MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. — Heading into the season, everybody was unsure if there would be a season! The coronavirus would cause games to be postponed, teams to reshuffle schedules, schools to realign budgets, and conferences were forced to debate on how to move forward with the new reality. The Pac-12 Conference and the Big Ten Conference would cancel their seasons and would later reverse course. As the environment constantly shifted, there was one remaining constant as the dust settled: The Alabama Crimson Tide would sit at the top of college football’s mountain for the 18th time in school history and for the 6th time in the last 12 years.
Alabama beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Hard Rock Stadium.
No other team has won more than two during the last twelve years. With twelve Associated Press titles overall — Paul “Bear” Bryant was coach for five and Gene Stallings for one — Alabama has four more than Notre Dame, they’ve won eight.
“Well, I think “perseverance” probably is the one word that describes this team the best in terms of what they’ve had to overcome all season long, to come undefeated and win a championship,” explained Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “I’m so proud of these guys. This was a team that was always together. Everybody bought into all the principles and values of the organization and the program. They just did a great job. They played together. They supported each other. This is a great team.”
According to the Associated Press, nearly 130 major college football games were postponed or canceled directly because of COVID-19 issues involving one team or both. Overall, 87% of scheduled games were eventually played.
However, the Tide’s squad was not impacted by the coronavirus, even though Saban contracted the virus twice [his first diagnosis would be deemed a false positive] and would be forced to miss the Iron Bowl.
“It’s like a weight off our backs after going through all the adversity we went through, not knowing whether or not we would play,” said Alabama linebacker and defensive captain Dylan Moses when asked about the meaning of this championship. “And as far as like my personal things that I’ve went through just as far as life and all that, it’s definitely a weight off our shoulders and this was our main goal. This is what we wanted to do. This is what I came back for, and I kept my word and we won the title. So I’m happy.”
To place it in perspective, more than 5,500 people have died in Alabama from the illness caused by the coronavirus, and about 408,000 have tested positive, according to the AP. About 20,000 people have tested positive in Tuscaloosa County, making it one of the worst in the state for the virus in overall numbers. It was fitting that the National Championship game took place at South Florida’s largest COVID-19 testing site. Less than 15,000 people were allowed inside to see it.
Meanwhile, Ohio State would have twenty-three players miss their matchup against Michigan State due to COVID considerations on Dec. 3, their rivalry game against the Michigan Wolverines was canceled, head coach Ryan Day would contract the coronavirus during the season. The Buckeyes would play only eight games and their standing in the College Football Playoff rankings would be questioned. They would beat the Clemson Tigers in the Sugar Bowl. However, their defense would be no match for the Tide’s disciplined and powerful offense.
“With COVID and everything going on, it just made things tougher, and made us more together as a team, being here for each other, keeping our bubble small,” Heisman Trophy winner and Most Oustanding Offensive Player DeVonta Smith said. “The discipline on this team is like no other.”
Going forward, as the Football Bowl Subdivision shuts down for the winter, the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division II, will start their season in five weeks. There are a few notable developments:
The Ivy League has nixed their season until the fall. The Southwestern Athletic Conference will feature a six-game conference schedule starting Feb. 27. Each team also can play one non-conference game. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference will play a four-game conference schedule starting Feb. 20. Each team also can play two nonconference games. Notably, Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M opted out. Hampton, a member of the Big South Conference, has also opted out.
The playoffs will begin April 18-May 15, with 16 teams instead of the usual 24. Eleven teams will automatically qualify as conference champions. The remaining five will be at-large selections.
Schools that played in the fall and also in the spring will have all their results considered in the selection process.