a galvanized heart = OSU solid win.

3 – OSU galvanized, but Bama playing toughh – a great close win for OSU.

4- OSU big covid disruptions but great fight. Bama tough = Close win Bama.

5 – OSU covid disruptions and letdown during game – Bama pulls away late.

I will go with #2 – not a complete blowout. OSU goes up early – Bama fights back but OSU holds on late. Fields is not 100% but good enough. Players missing – but they are galvanized. Like LSU last year – 2020 is a year of Destiny for the Buckeyes.

It will have to be if they are to overcome yet another massive disruption due to Covid this past week. I feel something about this Team. Even before the Browns game last night. Who knows – maybe Im just a Buckeye fan. 🙂

No matter what this year is an Asterisk – BUT… what a growing evolving experience it has been for those involved and hopefully for those watching.

I said it in my Semifinals Preview and I’ll say it again. The Wins/Losses really aren’t that important. Even as a Buckeye fan – for me – this is just icing on the cake. I am glad the Clemson Curse is over and maybe tonight there’s a little Magic left. 🙂

~PS

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