Ohio State Buckeyes: Ryan Day says Justin Fields will play against Alabama

Ohio State coach Ryan Day and Nick Saban along with a pair of players from each team kicked off preparations for the National Championship Game with interviews Monday.

Here are five things to know from those virtual interviews:

1. Justin Fields is expected to play.

Day declined to go into specifics about the injury or injuries his quarterback suffered in the win over Clemson on Friday night in the semifinals, but he said he expects the junior to be able to play against the Crimson Tide.

“We give our availability report at the end of the week, and that’s always been our policy,” Day said.

Day also said there would be no adjustments necessary in practice as far as distributing reps.

Fields was originally scheduled to be part of the interviews, but a CFP representative deemed him unavailable and said he would speak to reporters later in the week.

2. Day would be disappointed if there is a letdown after winning a revenge game over Clemson in the semifinals.

“The goal was never just to beat Clemson,” Day said. “The goal was to win the national championship.

“We didn’t have a season and they were fighting to get back to play for a national championship. While it was an emotional win, that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to win this one. And so I’d be disappointed if we didn’t play well in this game. This is everything on the line, everything we wanted, and so now all the focus goes on to Alabama. We’ve just got to prepare.”

3. The coaches expressed great respect for each other.

That does not come as a surprise as both are well-versed in public relations.

“I don’t know Ryan well,” Saban said. “I’ve met him before. I think he’s an outstanding coach. I think they do a fantastic job with their team, the way their team competes, the way their team plays — the discipline, the togetherness that they have, the way they execute.

And offensively he does a good job of trying to manage and control the tempo of the game on offense.”

Saban is 28 years older than the 41-year-old day and began coaching roughly six years before Day was born.

He has won six national championships, including five at Alabama.

“Coach Saban’s career speaks for itself,” Day said. “So yeah, watched them win a lot of National Championships. Nothing but the utmost respect.

“When you get to this level, you know it’s going to be hard no matter how you shake it. You’ve got to be on top of your game and you’ve got to do a great job getting the guys prepared, playing at a high level, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

4. Saban said his defense has lacked consistency this season.

The Crimson Tide are 13th in the nation in scoring defense (19.0 points per game) and 32nd in total defense (353.2 total yards allowed), numbers that would likely be a lot better if not for Alabama having given up 48 points to Mississippi in October and 46 to Florida in December.

“I think that consistency in performance is really, at the end of the day, what determines how well you’re playing,” Saban said. “And we have played well in some games this year — other games not as good as we’d like. And as coaches we need to do a better job of putting our players in a better position so they have a chance to be successful.”

5. Saban doesn’t care if his team has to win a shootout or a defensive struggle.

A defensive coach by trade whose career includes a stint as secondary coach at Ohio State in the early 1980s and defensive coordinator of the Browns in the early ’90s, Saban has had to adjust to a world in which offense is king — and he has continued to win.

“I think you have to do what you have to do to execute, play well in the game, give yourself an opportunity to win,” Saban said. “Every game can have an ebb and flow that may end up being a little bit different, and you’ve just got to end up playing the next play and hope that you can do the things to finish the game so you give yourself an opportunity to be successful and have a chance to win.”


Ohio State vs. Alabama, 8 p.m., ESPN, 1410

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