We are just three days away from the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship game. The undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide are eight point favorites to prevail over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday night. Alabama and Ohio State arguably have the best two rosters in all of College Football, so we are in for a great contest. If you’re looking to scout the National Championship Game, then you are in luck.
On both sides of the field, there are future NFL stars. Alabama and Ohio State each have great quarterbacks in Mac Jones and Justin Fields. However, their draft-eligible weapons both on offense and defense are unmatched by almost every other team in the nation. Therefore, some of the player vs. player matchups in this game will be awesome to watch both as a scout and as a fan. These prospects have a great chance to improve their draft stock against top tier talent.
DeVonta Smith/Jaylen Waddle vs Shaun Wade
Alabama’s receiver DeVonta Smith just won the Heisman Trophy and is a virtual lock to be selected at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft. However, it was announced earlier this week that Jaylen Waddle, Alabama’s other star receiver, may suit up in the National Championship. If both stars were to play, Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade will likely be tasked with defending Smith and Waddle.
Wade struggled in the Semifinal contest versus Clemson, but is still considered a top-to-middle ranked cornerback in the draft class. His mistakes are usually made on the outside while he is solid in the slot. The Smith/Waddle vs Wade matchup will be very interesting to monitor, as Wade needs to play a clean game to gain back some trust from the scouting community. Unfortunately, that game will have to come against two of the most dynamic receivers in college football.
Chris Olave vs Patrick Surtain II
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State’s Chris Olave looked like a top receiver prospect against Clemson. Olave’s performance in 2020 was nothing short of impressive, and he has an opportunity to improve his draft stock even more. However, that opportunity will come against lockdown cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Surtain has looked the part of an NFL number one and is targeted in the passing game very infrequently.
Olave’s smooth route running and hands matched up against Surtain’s shadowing skills and physicality is something I cannot wait to see. These are two of the best players at their respective positions and will have a huge impact on the eventual outcome of this National Championship game.
Tyreke Smith/Jonathon Cooper vs Alex Leatherwood
Much of the credit for Ohio State’s dominant defensive line is attributed to defensive tackles Haskell Garrett and Tommy Togiai. However, edge rushers Tyreke Smith and Jonathon Cooper have quietly put together a solid 2020. I briefly highlighted Tyreke Smith in the preseason, but he looked great against Clemson, as did Cooper. If they rotate on the line, both will draw the matchup against offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, though Smith will likely get more reps.
Leatherwood is one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the 2021 draft class. Additionally, he was the 2020 Outland Trophy winner, highlighting a dominant season protecting Mac Jones. The Buckeye edge rushers have the chance to earn national attention if they perform well against Leatherwood in the National Championship game.
Najee Harris vs OSU linebackers
Alabama running back Najee Harris has been nothing short of brilliant this season. From breaking the backs of defenders to completely hurdling them, Harris has cemented himself in the RB1 conversation. However, he will not have an easy matchup on Monday. Ohio State linebackers Baron Browning, Pete Werner, and Tuff Borland are three solid prospects.
Browning has elite speed and athleticism, while Werner and Borland are tackling machines. Containing Harris should be a top priority for the Buckeyes, and these three will be tasked with that job. If the Ohio State linebackers limit Alabama’s success on the ground, we may hear more about these three linebackers once the draft rolls around.