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Alabama and Clemson were both heavy favorites in Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal games against Notre Dame and Ohio State, respectively.
So it will be Alabama and Ohio State meeting for the national championship. Ohio State and Alabama met once before in the CFP. The Buckeyes defeated the Tide 42-35 in the 2015 semifinals before beating Oregon in the national championship game.
No. 3 Ohio State 49, No. 2 Clemson 28 (Final)
Who’s No. 11? Certainly not Ohio State.
QB Justin Fields completed 22 of 28 passes for 385 yards and six touchdowns — his last one a 45-yard bomb to Jameson Williams early in the fourth quarter gave Ohio State a 49-21 lead — as the Buckeyes exacted their revenge against Clemson after last year’s loss to the Tigers in the CFP semifinals.
(Clemson coach Dabo Swinney may regret voting Ohio State 11th in his coaches’ poll ballot.)
The Tigers tried to mount a late charge as QB Trevor Lawrence hit WR Cornell Powell with a 26-yard TD pass — their second connection of the game — to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 49-28 with 10:42 remaining. But Lawrence (33-of-48 passing for 400 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) threw a late pick that ended any comeback hopes.
In the third, Fields threw a 56-yard scoring strike to Chris Olave as the Buckeyes rebuilt their three-touchdown lead. That was Fields’ fifth TD pass of the game, and the second to Olave.
On Clemson’s next drive, Lawrence fumbled in Ohio State territory. The Buckeyes recovered for their first takeaway of the game with 3:54 to play in the third.
After leading Ohio State down the field on its opening drive of the second half, Fields threw an interception off a deflected pass in the end zone to give Clemson some hope.
And the Tigers took advantage, marching down the field and scoring on a nine-play, 80-yard drive, culminating with a 10-yard TD pass from Lawrence to Powell.
Instead of a possible 42-14 Ohio State advantage, the lead was only 35-21.
But it didn’t matter. This was Ohio State’s night.
In the first half, Fields was rocked on a hit from Clemson LB James Skalski, who was ejected for targeting on the play. But the quarterback returned after sitting out one play and threw two more touchdown passes to give Ohio State a 35-14 halftime lead.
Fields was 16-of-18 passing in the first half for 223 yards and four touchdowns.
It’s the second straight CFP game where Skalski has been ejected for targeting. He was tossed from last year’s national title game loss to LSU.
The Buckeyes were leading 21-14 when Skalski was ejected for the hit on Fields, who left the game for one play, then came back in and hit Olave with a 9-yard TD pass as Ohio State built a 28-14 advantage.
Then Fields hit Jeremy Ruckert for the tight end’s second touchdown grab of the game just 11 seconds before halftime to give the Buckeyes a 35-14 lead.
Fields’ first two TD passes were also to tight ends — the second one a 17-yarder to Ruckert gave Ohio State its first lead of the game, 21-14.
Fields hit TE Luke Farrell for an 8-yard TD as the Buckeyes tied the score at 14-14 late in the opening quarter. Fields completed all four of his first-quarter passes for 100 yards.
Travis Etienne capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run as Clemson took a 14-7 lead with 5:01 to play in the opening quarter.
Trailing 7-0, Ohio State tied the score on its second drive, capped off by a Trey Sermon 32-yard TD run.
During the drive, Sermon almost pulled a Najee Harris.
Lawrence capped an eight-play, 82-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run on the game’s first possession.
No. 1 Alabama 31, No. 4 Notre Dame 14 (Final)
The Heisman Trophy finalists put on a show.
QB Mac Jones completed 26 of 31 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns — three to WR DeVonta Smith — as the Tide (12-0) took care of business to advance to the College Football Playoff title game.
Smith, who is a Heisman finalist along with Jones, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and Florida QB Kyle Trask, caught seven passes for 130 yards and three scores. The trophy will be awarded Tuesday.
Trailing 21-7 at the half, Notre Dame (10-2) forced an Alabama punt on the first possession of the second half. But Irish QB Ian Book threw an interception on the ensuing drive to give the ball back to the Tide, who took advantage of the miscue with a touchdown. A fourth-quarter field goal increased the lead to 31-7 before Book scored on a TD run in the final minute for the final margin.
After holding Notre Dame on the game’s first possession, Jones connected with Smith for a 26-yard TD to give the Tide a 7-0 lead.
Alabama went 97 yards on five plays on its next drive — which featured an amazing Najee Harris run — and scored on a 12-yard pass from Jones to Jahleel Billingsley.
Trailing 14-0, the Irish marched 75 yards in 15 plays in a drive that lasted more than 8 minutes — capped by a 1-yard TD run by Kyren Williams on fourth down — to pull within a touchdown of the Tide. But the second Jones-to-Smith connection made it 21-7 at the half.
No. 9 Georgia 24, No. 8 Cincinnati 21 (Final)
Jack Podlesny hit a 53-yard field goal with seconds left — his third FG of the game — to give Georgia (8-2) the victory and deny Cincinnati (9-1) an undefeated season.
Georgia got a safety on the game’s final play for the final margin.
Jerome Ford exploded for a 79-yard TD run early in the second half as Cincinnati opened up a 21-10 lead, but Georgia rallied with a Zamir White TD run and Podlesny FG to cut the lead to 21-19.
Desmond Ridder has two first-half TD passes — the second one in the final seconds of the first half — as Cincinnati led 14-10 at the break.
No. 14 Northwestern 35, Auburn 19 (Final)
Peyton Ramsey had three TD passes and a scoring run as the Wildcats pulled away in the second half.