A final ride for Alabama football's three horsemen: Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The SEC had just one 4,500-yard passing season in its history before 2020, just one instance of a player running for at least 26 touchdowns and no instances of a receiver putting up 1,800 yards nor 21 receiving touchdowns.
Alabama had them all on one team.
A season defined by the excellence of Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith was capped by emblematic performances from all three. Jones threw for 464 yards, Harris ran for two touchdowns and DeVonta Smith caught three of Jones’ five touchdown passes in a 52-24 win over Ohio State.
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In doing so, all of them put their names in lofty positions of school and conference record books. Jones elevated himself to second in SEC single-season history in passing yards and into the top five in SEC history in single-season passing touchdowns, having already claimed the school record for the former. Smith claimed the SEC records for career receiving yards, single-season receiving yards and single-season receiving touchdowns as he went, while Harris moved into the top three in SEC history in career rushing touchdowns.
“For us three, it's hard for this offensive team to just say us three,” Harris said. “There were so many people that played a role in this season and like what y'all saying, the O-line, what they have done for us, it's hard to just say three people brought us here.
"There's no way you could do it, especially in this sport when it's 11-on-11. It's the ultimate team sport. There's no way you can say three people did it. It starts with the O-line. Y'all should really be thinking about how the O-line should be remembered, not us.”
In doing so, it broke the mold of Nick Saban-era Alabama champions.
Of Saban’s five prior Alabama national championship teams, none produced a top-two passer in the SEC and none produced the league’s top receiver. Only two, the 2009 and 2011 teams, featured the league’s top rusher. The 2020 team did all three.
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It is also the first Saban championship team to do it allowing more than 16 points game, this year’s team coming in at 19.3 points allowed on average.
The Jones, Harris and Smith trio, combined with a Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line and a small army of accessory weapons, completed the transformation of Alabama’s identity. A dynasty that that started with back-to-back national championship game wins with zero and 14 points allowed has been continued with an aerial assault, Monday being the sixth time in a 13-game season UA threw for at least 400 yards.
“Our offense was really the key to the success of this team,” said Saban. “We're an OK defensive team, not a great defensive team. We played well enough, got enough stops. But the offense was dynamic. That's what made the difference.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson