Alabama-Ohio State football: Trey Sermon is on a tear, Nick Saban can tie 'Bear' Bryant title total

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama and Ohio State have met a few times in historic postseason games, but never in a game that crowned a national champion.

Here are three things to know going into the Crimson Tide vs. the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Trey Sermon on a hot streak 

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon runs past Clemson safety Lannden Zanders on Friday in New Orleans.

The running back, a grad transfer from Oklahoma, was productive but not a force to begin Ohio State’s season. He had 232 yards in the first four games with no touchdowns, all while Master Teague III scored six times and ran for 169 yards against Indiana alone.

More:Commemorate Alabama football’s run to the CFP final with our new book

In the last three games, the needle has shifted in Sermon’s favor. Ten carries for 112 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State catapulted him to a huge 29-carry, 331-yard and two-touchdown performance in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern. In the semifinal against Clemson, Sermon ran 31 times for 193 yards and a touchdown while Teague was out.

“The best part about Trey is when all that was going on, he never came into my office, never complained, never said I need more carries, none of that stuff,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “Just kept his mouth shut and kept going to work. I think that is the best part of this whole story, is he just kept going every single day to work and never said anything about it, and now he's playing at a high, high level.”

Tide touchdowns from close range

This is the best red zone offense of the Nick Saban era at UA, if not well beyond that. It is scoring touchdowns on 77.42% of its red zone trips and has been in top form lately, scoring touchdowns on five of six chances against Arkansas, five of six against Florida and both chances against Notre Dame.

Including field goals, Alabama has come away with points on 91.94% of its red zone trips.

More:A brief history of Alabama football vs. Ohio State

It is now pitted against an Ohio State defense that has not mastered the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 65.22% of its opponents' red zone trips, 83rd nationally.

There is something to be said for Ohio State limiting red zone opportunities, allowing 23 trips in seven games. But should UA get there more frequently than that, it may not meet much resistance.

Championship numbers

An Ohio State win would give the Buckeyes their ninth national championship, its first under Day, and its first time to win two in a six-year span since 1968 and 1970. It would also continue carrying the water for the rest of the Big Ten, claiming its third national championship since the last non-Ohio State Big Ten team to win one: Michigan in 1997.

UA would win its 18th national championship, its sixth under Saban, which would tie him with Paul W. “Bear” Bryant for titles won at UA. Saban has already tied Bryant for total championships when including his 2003 title at LSU.

It would also be the second time in the Saban era UA has won three national championships in a six-year span, joining the titles from 2009, 2011 and 2012. The most recent school other than Alabama to do it was Nebraska in 1994, 1995 and 1997.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson