COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – When historians look back on Monday night’s college football national championship, the records of each team will look odd. Alabama, at 11-0, is not too far off the 13-to-14 games played by title contenders in the playoff era.
But seven games? That’s one for the record books.
COVID-19 is obviously to blame for the Ohio State Buckeyes having played only seven games this season. OSU played just five of its eight regularly scheduled games due to various coronavirus cancellations, then wins in the Big Ten title game and the Sugar Bowl brought OSU to its current record of 7-0.
If Ohio State defeats Alabama Monday night in the national championship game, the Buckeyes, then 8-0, would have the fewest wins by a consensus national champion since… Ohio State, when the 1961 Buckeyes were ranked atop the final Football Writers Association of America poll after finishing 8-0-1. (The tie was a 7-7 season opener at home against unranked Texas Christian.)
“Consensus” is NCAA speak for finishing No. 1 in any of a handful of major polls. Interestingly, the other national champion in 1961 was… Alabama. The 11-0 Crimson Tide were ranked atop polls from the Associated Press, the National Football Foundation and United Press International.
Woody Hayes was head coach of the Buckeyes in 1961, and Paul “Bear” Bryant was at the helm of the Crimson Tide.
An Ohio State victory Monday night would also mean eight total games played by the national champion. That would be the fewest games played by a national champion since Minnesota finished the 1941 season at 8-0.
Monday will be the fifth time that OSU faces Alabama, and the fourth time the two teams meet in a bowl or title game.
In 1978, head coaches Hayes and Bryant met in the Sugar Bowl, which Alabama won handily 35-6. The Crimson Tide would win the next two matchups: a 1986 regular season game 16-10, and the 1995 Citrus Bowl 24-17. But Ohio State then beat Alabama in the 2015 Sugar Bowl, 42-35, to advance to the national championship game.
Monday’s national title game will air at 8 p.m. on ESPN. NBC4’s Whitney Harding will be live from Miami throughout evening and night newscasts. Follow her on Twitter: @WhitneyNBC4.