On the surface, it would seem that Alabama has a pretty strong advantage when it comes to the team’s star running backs.
The Crimson Tide rely on Najee Harris, a former five-star who took home the Doak Walker Award for the best running back in the country after finishing with the most rushing touchdowns and the third-most rushing yards in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
But, on a per game basis, Ohio State running back Trey Sermon has actually been more productive than the best back in college football, at least on the ground.
Sermon ranks ninth in the FBS in yards per game after a set of monstrous performances in the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern and the Sugar Bowl against Clemson, where he rushed for 524 yards and three touchdowns.
But Sermon’s strongest performances started a game earlier against Michigan State, when he ran the ball just 10 times for 112 yards and a score. Looking at those three games compared to Harris, and the rushing numbers aren’t particularly close.
Even at Sermon’s hottest points of the season, Harris still has proven himself as more of a threat in the passing game, hauling in 36 passes for 346 yards and three scores. But Sermon is coming off of his best receiving game of the season, catching four passes for 61 yards against the Tigers in the 49-28 win.
Another area Harris holds an advantage in is his ability to get in the end zone, something he has done twice a game on the ground across 12 contests, while also adding three receiving touchdowns.
But when looking past Sermon and Harris and at the rushing attacks as a whole, Ohio State has the advantage, ranking fifth in the FBS with 272.57 rushing yards per game, well above the Crimson Tide, who rank No. 46 with 185.67 yards per game on the ground.
While the attention may be on Justin Fields, Mac Jones and the prolific passing attacks both teams possess, the run games have been important all year for both teams, and could be game-changers if the pass offenses cancel each other out.
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