Ohio State and Alabama have an opportunity to slow down each other’s opposing and intimidating offenses in the national championship. In addition to the quarterbacks pulling the trigger, but offenses have featured running backs: Trey Sermon (Ohio State) and Najee Harris (Alabama).
The Buckeyes already stopped superstar Travis Etienne in his tracks during the College Football Playoff semifinals against Clemson. But now, the question is if they can do it again with Harris.
Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner got a close look at Etienne and he addressed the challenge of stopping Harris.
“Yeah, so they compare pretty close,” Werner said. “They’re two of the top backs in the country. The thing to look more about Najee Harris is he’s more of a physical guy, but then we have certain things to prep for that. The guys are a little bit different, but as long as we do what we did for Etienne, then I think we’ll be very good at stopping him.”
Werner also explained why he thinks Harris was so successful throughout the season, seemingly with no team stopping him in a game.
“I think that they have a great game plan on offense to get him the ball in a variety of ways,” Werner said. “Their offensive line, I credit them a lot. But he’s very patient. He’s a very patient back and he finds the holes. It might look cloudy at some times, but then you see him get six, seven, eight yards when he should have gotten zero. He’s a very good back. He’s good at making you miss, and they just do a very good job utilizing him in the run and pass game to make him a real threat from a defensive perspective.”
In 12 games this season, Harris had 229 carries, 1,387 yards, 24 touchdowns, 6.1 yards per carry, 36 catches, 346 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs also outlined the challenge of stopping Alabama’s offense.
“Yeah, this is a great offense,” he said. “It is a complete offense. There are now five All-Americans on the offensive side of the ball and a Heisman Trophy winner and the runner-up. They have great players, but they also have a great scheme and they understand how to attack defenses. People have tried numerous different things against them, and they always have an answer. I think their kids play hard. I think they play physical. They run the ball well. They throw the ball obviously extremely well. They have great skill.
“For us, this is the biggest offensive line that we’ve faced, but they’re also very gifted, very athletic, they can run, and they do a great job. It’s going to be really, really important for us to we’re fitting the right gaps, that we have inside hands with great pad level and that we — because if you misfit a gap or you get high in your pads or your hands are outside, they’re going to take advantage of it.
“And then obviously we’re going to have to do a great job in coverage with the skill of the receivers and the quality of the quarterback.”
No. 3 Ohio State (7-0) is scheduled to take on No. 1 Alabama (12-0) in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 11 down in Miami, FL at 8 p.m. ET.