NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Justin Fields threw six touchdown passes to outshine Trevor Lawrence and No. 3 Ohio State avenged last season’s painful College Football Playoff loss to Clemson with a 49-28 victory in the Sugar Bowl semifinal Friday night.
The Buckeyes (7-0) head to the CFP title game for the first time since the inaugural playoff to face No. 1 Alabama on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida. Ohio State beat the Crimson Tide in the semifinals on the way to the 2014 national championship.
In a matchup of quarterback prodigies from Georgia, Fields might have given the Jacksonville Jaguars something to think about what do to with that first pick in the NFL draft. Lawrence is the presumptive No. 1, but Fields outplayed him on this night, going 22 for 28 for 385 yards. He set a Sugar Bowl record for TD passes and did it playing more than half the game after taking a vicious shot the side that forced him to miss a play and spend time in the medical tent.
Lawrence was 33 for 48 for 400 yards and three total touchdowns in what is expected to be the junior’s final college game. His final pass was intercepted, but Clemson (10-2) went 34-2 in his starts and won a national title when he was a freshman.
The third meeting between Clemson and Ohio State in the playoff, and fourth bowl matchup since the 2013 season, was a game the Buckeyes had been pointing toward ever since a 29-23 loss to Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl last year. That score was everywhere the Buckeyes turned in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus this year.
A chance for revenge was nearly derailed when the Big Ten canceled fall football in August because of the pandemic. An abbreviated Big Ten season caused more headaches, with the Buckeyes having three games canceled because of COVID-19 issues, including their own outbreak. The playoff committee still liked Ohio State enough to put the Buckeyes in the final four, despite much griping from various parts of the country, including Clemson.
NO. 1 ALABAMA 31, NO. 4 NOTRE DAME 14
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — DeVonta Smith caught three of fellow Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones’ four touchdown passes, Najee Harris ran for 125 yards with a high-hurdling highlight and Alabama beat Notre Dame in the relocated Rose Bowl game to reach its fifth CFP title game.
While the location for this Rose Bowl was truly untraditional, the Crimson Tide (12-0, No. 1 CFP) playing for the national title is a common occurrence in seven seasons of the CFP.
Notre Dame (10-2, No. 4 CFP), in football’s final four for only the second time, has lost seven consecutive New Year’s Six games since 2000.
Alabama led 14-0 after scoring the first two times it had the ball, including an 97-yard drive on which Harris leaped over 6-foot cornerback Nick McCloud just after crossing the line of scrimmage, landed on both feet and then sprinted for a 53-yard gain before getting run out of bounds. Jones threw a 12-yard TD pass to tight end Jahleel Billingsley on the next play.
That touchdown came between drives when Smith, who has 16 touchdown catches in his last seven games, turned short passes into scores of 26 and 34 yards. Smith finished with seven catches for 130 yards, added a nifty toe-tapping 7-yarder in the front corner of the end zone right on the pylon in the middle of the third quarter. Jones completed 25 of 30 passes for 297 yards.
CFP officials moved the Rose Bowl about 1,400 miles because of COVID-19 restrictions in California that would have kept family — or any fans — from attending the game at its normal home in Pasadena. There was a limited capacity crowd of 18,373 at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys,.
It was another thud of a finish for the Fighting Irish winning all 10 regular-season games, including a home victory over Clemson. But Notre Dame then lost 34-10 in the ACC title game to the Tigers.
NO. 11 GEORGIA 24, NO. 6 CINCINNATI 21
ATLANTA (AP) — Jack Podlesny kicked a 53-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, and Georgia handed Cincinnati its only loss of the season with a dramatic victory in the Peach Bowl.
Georgia (8-2) trailed 21-10 in the fourth quarter, but clamped down on Desmond Ridder and Cincinnati and JT Daniels helped rally the Bulldogs with his arm. Daniels finished with 392 yards passing.
Podlesny’s third field goal was his longest of the season and gave Georgia a 22-21 lead. Azeez Ojulari sacked Ridder for a safety on the final play. It was Ojulari’s third sack. Georgia tied a school record with eight sacks.
Ridder completed 24 of 37 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Jerome Ford added a career-long 79-yard touchdown run early in the second half but it wasn’t enough for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati (9-1) was motivated to use the Peach Bowl to gain national respect. Coach Luke Fickell wanted the Bearcats to be included in this season’s playoff and he said it was an opportunity to be judged evenly with Power 5 teams in the future.
NO. 15 NORTHWESTERN 35, AUBURN 19
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Peyton Ramsey threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score and Northwestern’s defense made it stand up against Auburn in the Citrus Bowl,
Ramsey, a graduate transfer, had 291 yards passing and 50 yards rushing to help Northwestern (7-2) win its fourth straight bowl game. Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Brown, John Raine and Riley Lees had touchdown catches for the Wildcats, coming off a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.
Bo Nix threw for 292 yards for Auburn (6-5), The Tigers were led by interim coach Kevin Steele following the Dec. 13 firing of Gus Malzahn. Bryan Harsin is taking after seven seasons at Boise State.
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