At one point, many would have never imagined that the 2020 college football season would last long enough to see playoff games being played. Yet, what we received this year, were four competitive teams, looking to claim their spot in the National Championship game. In one game, we saw a predictable outcome; in the other, we saw a quarterback reveal the true depths of his courage. This year's finalists have proven worthy to reach the stage where ultimately one will be crowned as National Champions.
Rose Bowl - #4 Notre Dame vs. #1 Alabama
Notre Dame 14 - Alabama 31
DeVonta Smith - 7 receptions | 130 receiving yards | 3 touchdowns
Mac Jones - 25 completions | 297 passing yards | 4 touchdowns
Najee Harris - 15 carries | 125 rushing yards | 8.3 yards/carry
DeMarcco Hellams - 12 tackles | 1 sack | 1 tackle for loss
One of this biggest questions heading into this year's Rose Bowl, was whether Notre Dame's defensive would be able to contain Alabama's high-powered offense. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they received their answer quickly. From their opening possession, Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones dissected the Irish defense; five completions later, he found star receiver Devonta Smith in the end zone for the game's first touchdown. Smith would finish the game with three touchdowns, while raising his Heisman Trophy stock in the process. From that point onwards, the Irish defense had no answers in stopping the Crimson Tide offense.
If there were any doubts about running back Najee Harris' first-round status in the upcoming NFL Draft, he quieted them after his performance in this game. His most notable play came late in the first quarter, when he vaulted over an Irish defender and scampered 53 yards down the sidelines. For Ian Book, his performance was as underwhelming as his performance against Clemson in the ACC Championship game on December 19th. In both losses, the Irish have managed to score only 24 points, while allowing a total of 59 points from the opposition.
Sugar Bowl - #3 Ohio State vs. #2 Clemson
Ohio State 49 - Clemson 28
Trey Sermon - 31 carries | 193 rushing yards | 1 rushing touchdown | 61 receiving yards.
Trevor Lawrence - 33 completions | 400 passing yards | 2 touchdowns
Justin Fields - 22 completions | 385 passing yards | *6 touchdowns | 42 rushing yards.
Chris Olave - 6 receptions | 132 receiving yards | 2 touchdowns.
Jeremy Ruckert - 3 receptions | 55 receiving yards | 2 touchdowns.
Bryan Bresee - 5 tackles | 1 sack | 3 tackles for loss
Over a year ago, Ohio State and Clemson put together an unforgettable game, which many considered one of the best in National Championship era. This year's edition of their playoff rivalry was arguably more exciting and intense, with the biggest difference being the outcome.
After being down by a touchdown in the first quarter, quarterback Justin Fields and the Ohio State offense asserted themselves in a big way with 28 unanswered points before the end of the first half. The most defining moment of the game came when Fields took a massive hit from Clemson linebacker James Skalski midway in the second quarter. The hit resulted in Skalski being ejected from the contest, leaving a big void in their defense. Visibly in pain, Fields would courageously return and lead his offense to two more touchdowns before the end of the half.
In the second half, Clemson started strong with an interception on Fields, then translating it into a touchdown to cut the lead down. Unfortunately for the Clemson, Fields would respond with a spectacular 56-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave, extending the lead back to three scores. From that point, it seemed that Clemson simply did not have enough to overcome such a deficit.
Despite finishing the game with 400, quarterback Trevor Lawrence was not as impactful this year against Ohio State as he was in their playoff meeting last year. Even with this defeat, Lawrence leaves Clemson as one of the most accomplished college football players of all-time. This game belonged the Fields and his crew, who produced 639 total yards of offense and six touchdowns. Running back Trey Sermon was tremendous, accounting for 169 rushing yards and setting the physical tone in the process. For Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, the loss was unexpected karma, as Ohio State proved to be more than worthy of the ranking they received.