1. CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE
Alabama is used to being in these situations, and Ohio State is getting reacquainted with it. The Tide has won three national championships in the past five seasons and three Southeastern Conference championships in the past six. The Buckeyes are back as a national championship contender after beating Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game. OSU, which lost in the Big Ten title game last season, has not played in a national championship game since losing to LSU 38-24 after the 2007 season and hasn’t won a national championship since 2002.
2. LAME-DUCK COORDINATOR
Ohio State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman has a lot on his plate as the new head coach at Houston. For now, his primary responsibility is trying to help the Buckeyes get to the championship game, and his players say they haven’t seen the dual roles have any impact on him. Other coordinators have successfully juggled two responsibilities in similar situations, though some have been adversely affected. Even if Herman isn’t affected, he still has quite a challenge in preparing an inexperienced quarterback (Cardale Jones) to face the No. 1 team in the country.
3. GIVETH AND TAKETH
If either team has an appreciable edge in turnovers, it could decide who moves on and who goes home. During the regular season, the Buckeyes were the better of the two. Their 21 interceptions are fourth-most in the country, and the Tide has just 10. Ohio State’s defense has scored five touchdowns, and the Buckeyes are plus-9 in turnover margin. Bama’s defense has scored one touchdown, and the Tide is minus-1 in turnover margin. Bama QB Blake Sims has generally protected the football, but he threw three interceptions against Auburn two games ago.
4. SABAN AND MEYER
This game features two of the most successful coaches in college football in Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. Saban has won four national championships — at LSU (2003) and Alabama (2009, 2011 and 2012). Meyer, who won two national championships as head coach at Florida, has returned the Buckeyes to national prominence in three seasons. The coaches have gone head-to-head three times as Meyer’s Gators beat Saban’s Tide in the 2008 SEC title game, and Bama beat Florida in the 2009 SEC title game and a 2010 regular-season game.