‘Bama, Buckeyes in title game
Tide rolls Irish, 31-14; Fields shines as OSU slams Tigers
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A truly untraditional Rose Bowl setting, a very common result for Alabama in the College Football Playoff.
With Heisman Trophy finalists DeVonta Smith and Mac Jones, the top-ranked Crimson Tide rolled into its fifth CFP championship game in six seasons.
Smith caught three of Jones’ four touchdown passes and Najee Harris ran for 125 yards with a high-hurdling highlight in a 31-14 victory over No. 4 Notre Dame in a CFP semifinal Rose Bowl played inside about 1,400 miles from Pasadena, California.
“I don’t think there’s anything quite like the Rose Bowl, the tradition, the setting, the mountains. It’s just a phenomenal experience … wish our players had gotten that opportunity,” coach Nick Saban said.
But Saban and the Tide (12-0, No. 1 CFP) will take yet another win in the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, which the coach called one of college football’s finest venues, and advancing again in the playoff.
The Tide earned a spot in the Jan. 11 championship game in suburban Miami, against Ohio State.
Alabama missed the CFP last year for the only time since the four-time playoff debuted at the end of the 2014 season.
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 scored TDs on its first three possessions, 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.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised every time he does it. I’ve seen it for three years, but still, ‘Geez!,” tight end Miller Forristall said.
Jones, who completed 25 of 30 passes for 297 yards, threw a 12-yard TD to tight end Jahleel Billingsley on the next play.
CFP officials moved the Rose Bowl because of COVID-19 restrictions in California that would have kept family — or any fans — from attending the game at its normal home. There was a limited capacity crowd of 18,373 at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
In the Sugar Bowl, 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 other semifinal.
The Buckeyes (7-0) head to the CFP title game for the first time since the inaugural playoff. 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.
Thursday, Dec. 31
Armed Forces Bowl
Fort Worth, Texas
Mississippi St., 28, No. 22 Tulsa 26
No. 19 San Jose St. 13, Ball State. 34
West Virginia 24 Army 21
TCU vs. Arkansas, canceled
Friday, Jan. 1
No. 11 Georgia 24, No. 6 Cincinnati 21
No. 15 Northwestern 35, Auburn 19
College Football Playoff Semifinal Game 1
No. 1 Alabama 31, No. 4 Notre Dame 14
No. 3 Ohio St. 49, No. 2 Clemson 28
Saturday, Jan 2
No. 24 NC State vs. Kentucky, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
No. 7 Indiana vs. Mississippi, 11:30 a.m. (ABC)
No. 12 Iowa State vs. No. 25 Oregon, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Miami Gardens, Fla.
No. 5 Texas A&M vs. No. 14 North Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN)