There is always a good reason to watch the college football championship game, even if it’s simply to partake in the wildly popular (and almost always fruitless) national pastime of rooting against football teams coached by Nick Saban. And rooting against Alabama’s Crimson Tide Monday night, it says here, is the very definition of “fruitless.”
But for that segment of New York City and beyond that aligns its football affiliation with the Jets, Alabama-Ohio State is really a secondary amusement.
Justin Fields is the focal point.
We don’t know what Jets boss Joe Douglas is thinking about all of this, for he has proven to be a fine poker player. Does he like Fields? Did he like him more after his amazing tour-de-force against Clemson last week when he not only outplayed Trevor Lawrence, he did so by such a wide margin that it seemed a fair percentage of Jets fans were able to shake free from the late-season hot streak that yielded two wins and all but deleted Lawrence from their future?
“If you watch Justin play every day, as we do,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said earlier this week, “then nothing you see during a game will surprise you.”
This seven-game outlier of a season, it’s been hard to keep track of very much from a Buckeyes perspective (just as Dabo Swinney), but it’s a lot easier to keep track of Fields, who is 21 touchdowns against three interceptions on the year, a 73.4 percent completion rate and 1,906 passing yards.
That actually is quite comparable to the 41 TDs and six picks he collected across 14 games a year ago. Add it all up and that makes for a 20-1 record in one of the highest-profile and high-pressure jobs in all of college football. Day is right. Fields didn’t just show up at the Superdome in New Orleans on New Year’s Day, when he threw for 385 yards and six touchdown passes – much of that after banging up a few ribs – in Ohio State’s 49-28 slaughter of Clemson.
Is Fields a legit 1A to Lawrence’s projected 1? Does Douglas prefer BYU’s Zach Wilson? Will he decide to roll-or-die with Sam Darnold, see if he can turn the No. 2 pick into a bounty of draft-day riches? That is known only within the confines of 1 Jets Drive in Florham Park.
But to the other volunteer Jets GMs?
They’ll keep a close eye on Alabama-Ohio State. They’ll keep a closer eye on Justin Fields. Not only does Fields represent the only legit way Ohio State could pull an upset – Alabama’s ferocious offense will not be stopped; the only hope us they can be outscored – but he could well make some folks wearing green sweatshirts pie-eyed with puppy love if he can carve up Saban’s Crimson Tide defense.
Fields insists he will be healthy Monday – or at least healthy enough where he doesn’t think the sore ribs will be much of an issue in whether he performs well or not.
“I’ll be good by Monday night,” he said on more than one occasion the past 10 days.
Fields’ journey – he started college at Georgia, and for a while it looked like he wouldn’t take the field this year until the Big Ten reversed course – is already worthy of praise. And he seems to understand that better than anyone.
“I mean, [this season] is definitely more meaningful because this is where we wanted to be before the season even started and when our season got canceled,” he said. “I think all of the stuff we’ve done in the past, all of the workouts, all of the getting the games canceled, saying we’re playing and saying we’re not playing, that messes with your mental.
“But just all of the stuff that this team has been through and all the stuff that everybody has been through here is just a big sacrifice just for this moment, so we’re just glad that we have the opportunity to play.”
And Jets fans? They’ll simply be more than glad for the opportunity to watch.