With the College Football Playoff national championship just one day away, it’s time to start considering the key factors in the game. ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit has done just that — narrowing the game down to one “X-factor” in the Ohio State-Alabama matchup.
Herbstreit said Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields is the key to a competitive championship game on Monday night. With Fields still recovering from the massive hit he took to the ribs in the Sugar Bowl, his ability to maintain an elite level of play is crucial to keeping up with the Crimson Tide offense.
The ESPN host shared his thoughts on a halftime segment during the Titans-Ravens Wild Card matchup on Sunday afternoon.
“He’s coming off the best game of his career and the way he played against Clemson, the guts that he showed and ended up with six touchdown passes,” Herbstreit said on ESPN. “But you’re right, he’s the x-factor, not just his ability to make throws, make decisions against a very complex Alabama defense. But he’s going to have to use his legs to be able to open up opportunities like that to Chris Olave down field. Where will he be (health wise), we’ll keep a very close eye on that early in this game.”
Kirk Herbstreit also identified some challenges on the Buckeyes’ defensive side of the ball. With three players finishing top five in Heisman voting (Devonta Smith, Mac Jones, Najee Harris), Alabama can beat a defense on any level of the field. Ohio State will need to decide where to focus its attention.
“For Ohio State, it’s where do you start, do you load up to stop Najee Harris? Do you worry about the explosive pass game? It’ll be up to Mac Jones of Alabama to make quick decisions to put Alabama in a place where they can put those big points on the board,” Herbstreit said.
The national championship game will kickoff at 8:00 p.m. E.T. on Monday night.
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