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College football national championship - Players to watch

Which draft prospects should you watch in the national championship game?

CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The final game of the 2020 college football season is here, with the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide meeting the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

Game day and time: Monday, Nov. 11 - 8 p.m.
TV channel: ESPN

Alabama’s presence in this game was all but a foregone conclusion. They were an unstoppable force throughout the 2020 regular season and handily beat Notre Dame in the first round of the playoffs.

Ohio State is the surprise to reach this point. First because the Big 10 initially opted to forego the 2020 season due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. They eventually changed their minds and returned to play late in the Fall, but ultimately played just 6 games in the 2020 season — half as many as played by Alabama.

This game will be absolutely littered with future NFL players, which shouldn’t surprise considering the talent level of these two programs. It is entirely likely that future members of the New York Giants will be playing in this game, so it’s best to start getting familiar now.

Ohio State

Perhaps the player to watch on either team is OSU quarterback Justin Fields. Fields powered the Buckeyes over Clemson and presumptive first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence and into the National Championship game. That game Fields completed an impressive 22 of 28 passes for 385 yards and 6 touchdowns en route to a stunning 49-28 rout of Clemson.

The player to watch on the defensive side of the ball is CB Shaun Wade. Wade entered the season as a top CB prospect, but his play faltered throughout the season. He will get one last chance to improve his stock before his college career comes to a close. If Wade can have a strong game against Devonta Smith and the Alabama offense, it will go a long way toward rehabilitating his standing as he leaves for the NFL.

It’s also worth noting that OSU has a lengthy list of players who are “questionable” for the game due to undisclosed reasons.

They are:

WR Mookie Cooper
DL Aaron Cox
LB Tommy Eichenberg
DL Tyler Friday
DT Haskell Garrett
OL Paris Johnson JR.
QB Jagger LaRoe
CB Lloyd McFarquhar
TE Joe Royer
LB Ben Schmiesing
OL Ryan Smith
OL Alec Taylor
RB Master Teague

Players to watch

  • Justin Fields (QB)
  • Chris Olave (WR)
  • Trey Sermon (RB)
  • Wyatt Davis (iOL)
  • Josh Meyers (C)
  • Thayer Munford (OT)
  • Jeremy Ruckert (TE)
  • Shaun Wade (CB)
  • Sevyn Banks (CB)
  • Pete Werner (LB)
  • Tommy Togiai (iDL)

Alabama

Alabama is a consistent football factory and I maintain that the best way to scout Alabama during a game is to simply watch, see which prospects leap off the screen, and circle back to them later.

The top prospect to watch on the Alabama offense may — and this is wildly unexpected — be receiver Jaylen Waddle. Waddle’s season was thought to be over when he needed surgery to repair an ankle injury back in October. But he has apparently healed enough to be considered “questionable” for this game. Waddle doesn’t have nearly as high a profile as Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith, but he could wind up being the better pro. Waddle has spent most of his career at Alabama waiting his turn behind a trio of first round talents, and injury robbed him of his chance to distinguish himself in 2020. But that being said, he is absolutely electric when the ball does go his way. Waddle combines a punt return ace’s instincts with the ball in his hands with speed to rival that of Henry Ruggs III.

Giants fans will want to watch CB Patrick Surtain II on the defensive side of the ball. This isn’t simply because Surtain is widely regarded as the top corner in the upcoming draft. While it’s theoretically possible that Surtain slips to the Giants at 11th overall, it’s more likely that either the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys could select Surtain with the sixth or tenth picks, respectively. The Giants need to find a number 1 receiver this offseason, and if they do, it’s very likely that he will see a lot of Surtain in the future.

Players to watch

  • Mac Jones (QB)
  • Najee Harris (RB)
  • Brian Robinson Jr. (RB)
  • Alex Leatherwood (OT)
  • Deonte Brown (OG)
  • DeVonta Smith (WR)
  • Jaylen Waddle (WR)
  • Patrick Surtain (CB)
  • Josh Jobe (CB)
  • Christian Barmore (iDL)
  • Phidarian Mathis (iDL)
  • Dylan Moses (LB)
  • Christopher Allen (LB)