The Latest on college football’s championship Saturday (all times Eastern):
Championship Saturday is over in college football. Bowl selection Sunday is coming up.
Top-ranked Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame are all expected to land berths in the four-team College Football Playoff when the field is announced on Sunday. The Crimson Tide won the SEC championship 35-28 over Georgia, the unbeaten Fighting Irish were idle and Clemson won the ACC title over Pittsburgh, 42-10.
The fourth and final berth is where the intrigue lies. Georgia could become the first two-loss team to make the playoff. Or maybe it will go to Oklahoma, which beat Texas 39-27 for the Big 12 championship. Or maybe it will go to Ohio State, which beat Northwestern 45-24 for the Big Ten title.
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In all, there were nine championship games on Saturday. Besides the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 games: UCF rallied to win the American Athletic championship, 56-41 over Memphis; Appalachian State won the Sun Belt title, 30-27 over Louisiana-Lafayette; UAB won the Conference USA championship, 27-25 over Middle Tennessee; Fresno State beat Boise State 19-16 in overtime for the Mountain West title; and Alcorn State won the SWAC championship with a 37-28 win over Southern.
No. 2 Clemson is a quarter away from its fourth straight ACC championship and a likely College Football Playoff berth.
The Tigers took a 35-10 lead on Pitt in the fourth quarter.
Minus a dramatic Pitt rally down the stretch, the Tigers will likely hold as the No. 2 team in the final CFP rankings and get a semifinal matchup with Notre Dame, which has been ranked third for several weeks.
In Indianapolis, Ohio State was clinging to a 24-21 lead against Northwestern in the Big Ten title game.
No. 21 Northwestern has stormed back at the start of the second half, scoring touchdowns on each of its first two possessions to cut Ohio State’s 17-point halftime lead to 24-21 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats capitalized on their second possession after a replay review overturned a fumble call at the Buckeyes’ 3-yard line. Two plays later, Clayton Thorson threw a 2-yard TD pass to Cameron Green.
The Buckeyes are hoping for a decisive win to stay in the conversation for a possible playoff berth.
No. 2 Clemson has a 28-10 lead on Pittsburgh at halftime of the ACC Championship.
The Tigers took a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game on a pair of Travis Etienne touchdown runs. Pitt then found its footing and tightened the game up on Qadree Ollison’s 1-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 14-10 midway through the second quarter.
But the Tigers surged again with freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Tee Higgins. The first was a 5-yard grab on a series Etienne began with a 45-yard run. The second from 10 yards out came after A.J. Terrell picked off Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett.
In Indianapolis, Ohio State holds a 24-7 lead over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes are doing their best to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee but even a lopsided victory might not be enough to leapfrog SEC runner-up Georgia or Big 12 champion Oklahoma to earn one of the four playoff spots that will be announced on Sunday.
Little-used Northwestern running back John Moten IV found a hole in the Ohio State defense and broke free for a season-long 77-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7-7 in the Big Ten championship game.
The run is tied for the second-longest in championship game history with J.K. Dobbins, who sprinted 77 yards for the Buckeyes in last year’s title game. Moten had only 40 carries for 127 yards with a long of 29 coming into the game.
Just like that, No. 2 Clemson is off and running at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Tigers tailback Travis Etienne went 75 yards for a touchdown on the team’s first play from scrimmage. The run took 13 seconds as Etienne pulled away from Pitt defenders to put Clemson ahead 7-0.
Clemson entered a four-touchdown favorite to defeat Coastal Division champion Pitt. It was Etienne’s 20th touchdown of the season, extending his single-season Clemson mark.
In Indianapolis, No. 6 Ohio State also started fast in the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern.
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins completed his first four passes, capping the game’s opening possession with some fancy footwork to avoid a sack before hooking up with Terry McLaurin on a 16-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead.
UCF will be playing in a major bowl game of the second straight season. Knights fans won’t get the playoff spot they think their team deserves, but after UCF rallied from 17 points down to beat Memphis 56-41 they will be back in the New Year’s Six.
The likely destination is the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. The Knights won the Peach Bowl last season.
UCF ran its winning streak to 25 games behind backup quarterback Darriell Mack, who accounted for six touchdowns filling in for injured star McKenzie Milton.
Alabama and Jalen Hurts staged a comeback in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Hurts, who started the previous two seasons, replaced an injured Tua Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter and delivered two touchdowns in the final 5:19 in the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s 35-28 come-from-behind win over No. 4 Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Hurts threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy and then ran 15 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:04 left. Tagovailoa was helped off the field with an apparent right ankle injury in the fourth quarter.
This time Jalen Hurts came in to relieve Tua Tagovailoa to lead Alabama to a touchdown.
Hurts hit Jerry Jeudy with a 10-yard pass as Alabama tied Georgia 28-28 in the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Tagovailoa had to leave the game with an apparent ankle injury to set the stage for Hurts’ heroics.
In last year’s championship game Tagovailoa replaced Hurts and threw a game-winning touchdown pass to beat the Bulldogs.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa has gone to the sideline in the fourth quarter of the Southeastern Conference championship game with an apparent ankle injury.
He went to the ground clutching his right ankle with 11:15 left in the game, and was helped off the field. It appeared that left tackle Jonah Williams came down on Tagovailoa’s leg.
Jalen Hurts, a two-year starter, entered the game with Alabama trailing 28-21.
Tagovailoa came into the game as the apparent front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. He didn’t put up Heisman-like numbers in this one even before the injury. After a rough start, he was 10-of-25 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown but was also intercepted twice near the goal line.
Alabama is back in it. Freshman Jaylen Waddle broke free for a 51-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter to pull the top-ranked Tide to within 28-21 of No. 4 Georgia in the SEC championship game.
The long touchdown came shortly after Georgia’s Rodrigo Blakenship missed a short field goal.
It was Tua Tagovailoa’s first touchdown pass of the game after two interceptions.
The teams went to the fourth quarter, with major playoff ramifications on the line and a league title, with the Bulldogs up by seven.
Virginia Tech benefited most from Saturday’s makeup games caused be severe weather throughout the season.
The Hokies needed a victory to become bowl eligible, and they got it in resounding fashion. Ryan Willis threw four touchdown passes, all in the first half, and Virginia Tech extended its nation-leading bowl streak to 26 years with a 41-20 victory over Marshall. The Hokies (6-6) paid the Thundering Herd $300,000 to replace their Sept. 15 game against East Carolina that was canceled because of Hurricane Florence.
Deebo Samuel caught two touchdown passes and recovered a bad snap on a punt in the end zone for another score as South Carolina beat Akron 28-3.
David Montgomery ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 24 Iowa State held off FCS program Drake 27-24.
Cameron Scarlett scored two touchdowns, Paulson Adebo intercepted two passes and Stanford defeated California 23-13. The Big Game, originally scheduled for Nov. 17, was pushed back two weeks because of unhealthy air conditions from Northern California wildfires.
Reggie Gallaspy Jr. ran for 220 yards and two touchdowns to help North Carolina State beat East Carolina 58-3.
Memphis has played UCF close twice during the Knights’ 24-game winning streak, and the Tigers are giving the defending AAC champions fits again.
Running back Darrell Henderson has rushed for three touchdowns and also thrown for one to help Memphis to a 38-21 halftime lead in the ACC title game in Orlando, Florida.
The nation’s second-leading rusher has carried 10 times for 207 yards, including scoring bursts of 62, 12, and 82 yards. He tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Sean Dykes and also had a 40-yard TD run called back because of a holding penalty.
The Tigers have 336 yards rushing at the half, 402 yards overall.
Darriel Mack made his second start of the season for UCF, filling in for injured starter McKenzie Milton.
Mack lost two first-quarter fumbles, setting up Henderson’s second touchdown and a field goal. The red-shirt freshman also fumbled into the end zone from inside the Memphis 1, however teammate Michael Colubiale recovered for a UCF touchdown in the second quarter.
— Reporting by Fred Goodall in Orlando, Florida
Georgia and Alabama are trading major blows in the SEC championship game.
Jake Fromm’s second touchdown pass of the game, an 11-yarder to D’Andre Swift, to give No. 4 Georgia a short-lived 21-7 lead over No. 1 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
With the Crimson Tide facing its biggest deficit of the season, Josh Jacobs then recovered his own fumble in the end zone to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 21-14 going into halftime. Jacobs set up the 1-yard TD with a 59-yard burst.
Both teams are playing like there is a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line — because it is.
Fromm found tight end Isaac Nauta for a 20-yard scoring pass in the first quarter.
— Reporting by Charles Odum in Atlanta
On the first play of the second quarter in the SEC championship game, Josh Jacobs scored from a yard out for No. 1 Alabama to make it 7-7 against No. 4 Georgia. The winner in Atlanta will go to the playoff.
UAB, in its second season after the program was restarted, has won the Conference USA championship with a 27-25 victory at Middle Tennessee. The Blazers had their program shuttered after the 2014 season, but restarted last year under coach Bill Clark. Earlier this week, UAB signed Clark to a new five-year contract.
UAB will head to a bowl game 10-3.
Alabama is trailing for only the second time this season.
Jake Fromm hit Isaac Nauta for a 20-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 advantage with 3:08 left in the first quarter of the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
The Crimson Tide had only fallen behind once before, when Mississippi scored a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game. Alabama trailed for just 70 seconds before tying the game. Alabama ended up winning that game 62-7 and has beaten every opponent by at least 22 points.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went into the medical tent after the first series of the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Tagovailoa, who has battled a right knee injury the past few weeks, appeared to twist his left ankle and seemed to be limping after a sack. But after being evaluated, he was jogging along the Alabama sideline.
Regarded as the Heisman Trophy front-runner, Tagovailoa was intercepted at the goal line by Richard LeCounte on the next play. Tagovailoa came into the game with 36 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
— Reporting by John Zenor in Atlanta
Kyler Murray and No. 5 Oklahoma made their final case for selection into the College Football Playoff with a 39-27 victory against No. 9 Texas in the Big 12 title game.
The Sooners rallied from a first-half deficit and their beleaguered defense played its best game in weeks. The Sooners got a safety in the fourth quarter that swung the game in their favor.
Oklahoma entered championship Saturday fifth in the CFP rankings, poised to possibly move into the fourth and final playoff spot with a victory and Georgia loss to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game. How the Bulldogs-Crimson Tide goes will play a huge part in putting the playoff puzzle together for the selection committee. Georgia-Alabama was about to kick off in the one conference title game where both teams had playoff hopes.
Ohio State also had to be scoreboard watching the Big 12. The Buckeyes were sixth in the playoff rankings, going into their Big Ten title game against Northwestern.
Murray, in his last chance to impress Heisman Trophy voters, threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns.
The American Athletic Conference championship game is underway in Orlando, Florida, where No. 7 UCF and Memphis are playing for the title for the second straight year.
Knights star quarterback McKenzie Milton is not playing after suffering a serious leg injury last week at South Florida, however that’s not stopping the junior from Kapolei, Hawaii from having a presence in Spectrum Stadium.
Some in the crowd of more than 44,000 arrived in Hawaiian shirts and fans entering the sold-out stadium also were given colorful leis to wear in tribute to the two-time AAC offensive player of the year, who threw for 2,663 yards and 25 touchdowns to help UCF get back to the league title game.
It’s a rematch of last year’s AAC championship game, which UCF won 62-55 in double overtime. The Knights and Tigers also played a close game in Memphis earlier this season, with UCF rallying from a 16-point deficit to win 31-30.
Milton injured on Nov. 23. He has been released from a Tampa hospital and returned home to Orlando, where he was expected to watch the game on television with his parents.
— Reporting by Fred Goodall in Orlando, Florida
Oklahoma’s defense, of all things, came through with a game-changing play against Texas in the Big 12 championship. After the Longhorns forced a turnover to give the ball back to the offense deep in its own territory, the Sooners’ Tre Brown sacked Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the end zone for a safety to make it 32-27.
Oklahoma got the ball back, too and was trying to put together a drive to kill the clock and salt away their fourth straight Big 12 title.
The American Athletic Conference championship between unbeaten No. 7 UCF and Memphis is close to kicking off and the Knights have already had some good news.
Injured quarterback McKenzie Milton has been released from the hospital and will watch the game at home with his family in Orlando. Milton suffered a severe right leg injury that caused nerve damage. But his family has said he is recovering well and will have reconstructive knee surgery after at a later date.
The Knights have won 24 straight games.
Appalachian State won the first Sun Belt Conference championship game, beating Louisiana-Lafayette 30-19 in Boone, North Carolina. The Mountaineers head into bowl season 10-2, but will they be able to hang on to coach Scott Satterfield? He has been reported as a prime candidate for the vacant Louisville job.
Oklahoma will be without star receiver Marquise Brown in the fourth quarter of the Big 12 championship game against No. 9 Texas.
Brown, nicknamed Hollywood, is the Sooners leading receiver and an All-America contender. Oklahoma athletic training staff was working on Brown’s ankle and foot as he sat on the bench. He was carted off to the locker room.
Oklahoma took a 30-27 lead on Austin Seibert’s field goal with 12:37 left that ricocheted off the upright.
The Red River rematch drew a record crowd to the Big 12 championship game. The announced attendance for the sold-out game between No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 9 Texas was 83,114 at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Big 12 officials said it is the biggest crowd ever for a Power Five championship game. The previous record was 83,091 for the inaugural SEC championship game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Oklahoma and Texas played a game outside the State Fair of Texas for the first time since 1929. Those games are at Cotton Bowl Stadium, where there was a sold-out crowd of 92,300 when they played eight weeks a
No. 9 Texas has tied No. 5 Oklahoma at 27-all in the Big 12 championship game after Sam Ehlinger’s 5-yard TD pass to Lil’Jordan Humphry with 2:44 left in the third quarter. The Longhorns missed the extra point that would have put them back in the lead.
The Sooners went ahead 20-14 right before halftime on Kyler Murray’s 6-yard TD pass to Grant Calcaterra, and then extended their lead on Trey Sermon’s 5-yard TD run to start the second half.
Collin Johnson, whose 169 yards receiving are already a Big 12 championship game record, had a 27-yard TD from Ehlinger on the first Texas drive of the second half when he also had catches of 25 and 21 yards. Oklahoma then punted, setting up the Longhorns’ latest scoring drive.
The teams headed to the fourth quarter tied.
No. 5 Oklahoma has a 20-14 halftime lead over No. 9 Texas in the Big 12 championship game after Kyler Murray’s second TD pass, a 6-yarder to Grant Calcaterra with 18 seconds left in the first half.
The Sooners went 80 yards in five plays in a 41-second drive without any timeouts. They had used all three of their timeouts in the first quarter to avoid delay game penalties.
Murray is 12-of-17 passing for 203 yards.
Sam Ehlinger, who has 169 yards passing, and scored the Texas TDs on runs of 16 and 3 yards.
Sam Ehlinger’s second touchdown run early in the second quarter has No. 9 Texas up 14-6 on No. 5 Oklahoma. The Sooners have had to settle for two field goals after trips into the red zone.
The Sooners have scored at least 45 points in eight straight games.
Oklahoma is trying to secure its fourth straight Big 12 title and third appearance on the College Football Playoff.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby knows there’s no guarantee No. 5 Oklahoma will get into the College Football Playoff with a win in the Big 12 title game, even if Georgia loses to Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Asked before Saturday’s title game if he was comfortable that the Sooners would get into the four-team playoff with a win over No. 9 Texas, Bowlsby responded, “No.”
The Sooners are fifth in the latest CFP standings, behind Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Georgia. Ohio State, which is sixth, plays Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night.
“I think the human nature being what it is, I think the last thing you see makes a lot of difference, and I don’t think it’s inconceivable that Ohio State could win big and they could jump,” Bowlsby said.
“I don’t think that’s as likely as it might have been before Tuesday (and the latest CFP ranking) because there’s the talk about the strength of schedule and OU’s strength of schedule is going to do nothing but get stronger by this,” Bowlsby said. “And chances are if Ohio State beats Northwestern, chance are Northwestern may fall out of the Top 25, so that would further weaken the strength of schedule.”
In the first year of the CFP in 2014, Ohio State won the Big Ten championship game 59-0 and took the fourth playoff spot ahead of Big 12 co-champions TCU and Baylor.
Less than four minutes into the Big 12 championship game, the first of four Power Five title contests on Championship Saturday, No. 9 Texas has a touchdown and a 7-0 lead against No. 5 Oklahoma.
The Sooners have allowed at least 40 points in each of their last four games and won them all, a first in college football history. But their high-scoring offense led by quarterback Kyler Murray still has Oklahoma in position for a College Football Playoff appearance.
Before the College Football Playoff field is set, there is one last chance to make a case to the selection committee.
No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State both need to win Saturday — and they should both be rooting for Alabama.
The Sooners enter Championship Saturday with a chance to make the playoff for a second straight season. Oklahoma faces archrival Texas for the Big 12 title in the first of four Power Five championship games that will decide the four-team playoff field that will be revealed Sunday.
Ohio State plays Northwestern in the Big Ten championship. No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Georgia for the SEC title and a win by the Crimson Tide could open the door for the Sooners or Buckeyes. No. 2 Clemson is heavily favored against Pittsburgh in the ACC championship game.
In all, there are nine championship games on Saturday: Besides the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 games, titles will be settled in the Sun Belt (Louisiana-Lafayette at Appalachian State), Conference USA (UAB at Middle Tennessee), American Athletic (Memphis at UCF), the SWAC (Southern at Alcorn State) and the Mountain West (Fresno State at Boise State).
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