Florida college football teams got swept out of every bowl game. The University of Central Florida lost to BYU in the Boca Raton Bowl 23-49; Florida Atlantic University lost to the University of Memphis 25-10 in the Montgomery Bowl; the University of Miami lost to Oklahoma State University 37-34 in the Cheez-it Bowl; and the University of Florida was defeated by the University of Oklahoma by a score of 55-20.
In the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 2, the Texas A&M Aggies defeated the North Carolina Tarheels 41-27.
Because of the pandemic, many thought that this may be the best year to expand the playoffs from four teams to possibly six or eight. However, that was not the case. This season’s playoff semifinals took place on Jan. 1, 2021, at the Rose Bowl Game in Texas. The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide won by the score of 31-14 against the #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In the second semifinal matchup in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the #2 Clemson Tigers by a score of 49-28.
On Jan. 11, the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0) and the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0) will meet for only the fifth time in their storied histories. This time it will be in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens at 8 p.m. EST. For the first time in the College Football Playoff era, the National Championship game will be held in Miami. The last time a National Championship game was played in Miami was back on Jan. 7, 2013 (under the Bowl Championship Series era), with Alabama Crimson Tide defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish by a score of 42-14.
This game will be a homecoming for many players and coaches from the Alabama Crimson Tide. Rose Bowl Game Defensive MVP Patrick Surtain II played high school football at American Heritage Senior High School. When asked about the feeling of knowing that family and friends are going to be in the stands to watch him at Hard Rock Stadium, the defensive back stated: “It’s going to be a tremendous feeling having them come and support me back at home. It will be a great feeling. I’ve just got to show out and make them happy, make them proud, you know.”
When asked about the advice he wanted to give anybody from South Florida who wants to be in the position that he is in today, Surtain said, “I’d just say work hard. South Florida, there’s talent everywhere. Your name will get called and you will be on a bright stage like this, so just keep working and keep striving to perfection.”
Surtain is just one of the many talented players from South Florida. The others are defensive lineman Braylen Ingraham, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas; defensive back Jordan Battle, who also played at Aquinas; wide receiver Thaiu Jones-Bell, who played high school football at Miami Carol City; and wide receiver Xavier Williams, who played high school football at Chaminade-Madonna Prep. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was also the head coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2005-2006, before he left and went on to coach at the University of Alabama.
This game is not just for the National Championship – it has huge implications as it comes to recruiting in the years ahead. Having played in Hard Rock Stadium back in 2018 (Orange Bowl), wide receiver DeVonta Smith was asked about his familiarity with the arena. He stated: “It really don’t matter where we play, just spot the ball. I’m ready.” Smith was named the Associated Press college football player of the year and became the first wide receiver to win the award since it was established in 1998. Heisman Trophy winner will soon be in his bio as well.
This will be a great matchup as the Ohio State Buckeyes are led by quarterback Justin Fields. In the semifinal matchup against Clemson, Fields completed 22 passes out of 28 attempts for 385 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
ESPN announcer Chris Fowler stated on Fields’ performance after the semifinal win against Clemson: “It’s one of the gutsiest, toughest performances, and the highest-level performances I’ve seen in the history of covering this sport in three-and-a-half decades.”
The Buckeyes feel like they haven’t been receiving their respect and that they belong in the title game, even though they have less than 10 wins on the season. Ohio State running back Trey Sermon stated: “We have a pretty big chip on our shoulder. We just feel like we’re one of the best teams in the country. We just try to go prove that every time we step on the field. We all believe in each other. Yes, we have that chip and we play with it.”
With a lot at stake the buzz will continue to build up as we get ready to close out a memorable college football season, and there is no better place to name a new champion than in Miami.