Skip to main content

How to watch Alabama vs. Ohio State in the 2021 college football national championship game

Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., just ahead of the 2021 NCAA college football national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State.
Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., just ahead of the 2021 NCAA college football national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State. (Image credit: Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

It's Alabama vs. Ohio State on Jan. 11, 2021, in the 2021 national championship game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. If that seems like a bit of a repeat for the FBS playoffs, you're not entirely wrong. We've seen these two teams plenty since the playoffs went into effect in the 2014-15 season. 

But nobody has had a season quite like this.

If you're looking to watch Alabama vs. Ohio State in the national championship game, you'll be doing so on ESPN at 8 p.m. Eastern time Jan. 11. 

The Buckeyes are looking for their second national title in the playoff era, which plucks four teams for a three-game mini-tourney. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, has played in four of the six playoff-era championship games thus far, winning two of them. (Clemson, which lost to Ohio State in one of this year's semifinals, also has won two. LSU was the victor in 2020.)

There's a good chance you'll be watching this game if you're in the United States. There's a good chance you'll want to watch if you're elsewhere, too.

Here's everything you need to know.

How to watch Alabama vs. Ohio State in the national championship game

This year's game is on ESPN, at 8 p.m. Eastern Jan. 11. ESPN can be found on every major cable network and streaming service. 

If you're in need of a new streaming service to watch the game, Sling TV will be your least expensive option

The Sling Orange plan runs $30 a month, but you'll get the first month for just $20. And that's not even counting the free trial period.

Do note that while ESPN+ will have a great deal of content leading up to the game, and that it's absolutely possible to watch ESPN+ on your TV, the national championship game isn't actually on ESPN+.

Other great options for picking up ESPN include FuboTV, which has a free trial and includes ESPN (as well as more additional sports options than just about anyone else), Hulu With Live TV, YouTube TV, and AT&T TV Now.

The road to Alabama vs. Ohio State in the national title game

The current college football playoff scheme goes like this: The teams go through their usual seasons, including conference championships (and for our purposes we'll pretend that 2020 was anything like usual). Following that, a 13-member committee then picks the four teams that will participate in the three game mini-tournament, with two semifinals and then the national championship game. The committee also ranks and seeds the teams, which determines who played who. No. 1 plays No. 4, and Nos. 2 and 3 make up the other semifinal.

The two semifinal games are part of the six major bowl games, and the bowls rotate through the system. This year, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl were the semifinal games. The national title game used to be a bowl game, but it now stands on its own.

This year's semifinals saw No. 1 Alabama dominate the fourth-seeded Notre Dame in such a way that made you wonder if the Irish were the right pick. (The selection committee mostly pulls from the "Power Five" conferences — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC). Both finished the season with perfect records. But the two teams had fairly different paths to the national title game.

Ohio State managed just six games in the 2020 season — none decided by fewer than seven points — with three canceled because of coronavirus. The Buckeyes' two postseason wins came over Northwestern in the Big 10 Championship Game on Dec. 19, and then the 49-28 handling of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in New Orleans.

Alabama easily handled Notre Dame on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl in Arlington, Texas. (Yes, the Rose Bowl was played in Dallas this year.) The 31-14 score marked the fewest points the Tide had scored all season. (Alabama twice scored 63 points this year, against Ole Miss and Kentucky.) In all, the Tide played 11 games, and had 11 wins.

Will that difference the number of games played matter for the two teams come Jan. 11? Doubtful. And in any event, it won't change the fact that we should have one hell of a game on our hands.