Ask Paul Finebaum about the national championship matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State, and the SEC Network host will tell you that Nick Saban is a bit relieved he’ll see the Buckeyes in the title game, and not Clemson.


During his weekly appearance on WJOX’s The RoundTable on Monday, Finebaum suggested that the Alabama head coach is “happier” to be playing against Ryan Day, rather than Dabo Swinney. The reason? Clemson’s familiarity with the Crimson Tide might’ve created a matchup problem for Bama.

It doesn’t seem to matter to Finebaum that Ohio State just got done beating Clemson 49-28 in a lopsided affair in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. And, don’t forget, at the end of the 2014 season, the Buckeyes were a huge underdog to the Tide in a semifinal game, but Ohio State pulled off a 42-35 upset.

“In a weird, quirky sort of way, I think deep-down, Nick Saban is happier seeing Ohio State across the field than Clemson,” Finebaum said. “And it’s only because of the history. We all know Alabama and Clemson’s history. I think that’s a program down in South Carolina that knows it can beat Alabama. I don’t think what happened in 2014 has any impact on this game. This is a completely-different world we’re living in.

“I think Saban will probably prefer to take his chances against Ryan Day’s team than another matchup against Dabo Swinney. Although, really, these days with Dabo Swinney, you kind of invite that challenge because you don’t know how Dabo Swinney is going to affect the outcome of the game through his mouth.”

Had Ohio State squeaked out a close victory against Clemson, you might be able to legitimize Finebaum’s argument. In a game against equal opponents, taking the team that’s less familiar with your scheme would prove to be advantageous. And it still might.

Considering Ohio State just blasted Clemson, though, it seems like a strange argument to make.

Ohio State and Alabama have played four times, with the Crimson Tide owning a 3-1 series lead. The last matchup was that Sugar Bowl game in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Kickoff for the national championship is set for Monday, Jan. 11.