Jonathon Cooper committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Nov. 14, 2014, about two months before his future team won the first College Football Playoff championship.
Six years later, the defensive end Cooper is an Ohio State graduate, a member of Ohio State’s 2016 recruiting class, is one of the most experienced players on the Ohio State defense. As a Gahanna Lincoln graduate, he’s also one of the most prominent Columbus-area Buckeyes on the roster.
“It’s special being from here,” Cooper said Wednesday, “growing up here, being an Ohio State fan, watching Troy Smith and James Laurinaitis and all those guys do what they do.
“But the job is not finished here. I’ll reflect on all that stuff later on, but right now my whole entire focus is on beating Alabama and playing our best game as a defense and being that leader for my defense and the team.”
Ohio State plays Alabama in the national championship game Monday in Miami, Fla. It’s a matchup of two national powerhouses that are similar in many ways. Here’s how they compare in different categories:
Winning pedigree: Entering the 2020 season, Ohio State owned the best winning percentage in college football history (924-326-53, .729). Alabama ranked fifth (916-331-43, .727).
Entering Monday’s game, Ohio State ranks second in college football history in total victories (1,310), while Alabama ranks third (1,302). Michigan (1,346) is the only school in front of them.
Championship history: Ohio State claims eight national championships and beat Alabama in the national semifinals on Jan. 1, 2015, on its way to winning the first College Football Playoff against Oregon on Jan. 12, 2015. That was Ohio State’s last appearance in the championship game.
Alabama has won 17 national championships, including two in the playoff era. It beat Georgia 26-23 to win its last national title on Jan. 8, 2018.
Coaching experience: This is Ryan Day’s second full season at Ohio State. He coached three games in 2018 while filling in for Urban Meyer, who was suspended. As a head coach, he’s 23-1, losing only to Clemson in the national semifinals a year ago.
Alabama’s Nick Saban will coach his 327th career game Monday. He’s 260-65-1 and ranked 41st in college football history in career winning percentage (.788) through the 2019 season. This is his 14th season at Alabama.
Fan support: In 2019, the most recent season played in front of full stadiums, Ohio State ranked third in the nation in attendance (103,383). Alabama ranked fifth (101, 117).
Social media: The official Ohio State football Twitter account, started in April 2016, has 453,000 followers. Alabama’s official account, started in August 2011, has 993,400 followers.
Heisman winners: Ohio State has claimed the Heisman Trophy seven times. Its winners are: running back Les Horvath (1944); running back Vic Janowicz (1950); running back Howard “Hopalong” Cassady (1955); running back Archie Griffin (1974 and 1975); running back Eddie George (1995); and quarterback Troy Smith (2006).
Wide receiver DeVonta Smith became Alabama’s third Heisman Trophy winner when he was honored Tuesday, joining running backs Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015).