ATLANTA (AP) — Najee Harris scored five touchdowns and No. 1 Alabama advanced to the College Football Playoff with a perfect record, holding off No. 11 Florida in a 52-46 shootout for the Southeastern Conference championship Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (11-0, No. 1 CFP) got its toughest test in a season of blowouts, but Harris’ record-setting performance will send coach Nick Saban to the playoff in search of his seventh national title.
After falling behind 35-17 by halftime, Florida (8-3, No. 7 CFP) made a game of it with a pair of third-quarter scores. And the Gators fought to the bitter end, adding two more TDS in the fourth period before finally running out of time.
Harris tacked on the last of his touchdowns with a 1-yard lunge in which he was initially ruled down just short of the goal line. After a video review, the officials saw that Harris’ right arm, the ball firmly in his grasp, came down on the white stripe.
The game’s MVP hauled in five passes for 67 yards including touchdown plays of 23, 17 and 7 yards in Alabama’s first-half blitz. Harris rushed for 178 yards on 31 bruising carries, which included an 8-yard scoring run that capped off the opening possession of the game.
Harris set an SEC championship game record with his five touchdowns, breaking the mark of four scored by Auburn’s Tre Mason in 2013. The Alabama running back also knocked off a couple of school records, setting new standards for career rushing TDs (44) and overall TDs (54).
The two quarterbacks, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Florida’s Kyle Trask, did nothing to hurt their standing as two of the leading Heisman Trophy contenders. Neither did Smith, the Crimson Tide’s other top candidate.
Jones completed 33 of 43 passes for 418 yards and five touchdowns. Smith, as usual, was his favorite receiver with a staggering 15 catches for 184 yards and two scores.
Smith also came up with a key fumble recovery after Florida’s Trey Dean picked off a pass from Jones, snatching the ball away from the intended receiver, only to cough it up on a brutal, blind-side hit by Alabama receiver John Metchie.
Trask was 26 of 40 for 408 yards and three TDs including a 51-yard scoring pass early on to Kadarius Toney, who finished with eight receptions for 153 yards.
NO. 4 CLEMSN 34, NO. 2 NOTRE DAME 10
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence had 412 yards of offense and three touchdowns, Travis Etienne ran for 124 yards and a score and Clemson dominated Notre Dame 34-10 to win its sixth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Lawrence threw long scoring passes to Amari Rodgers and E.J Williams in the first half to help the Tigers (10-1) avenge a 47-40 double-overtime loss at Norte Dame — with Lawrence sidelined because of the coronavirus — to lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff for the sixth straight season.
Lawrence, the game MVP and presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, overcame an early interception on a tipped ball to complete 25 of 36 passes for 322 yards. He ran 14 times for 90 yards, with a 34-yard touchdown scamper.
The junior quarterback did it all, even throwing a block to spring Etienne for a 15-yard gain on a third-down run late in the second quarter leading to a touchdown and a 24-3 halftime lead.
Rodgers had eight catches for 121 yards, and Williams added four for 80 yards including a dynamic one-handed grab where he reached behind his head to snag the ball.
Clemson allowed Notre Dame to pile up 518 yards in the previous meeting, but limited the Fighting Irish (10-1) to 263 yards Saturday and sacked quarterback Ian Book six times. Book spent most of the game under duress, regularly flushed from the pocket and forced to make plays on the run.
Clemson’s secondary put the clamps on Notre Dame’s wide receivers, and running back Tyren Williams was limited to 49 yards rushing after finishing with 140 yards on the ground and three TDs in the first game. Book was held to 219 yards passing and no touchdowns.
NO. 3 OHIO STATE 22, NORTHWESTERN 10
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Trey Sermon ran for a school-record 331 yards and two second-half touchdowns, helping Ohio State rally past Northwestern for its fourth consecutive Big Ten championship.
The Buckeyes (6-0) will find out Sunday if they’ve done enough to receive one of four spots in the College Football Playoff. It’s the first time Ohio State has won four consecutive outright conference crowns.
Northwestern (6-2) heads into the bowl season with two losses in its last three games and a second runner-up finish to the Buckeyes in three years.
It was a struggle for Ohio State. After the Buckeyes settled for a field goal on the game’s first possession, Northwestern running back Cam Porter answered with a 9-yard TD run late in the first quarter. The Buckeyes trailed from that moment until Sermon’s 9-yard run with 2:41 left in the third period.
Ohio State added a 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and Sermon, who had 29 carries, sealed the win with a 3-yard scoring run with 4:03 to go.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was 12 of 27 with 114 yards and ran 12 times for 35 yards.
Porter finished with 16 carries and 61 yards. Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey was 24 of 37 with 224 yards but was picked off twice and lost a fumble — all in the second half.
NO. 5 TEXAS A&M 34, TENNESSEE 13
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kellen Mond threw for 281 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 59 yards and a score, helping Texas A&M to close its case for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Isaiah Spiller ran for 89 yards and a touchdown, and Ainias Smith scored once rushing and once receiving.
Mond completed 26 of 32 passes. The Aggies (8-1, No. 5 CFP) finished their regular season and hoped for an upset or two within the CFP’s top four.
Tennessee (3-7) has lost seven of its last eight games, ramping up speculation about Jeremy Pruitt’s future as Vols coach.
NO. 6 CINCINNATI 27, TULSA 24
CINCINNATI (AP) — Cole Smith made a 34-yard field goal as time expired to lift Cincinnati past Tulsa in the rainy American Conference Championship game.
Alec Pierce had a career-high 146 yards receiving on five catches, Desmond Ridder passed for 269 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score, and Jerome Ford added a 42-yard scoring run for the Bearcats (9-0, No. 9 CFP).
Tulsa (6-2, No. 23 CFP) reached the conference championship game following three straight losing seasons. It was the Golden Hurricane’s first appearance in the AAC title game.
Tulsa tied it with 3:41 remaining on Zach Smith’s 13-yard touchdown pass to JuanCarlos Santana. But the Golden Hurricane defense jumped offside on a hard count on fourth-and-2,
NO. 12 OKLAHOMA 27, NO. 8 IOWA STATE 21
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Spencer Rattler threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Mims and ran for a score and Oklahoma won its sixth consecutive Big 12 title, holding on to beat Iowa State in the conference championship game.
That impressive title streak probably won’t be enough to get the Sooners (8-2, No. 10 CFP) into the College Football Playoff for the fourth year in a row, even when paired with their seven-game winning streak. Oklahoma lost at Iowa State on Oct. 3 and was 0-2 in Big 12 play for the first time since 1998.
Rattler was 22 of 34 for 272 yards and his 25th TD pass.
Big 12 rushing leader Breece Hall ran for two touchdowns for the Cyclones (8-3, No. 6 CFP) .
NO. 25 SAN JOSE STATE 34, BOISE STATE 20
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nick Starkel completed 32 of 52 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns to lead San Jose State to its first Mountain West Conference championship.
The Spartans (7-0) had lost all 14 previous meetings with Boise State (5-2).
Starkel broke former Fresno State star Derek Carr’s title-game record of 404 yards passing set in 2013 in a victory over Utah State.
It was the fourth 400-yard passing game of Starkel’s career, and second this season, his first with the Spartans. He spent the first three years of his college career at Texas A&M and Arkansas before transferring to San Jose State in January.
Tre Walker and Derrick Deese Jr. each had seven receptions. Walker led all receivers with 137 yards.
Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier completed 20 of 40 pass attempts for 221 yards.