Alabama breezed through the regular season and college football’s semifinals, surviving a solitary scare in the Southeastern Conference championship game to reach its expected destination.

Ohio State wasn’t exactly a shoo-in with its abbreviated schedule but resoundingly proved it belonged in the College Football Playoffs with a semifinal thrashing of Clemson.

The Buckeyes and Crimson Tide traveled different paths to get to Monday’s title game at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida, but both had to navigate the challenges of a pandemic-altered season

“I know this has been a little bit of a trying year for a lot of folks,” Nick Saban, the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s coach, said Monday.

It’s not a finale that could be taken for granted.

No. 3 Ohio State’s odyssey included an

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