No. 1 Alabama rolls into title game, beating Cincinnati

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Brian Robinson Jr. ran for a career-high 204 yards and top-ranked Alabama rolled into yet another national championship game by overwhelming the first non-Power Five team to make the College Football Playoff.

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young threw three touchdown passes while mostly avoiding Cincinnati’s standout cornerbacks and the Crimson Tide beat the Bearcats 27-6 in the CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl on Friday. It was the sixth semifinal victory in a row for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama (13-1) has missed the four-team playoff only once and will try to win its second national title in a row and fourth in the eight seasons of the CFP format with coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide will play either No. 2 Michigan or No. 3 Georgia, the previously undefeated team Alabama beat for the SEC title, in the championship game Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

Alabama clearly was doing what it could to minimize the impact of cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant, and pretty much succeeded with Robinson pounding on the ground and Young throwing a lot of short, safe passes — though he did find hit Ja’Core Brooks for a 44-yard catch-and-run TD on a play away from the standout defenders for a 17-3 lead just before halftime.

The Crimson Tide opened the game with 10 consecutive runs before putting three receivers opposite of Gardner, who hasn’t given up a TD in coverage in his college career. Young found Slade Bolden open in the left flat for an 8-yard TD pass that put Alabama ahead to stay.

With their own dynamic quarterback in Desmond Ridder, the NFL prospect who returned for an extra season for just this chance, the Bearcats (13-1) were the nation’s only undefeated team until facing the playoff standard bearer.

Ridder was sacked six times and outside of a 9-yard run on the opening play of the second half never got to be hurt Bama with his feet. He was 17 of 32 for 144 yards.

Young completed 17 of 28 passes for 181 yards in the playoff game, four weeks after setting an SEC championship game record with 421 yards passing in a win over Georgia and three weeks after becoming the first Crimson Tide QB to win the Heisman Trophy.

GATOR BOWL

NO. 20 WAKE FOREST 38, RUTGERS 10

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Sam Hartman threw three touchdown passes, two to tight end Brandon Chapman, and Wake Forest beat Rutgers in the Gator Bowl to reach 11 wins for the second time in program history.

Hartman completed 23 of 39 passes for 304 yards. He added 21 more yards rushing and pushed his touchdown total to 50 this season — 39 passing and 11 rushing. A.T. Perry caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a score.

The Demon Deacons (11-3) controlled the game from the start, scoring on their first three drives and opening a double-digit lead just before halftime. It played out about as expected given Rutgers (5-8) was a late replacement for No. 23 Texas A&M.

The Aggies pulled out because of a lack of available players due to injuries, opt-outs, transfers and COVID-19 issues. The NCAA gave Rutgers the first shot at filling the void because it had the highest Academic Progress Rate score of all the eligible 5-7 teams.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano hastily gathered his players from Christmas break and held two practices in a heated bubble before heading south. They got in two more in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach this week before taking the field.

SUN BOWL

CENTRAL MICHIGAN 24, WASHINGTON STATE 21

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Lew Nichols III ran for 130 yards and a touchdown, leading late replacement Central Michigan past Washington State in the Sun Bowl.

The Chippewas (9-4) ended a five-game bowl losing streak with their fifth consecutive victory this season. When Boise State opted out of the Arizona Bowl because of COVID-19 issues, Central Michigan shifted about 300 miles east from Tucson, Arizona.

Miami skipped the Sun Bowl for COVID-19 reasons as well. Central Michigan stayed in Arizona before bussing to El Paso the day before the game.

It was the first bowl victory for the Chippewas since beating Western Kentucky in the 2012 Little Caesars Bowl.

Washington State (7-6) never could get its offense going in the first half, finishing with just 53 yards and trailing 21-0 at the break.

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