College Football: It's 'Bama vs. Bulldogs for championship
ATLANTA—Two big defensive plays early in the third quarter propelled Alabama to a 24-6 victory over defending national champion Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Monday and set up an all-SEC matchup for the College Football Playoff national championship game.
Alabama, which lost to Clemson in last year's title game, plays SEC rival Georgia at 8 p.m., Jan. 8, at the same Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta where the Crimson Tide dispatched Clemson on New Years Day.
The Tide led the Tigers 10-6 early in the third quarter when Alabama defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne intercepted Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant and returned it 21 yards to the Tigers' 27 yard line.
In on offense as an eligible receiver, Payne capped the ensuing drive by catching a one-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts to put Alabama up 17-6.
On Clemson's next play from scrimmage, Alabama's Mack Wilson intercepted a deflected pass from Kelly and ran 18 yards for a TD that put the Tide up 24-6.
With Clemson forced the throw on almost every down, the Alabama defense rendered the Tigers toothless from that point.
Alabama limited Clemson to just 188 total yards, just 64 on the ground.
Hurts hit 16 of 24 throws for 120 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Calvin Ridley on a 39-yard scoring pass in the first half.
Georgia reached the championship game with a thrilling 54-48 overtime win over Oklahoma in the other CFP semifinal in the Rose Bowl on Monday.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban will be chasing history, playing for his sixth national championship in nine years. A sixth title would match the total of legendary Alabama head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.
Saban also will be matched up against former Alabama assistant Kirby Smart, now head coach at Georgia.
Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48
Georgia halfback Sony Michel rushed 27 yards in the second overtime for his fourth touchdown of the game and the No. 3 Bulldogs overcame a 17-point deficit to advance to the national championship game in a wild 54-48 victory over the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners in the 104th Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif, on Monday.
The national championship game is Jan. 8 in Atlanta.
Michel had 181 yards and three touchdowns rushing and caught four passes for 41 yards and a score as the Bulldogs (13-1) posted the largest comeback in Rose Bowl history in what was also the highest-scoring Rose Bowl.
Rodrigo Blankenship made a 38-yard field goal to give Georgia a 48-45 lead on the first possession of overtime before Austin Seibert forced a second overtime with a 33-yarder.
Lorenzo Carter blocked Seibert's 27-yard field goal attempt in the second overtime. Georgia lost two yards on a running play before Michel broke through the left side for his fourth score.
"What a game, what an atmosphere," Georgia coach Kirby Smart told ESPN on the field after the game. "My heart goes out to the Oklahoma team, because these guys played their tails off. And so did ours, nobody ever quit. Everybody fought hard ... so proud of these kids."
Oklahoma had 531 yards total offense. Georgia had 527.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 23 of 35 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and he also caught a touchdown pass. His 2-yard scoring catch with six seconds left in the first half made it 31-14, but Blankenship made a 55-yard field goal as time expired to cut it to 31-17.
UCF 34, Auburn 27
McKenzie Milton accounted for three touchdowns, and No. 12 Central Florida gave coach Scott Frost a departing gift with a 34-27 upset of No. 7 Auburn on Monday in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
Milton threw touchdown passes to Dredrick Snelson and Otis Anderson in the second half, and Chequan Burkett returned an interception 45 yards for a score midway through the fourth quarter.
UCF finishes the season 13-0, the only undefeated team in the FBS, just two years after going winless in 2015.
Notre Dame 21, LSU 17
Ian Book came off the bench to throw two touchdown passes and No. 14 Notre Dame defeated No. 17 LSU, 21-17, in the Citrus Bowl on Monday afternoon in Orlando, Fla.
A 55-yard touchdown pass from Book to Miles Boykin with 1:28 left provided the winning points moments after the Tigers had taken a 17-14 lead on Jack Gonsoulin's 18-yard field goal.
"The man is rangy, can't you tell? Amazing catch," Book said. "He's been working his butt off all year, and he deserves this. That was awesome."
The Fighting Irish, who had lost two of their final three regular-season games, finished 10-3. LSU, which had won six of its last seven regular-season games, finished 9-4.
South Carolina 26, Michigan 19
Jake Bentley threw two touchdown passes and South Carolina took advantage of five second-half turnovers by Michigan to erase a 16-point deficit and defeat the Wolverines 26-19 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa on Monday.
Bentley, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 239 yards, hit Shi Smith for a go-ahead, 53-yard score with 11:33 remaining. Bryan Edwards caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown for the Gamecocks (9-4).
Wolverines quarterback Brandon Peters completed 20 of 44 passes for 186 yards, but was picked off twice in the fourth quarter. Quinn Nordin kicked four field goals for Michigan (8-5).
Wisconsin 34, Miami 24
Alex Hornibrook passed for a career high-tying four touchdowns to lead No. 6 Wisconsin to a 34-24 victory over No. 10 Miami on Saturday night in the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Freshman Danny Davis, who had scored only twice this season entering Saturday, caught three of the touchdown passes.
Hornibrook, a sophomore and a second-year starter who was named the Orange Bowl Most Outstanding Player, completed 23 of 34 passes for a season-best 258 yards as the Badgers (13-1) completed the first 13-win season in program history.
Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor rushed for 130 yards and finished the season with 1,977, breaking the record for rushing yards by a freshman set by Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson (1,925) in 2004. Miami lost its final three games to finish 10-3.
No. 9 Penn State 35, No. 11 Washington 28
Saquon Barkley had 137 yards rushing, including a Fiesta Bowl-record 92-yard touchdown run, and Penn State continued its mastery in the desert with a victory over Washington in Glendale, Arizona.
Trace McSorley completed 32 of 41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns, and Barkley had two touchdown runs as the Nittany Lions (11-2) remained perfect in seven Fiesta Bowl appearances. McSorley also rushed for 58 yards.
Myles Gaskin rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns, and his 69-yard run with 6:52 remaining brought the Huskies (10-3) within seven 35-28.
Iowa State 21, No. 20 Memphis 20
Allen Lazard tied a Liberty Bowl record with 10 catches for 142 yards as Iowa State capped off a turnaround season with a victory over No. 20 Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee.
Lazard's most important reception was one that put the Cyclones (8-5) ahead for good. He grabbed a 5-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Kempt with 4:28 left in the third quarter to make it 21-17. The ball was tipped just before it reached Lazard, who came back in from out of bounds to make the tumbling catch.
Riley Ferguson completed 21 of 33 passes for 286 yards for the Tigers (10-3), who entered with the nation's second-highest scoring offense at 47.7 points per game. Iowa State notched six sacks and held Memphis to 53 yards rushing.
No. 23 Mississippi State 31, Louisville 27
Mark McLaurin intercepted Lamar Jackson three times as Mississippi State batted down a Hail Mary pass to preserve its victory over Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.
Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, accounted for 158 of the Cardinals' 187 rushing yards but was intercepted four times. Jaylen Smith caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown for Louisville (8-5).
Freshman Keytaon Thompson rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns while passing for 127 yards for the Bulldogs (9-4). Aeris Williams ran for 88 yards and a score for Mississippi State.