(AP) — The celebration was at once familiar and unique. The confetti cannons sent a crimson and white shower into the air and Alabama players ran to the sideline to grab their championship hats and T-shirts.
It’s a rite of passage if you have played for the Crimson Tide under coach Nick Saban.
This time, though, the band playing the fight song was a piped -in recording, and when “Sweet Home Alabama” blared, only a few thousand Tide fans were still in the stadium to sing along.
The final game of a college football season in a pandemic, a season that was uncertain to be played in the summer and filled with disruptions in the fall, ended in the most predictable fashion: Alabama as national champion for the sixth time in the last 12 years under Saban.
DeVonta Smith was uncoverable, Najee Harris unstoppable and Mac Jones impeccable as the top-ranked Tide won the College Football Playoff national championship game 52-24 against No. 3 Ohio State on Monday night. They finished the year 13-0 — a full season when many wondered if it would be possible to play any.
“I think we’re the best team to ever play,” Jones said.
For Saban, it was career title No. 7 overall, breaking a tie with Alabama great Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most by a major college coach.
“To me this is the ultimate team,” Saban said. “There is more togetherness on this team than on almost any team we’ve ever had. They’ve had to overcome and to persevere so much through this season, and they have done it magnificently.”
Ohio State (7-1) just couldn’t keep up. Justin Fields, playing what might be his last game before heading to the NFL, passed for 194 yards and a touchdown. Whether Fields was 100% after taking a brutal hit to the side during his brilliant semifinal performance against Clemson was hard to know for sure.
“I was able to be out there,” was all the junior quarterback would say.
On the Buckeyes’ first drive, they lost star running back Trey Sermon to an injury, and in a game they needed to be running at top speed, facing one of great offenses in recent history, they sputtered too much. Ohio State has never allowed more points in a bowl game.
“I think there’s a feeling of, if you don’t score you’re going to get behind and then the pressure mounts,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said of facing the Tide’s prolific offense.