Just over six calendar years ago, the College Football Playoff kicked into gear with their first two semifinal games - a blowout win by Oregon over FSU in the Rose Bowl followed by maybe one of the biggest upsets anyone has seen in the seven editions of the playoff.
On New Year’s Day of 2015, the fourth seeded Ohio State Buckeyes shocked the top seeded Alabama Crimson Tide inside the Sugar Bowl to advance to their first title game in nearly a decade.
It was a game Alabama was supposed to dominate and did so for the first half - until Ohio State used a touchdown on offense and an interception returned for a score that gave them a lead they would not relinquish for the 42-35 victory that put the college football world on notice.
“They had a great team. We had a very good team,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Monday during a press conference ahead of this year’s matchup. “As it turned out, they won pretty handily in the National Championship game, which indicates what a great team they had.”
Monday, the teams will meet again inside of Hard Rock Stadium with this game being for the title of being college football’s top team in the 2020 season.
Alabama was supposed to be in South Florida for this year’s game, the byproduct of being the top seed following a SEC championship season. The Crimson Tide made quick work of Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl on January 1st to qualify for their fourth title game in the last five seasons.
Ohio State, once again, pulled off the upset in the same spot they did six years before. This year’s victim was a Clemson Tigers team that was also supposed to get an easy victory in the eyes of many.
Those eyes weren’t scarlet and grey, however, with the Buckeyes scoring 28 unanswered points on their way to a 49-28 victory - led by quarterback Justin Fields, who will likely play his final game for the Buckeyes on Monday.
“Justin is such a competitive guy. He wasn't going to come off the field, and that's just the way he's wired,” said Ohio State had coach Ryan Day. “You were going to have to pull him off the field.”
The teams will meet in a national game played inside Hard Rock Stadium for the first time since the 2012 season, when Alabama defeated Notre Dame. It will be the 15th time that South Florida has been the site of a game deciding the national champ, including previous wins by in-state powers Miami, FSU and Florida.
“It's pretty exciting, you know, to play back at home,” said Alabama defensive back Patrick Suratin II, who grew up in Plantation and is the son of former Miami Dolphins defensive back Patrick Surtain. “But, it doesn't matter where we play at. We've still got to play 60 minutes of the football game and focus on what we need to do and control what we need to control.”