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Three X-factors for the 2021 CFP National Championship Game

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

January 7th, 2021

Sports bettors often need to dig beyond the box score when handicapping a given matchup, and the 2021 CFP National Championship Game is no exception. Here are three storylines – with consequences that are hard to quantify – that bettors should be paying attention to ahead of college football’s most crucial contest between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Tue, January 12 2021, 1:00 AM

Alabama Crimson Tide






O 72.5

Ohio State Buckeyes






U 72.5

Justin Fields’ ribs

Ohio State’s sensational quarterback, Justin Fields, was nursing a thumb injury suffered in the Big 10 title game against Northwestern when he entered the Sugar Bowl against Clemson on Jan. 1. He added a potential rib injury when tackled by Tigers linebacker James Skalski in the second quarter of that CFP Semifinal, a hit that prompted an ejection for targeting.

“It’s pretty much my whole right torso that’s messed up and a little bit of my hip but they didn’t really give me a diagnosis,” Fields told reporters after the Sugar Bowl. “After each and every throw, my ribs hurt.”

Fields did not seem to be negatively affected by the pain, as he went 22-for-28 passing with 385 yards and six touchdowns in that New Year’s Day affair. The junior completed 73.7% of his throws on the season for 9.9 yards per attempt. He also tossed 21 total touchdowns compared to only six interceptions.

Jaylen Waddle’s potential return

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, unseen since suffering an ankle injury against Tennessee on Oct. 24, has been almost forgotten about due to the exploits of fellow wide-out and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. But Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban hinted that Waddle might return to action in the National Championship Game, which could be a huge boost for Alabama’s already-potent offense.

“He’s been running, but we need to see him in practice,” Saban told ESPN. “Our medical people will evaluate him as the week goes on and make a decision from there. He wants to play and has been working hard to get back.”

Waddle, a junior, tallied 557 receiving yards and four touchdowns on just 25 catches in four games this year. The Crimson Tide offense ranks second in the country in points per game (48.2).

COVID-19 issues on Ohio State

The Buckeyes have been dealing with COVID-19 issues throughout the season, which goes a long way in explaining why they played just seven games ahead of the CFP final. Unfortunately, the virus is not leaving Ohio State alone ahead of Monday’s big game.

Per reports, Ohio State has, “informed key parties involved it could be without a position group due to COVID-19 testing and related protocols.” 

Both teams intend to go forward with the game on Jan. 11, but there is a contingency plan in place to play the game on Jan. 18 instead. Ohio State played without starting guard Harry Miller as well as defensive ends Zach Harrison and Tyler Friday in the Sugar Bowl.

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