Shaun Wade smiled upon hearing the question — Who do you want to be matched up with? — and didn’t hesitate.
“You already know who I want to go up against at the end of the day,” the Ohio State All-American cornerback said on Wednesday over Zoom.
Yes, the 6-foot-1 Wade wants to see plenty of No. 6, Alabama’s Heisman Trophy-winning game-breaker DeVonta Smith. He wants to defend the player nobody has come close to slowing down, the playmaker who has caught 15 passes for 314 yards and five touchdowns in wins over Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff semifinals and Florida in the SEC Championship game, who became the sport’s first receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991 to win the Heisman after hauling in 105 receptions for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this year.
“DeVonta is a very great player, quick and shifty and fast,” Wade said on the first of two media days for Monday’s national championship game in Miami. “You see it on his highlights. He can do everything in the book as a receiver, and [I’m] just really looking for that matchup at the end of the day.”
Wade is enjoying his second trip to the playoff much more than his first. Last year, the senior was ejected for a controversial targeting penalty in a heartbreaking six-point loss to Clemson in the semifinals. This year, he helped Ohio State exact revenge against the Tigers, 49-28, on Friday night. And now, he will get a shot to win a national championship. To do so, he will have to slow down Smith and an old friend, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
Wade and Jones played together in high school on the same seven-on-seven team in Jacksonville, Fla., and now they’ll be facing each other in college football’s biggest game.
“It is a blessing,” Wade said. “I’ve been knowing Mac for a long time, ‘Money Making Mac,’ that’s what we called him. He is a confident guy in just how he is. He’s a hard worker and great quarterback, and really looking forward to playing against him this week.”
Jones has enjoyed a remarkable season after beating out freshman Bryce Young for the job, throwing 36 touchdown passes, just four interceptions and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He’s thrown for at least four touchdowns seven times and for over 400 yards on four occasions in leading undefeated Alabama’s second-ranked scoring offense. A lot of the damage has come with Smith on the receiving end. And now Wade, who has struggled at times in coverage this year after moving from the slot to the outside, is hoping to be the player to at least slow them down.
“That’s the obstacle,” Wade said of Smith. “At the end of the day we’ve got to put the best on the best and just go from there.”