Notre Dame is headed for its first BCS championship game in school history after the Irish defeated USC 22-13 on Saturday night before a crowd of 93,607 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The Irish dominated the game from the outset, though the score was closer than the final statistics as USC freshman quarterback Max Wittek gave a plucky performance in his first career start filling in for Matt Barkley.
Notre Dame's defense solidified the trip to Miami for the title game with a tremendous goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter, stopping USC on two quarterback sneaks from the 1-yard line and then nailing tailback Curtis McNeal for a 1-yard loss. On fourth down, Wittek threw a pass to fullback Soma Vainuku, who dropped it in the end zone.
"It doesn't matter where the ball is, we're going to protect the end zone at all costs," Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o said.
The Irish players ran around the field in celebration after the game.
"I didn't imagine at the beginning of the year," Irish quarterback Everett Golson said. "But all things are possible."
Perhaps a sign of how unflashy the Irish (12-0) are despite being perfect, kicker Kyle Brindza was the offensive star with five field goals.
The Irish should be No. 1 when the final BCS standings are released Sunday night.
"I know people talk about close games. That's the way we play this game," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "That's who we are. We are the Fighting Irish. We tried to make that part of our DNA when we got here."
Wittek finished 14 of 24 for 186 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Golson was 15 of 26 for 217 yards and no touchdowns.
Brindza kicked his fourth field goal, from 34 yards, to extend the Irish lead to 19-10 with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
USC ended a disappointing regular season with a 7-5 record and will await its bowl destination Sunday.
"They're not very exotic, but they don't screw up," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "They're very good.
"They have a good scheme and great players down there. It's so hard to score touchdowns against them. We had the ball on the two-inch line and couldn't get it in."
No. 2 Alabama 49, Auburn 0
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With junior quarterback AJ McCarron throwing four touchdown passes and junior running back Eddie Lacy rushing for 131 yards and two touchdowns, Alabama reached the end zone on its first seven possessions and destroyed archenemy Auburn on Saturday.
Alabama (11-1, 7-1) will meet Georgia next week for the SEC title and a trip to the BCS Championship Game on the line.
The only setback for Alabama was the loss of junior receiver Kenny Bell, who sustained a painful left knee/leg injury in the second quarter and did not return. Freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper had 109 yards on five catches with touchdowns of 37 and 29 yards, and junior Kevin Norwood had touchdown receptions of 38 and 7 yards.
Just two years after winning the national championship, Auburn (3-9) finished winless in SEC play for the first time since going 0-6 in Doug Barfield's final season in 1980. It had never gone 0-8 before.
No. 3 Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 10
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray completed 14 of 17 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns and topped 3,000 yards for the third straight year to lead Alabama past Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs (11-1) moves on to the SEC championship game next week against Alabama with a shot at playing for the BCS national championship. Georgia Tech (6-6) will face Florida State next Saturday in the ACC championship game.
Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall made their presence felt for Georgia. Gurley rushed 12 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 14 for the season and moving to within one of Herschel Walker's Georgia record of 15 for a freshman set in 1980. Marshall picked up 66 yards on seven carries and added touchdown runs of 15 and 17 yards.
David Sims rushed 14 times for 71 yards and scored Georgia Tech's only touchdown on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter.
No. 4 Florida 37, No. 10 Florida State 26
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida scored 24 consecutive points in the fourth quarter and ended a two-game losing streak against Florida State.
Florida State (10-2) led 20-13 with under 13 minutes left when Antonio Morrison laid a thundering hit on Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel, forcing a fumble that Dominique Easley recovered for the Gators. On the next play, Mike Gillislee ran 37 yards for touchdown to tie the score.
Jeff Driskel hit Andre Dubose with a 14-yard touchdown pass to break the tie with seven minutes left.
Florida (11-1) amassed 243 yards on the ground, led by Gillislee's 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Florida State turned the ball over five times, four by Manuel, who also threw three interceptions.
No. 5 Oregon 48, No. 15 Oregon State 24
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon concluded the Pac-12 regular season by blowing out rival Oregon State in the second half of the 116th Civil War Game on Saturday.
Midway through the third quarter, it was a close game, with Oregon (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) holding a 20-17 lead after the Beavers' Storm Woods second rushing touchdown.
The Ducks rebounded from its first loss of the season last week against Stanford and piled up 430 rushing yards.
Oregon running back Kenjon Barner left the game in the second quarter with an apparent rib or abdominal injury but came back in the third quarter and scored his second touchdown of the game. He had 198 rushing yards on 28 carries.
Marcus Mariota was sensational in his first Civil War appearance, completing 17 of 24 passes for 140 yards and also running for 85 yards on eight carries.
Oregon State (8-3, 6-3) lost three of its last five games after rising as high as No. 7 in the AP poll.
No. 8 Stanford 35, UCLA 17
LOS ANGELES -- Stepfan Taylor rushed for 147 yards to inch himself closer to the Stanford career rushing record and the Cardinal set up a Pac-12 title game rematch with No. 15 UCLA with a win over the Bruins.
With the win, Stanford clinched the Pac-12 North title and will host UCLA on Friday at Stanford Stadium.
Taylor rushed for touchdowns of 1 yard and 49 yards as the Cardinal dominated the ground game against the mistake-prone Bruins. Stanford outrushed UCLA 228-73 -- the Bruins averaged more than 207 yards entering the game -- and benefitted from UCLA's 12 penalties for 135 yards.
Kevin Hogan completed 15 of 22 passes for 158 passes for the Cardinal, outshining his more heralded counterpart, UCLA redshirt freshman Brett Hundley. Hundley completed just 20 of 38 passes for 259 yards and was sacked seven times as the Stanford defensive line overwhelmed UCLA.
No. 9 Texas A&M 59, Missouri 29
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel did little to hurt his Heisman hopes in his final showing before the votes are counted, leading Texas A&M to points on its first eight drives against Missouri at Kyle Field.
Texas A&M finished the regular season 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC. Missouri fell to 5-7 and had its string of consecutive bowl games end at eight.
Manziel threw for three touchdowns and ran for two others while piling up 439 yards of total offense against a Missouri team that had given up 400 yards only twice the entire season.
Manziel was 32 of 44 for 372 yards passing. He had 12 carries for 67 yards.
No. 12 South Carolina 27, No. 11 Clemson 17
CLEMSON, S.C. -- South Carolina continued its mastery of rival Clemson, rallying for its fourth consecutive victory in the series.
On a night when South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier became the winningest coach in school history (65-37), it was reserve quarterback Dylan Thompson who stole the show, passing for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
The victory pushed the Gamecocks to 10-2 while Clemson -- playing in front of a sellout crowd of 82,000 at Memorial Stadium -- fell to 10-2 and had its seven-game winning streak snapped as well as a 13-game home winning streak.
No. 13 Oklahoma 51, Oklahoma State 48 (OT)
NORMAN, Okla. -- Brennan Clay delivered the deciding blow, an 18-yard, tackle-breaking run in overtime to send Oklahoma past Oklahoma State in a back-and-forth Big 12 game.
It was the Sooners' first lead.
In a series known as Bedlam, there was delirium aplenty, most coming from offensive firepower that produced 1,108 yards and 99 points.
The Sooners (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) forced overtime when quarterback Landry Jones led them on the drive of the game: a 17-play, 86-yard march, finished only when Blake Bell banged it in from the 4 on a fourth-down run with four seconds remaining in regulation.
Jones passed for 500 yards, after going 46 of 71 with three touchdowns and an interception.
Joseph Randle rushed for 113 yards and four touchdowns for Oklahoma State (7-4, 5-3).
Ohio State 26, No. 19 Michigan 21
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State outlasted Michigan in a battle between traditional rivals to complete an unbeaten season in Urban Meyer's first year as coach.
The Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) needed an interception from C.J. Barnett with just under five minutes left and then a couple of first downs from its offense to finally put the Wolverines away.
Michigan (8-4, 6-2) had used two big plays to take a 21-20 lead at the half, but the Ohio State defense never allowed the Wolverines past midfield in the second half.
Connecticut 23, No. 20 Louisville 23 (3 OT)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Behind a defense that physically whipped the Louisville offensive line and knocked quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out of the game twice, Connecticut upset Louisville when Chad Christen kicked a 30-yard field goal in the third overtime.
Connecticut (5-6, 2-4 Big East) sacked Bridgewater and backup Will Stein five times, helping hold Louisville to 19 yards rushing. The Cardinals (9-2, 4-2) entered the game averaging 33.3 points per game but punted nine times and didn't score until John Wallace kicked a 19-yard field goal with 11:40 left in regulation.
Bridgewater injured his left wrist when Sio Moore dumped him with a horsecollar tackle as time expired in the first half. After staying in the locker room for treatment, Bridgewater returned to the field in the third quarter. He completed 30 of 53 passes for 331 yards but made his one huge mistake when Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted a pass intended for Parker on third down from the 5-yard line in the third overtime.