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Alabama punches College Football Playoff ticket by stunning top-ranked Georgia

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young looks to pass during the Crimson Tide's win over Georgia.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young looks to pass during the Crimson Tide’s win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

ATLANTA — Bryce Young stunningly carved up the nation’s top-rated defense, giving Nick Saban and Alabama a shot at another national championship.

Young threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the third-ranked Crimson Tide rolled over No. 1 Georgia 41-24 in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday, a result that likely sends both powerhouse programs to the four-team College Football Playoff.

Young set SEC championship records with 421 yards passing and 461 yards total offense.

Georgia (12-1) cruised through the regular season, barely challenged and a unanimous choice as the nation’s No. 1 team for the past two months. The Bulldogs boasted a fearsome defensive unit that had allowed only 6.9 points a game.

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Knowing new coach Lincoln Riley will be watching could add intrigue to a game between two losing teams otherwise devoid of buzz.

Young was the title game MVP and made Georgia’s vaunted defense look like a scout team, surely bolstering his Heisman Trophy chances as well as moving on to an even bigger game on the final day of 2021.

The playoff field will be announced Sunday, with the semifinals set for the Orange and Cotton bowls on Dec. 31.

Alabama (12-1) had six offensive scoring drives — five covering at least 75 yards, the other 62 — and finished with a staggering 536 yards against a team that was giving up just under 231 per game.

The Tide’s defense wasn’t too shabby, either, essentially sealing the victory with Jordan Battle’s 42-yard interception return to the end zone with about 12 minutes remaining.

Georgia’s Stetson Bennett threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had two crucial picks. Freshman Brock Bowers made 10 catches for 139 yards.

This one, however, will be remembered for Alabama’s dismantling of the Georgia defense, which had not allowed more than 17 points in a game during the perfect regular season.

Georgia (12-1) cruised through the regular season, barely challenged and a unanimous choice as the nation’s No. 1 team for the past two months. The Bulldogs boasted a fearsome defensive unit that had allowed only 6.9 points a game.

Young made them look like a scout team, surely bolstering his Heisman Trophy chances as well as moving on to an even bigger game on the final day of 2021.

The playoff field will be announced Sunday, with the semifinals set for the Orange and Cotton bowls on Dec. 31.

Alabama (12-1) had six offensive scoring drives — five covering at least 75 yards, the other 62 — and finished with a staggering 536 yards against a team that was giving up just under 231 per game.

No. 2 Michigan 42, No. 13 Iowa 3

INDIANAPOLIS — Hassan Haskins ran for two second-half touchdowns and broke a school record while running back Donavan Edwards threw a 75-yard TD pass to help Michigan capture its first Big Ten title in 17 years and a probable playoff berth.

Resurgent Michigan (12-1) has won five straight and if it reaches the playoff, as expected, would need one more win to return to Indianapolis to play for its first national championship since 1997.

It’s been an improbable run since coach Jim Harbaugh took a pay cut following a dismal 2020. The Wolverines started this season unranked and picked to finish in the middle of the Big Ten East, whose champion has won the last nine conference crowns. And it came on an emotional night when Michigan paid tribute to the victims from Tuesday’s school shooting, which resulted in the deaths of four students at Oxford (Michigan) High School.

They handed the Hawkeyes (10-3) their second straight title game loss and prevented coach Kirk Ferentz from capturing his first conference crown since 2004. Iowa lost to Michigan State in the 2015 title game and this one came on a night both quarterbacks, Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla, struggled against the Wolverines.

No. 4 Cincinnati 35, No. 21 Houston 20

CINCINNATI — Jerome Ford rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns and Desmond Ridder threw three touchdown passes as Cincinnati broke open a close game in the third quarter and rolled to victory in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

The Bearcats, who are ranked No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, are in position to become the first non-Power 5 team to qualify.

Cincinnati (12-0) which extended the nation’s second-longest home winning streak to 27, scored three touchdowns in fewer than eight minutes to finish off its second straight AAC crown.

Cougars junior QB Clayton Tune passed for 250 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as Houston (11-2) lost for the first time since dropping its season-opener to Texas Tech on Sept. 4.

It was a wild first quarter on Saturday with the teams combining for 24 points and 316 yards.

No. 9 Baylor 21, No. 5 Oklahoma State 16

ARLINGTON, Texas — Dezmon Jackson came up inches short on a desperate, fourth-down dive with 24 seconds left and fifth-ranked Oklahoma State fell to ninth-ranked Baylor 21-16 in the Big 12 Conference championship game Saturday, knocking the Cowboys out of contention for a playoff spot.

Blake Shapen threw three touchdown passes while completing his first 17 attempts as Baylor (11-2) took a 21-3 lead.

The Cowboys (11-2) rallied with 13 straight points, then went 89 yards on 17 plays on their final drive. But their Big 12 and national championship hopes came up just short.

After having first-and-goal from the two-yard line following a pass interference penalty, Jackson gained a yard and was held for no gain before an incomplete pass by Spencer Sanders.

On fourth down from the one, Jackson tried to sweep wide left, but with Jairon McVea in pursuit, he landed short of the goal line while diving toward the pylon.

There would need to be some chaos, in form of an upset or two in other conference title games later in the day, for third-time Big 12 champion Baylor to have a chance to be in the final four for the first time when the CFP rankings come out Sunday.

Utah State 46, No. 19 San Diego State 13

Brandon Bowling caught two touchdown passes from Logan Bonner during the decisive third quarter, and Utah State won its first Mountain West Conference title at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.

Bonner passed for 318 yards and four TDs, while fellow Arkansas State transfer Bowling had eight catches for a career-high 154 yards. The Aggies (10-3) punctuated their inspiring turnaround under first-year coach Blake Anderson by blowing out the short-handed Aztecs (11-2) for their first win over an AP Top 25 opponent since 2015.

Utah State earned a berth in the inaugural L.A. Bowl on Dec. 18 at SoFi Stadium, the Rams’ multibillion-dollar arena located about 12 miles northwest of the site of this victory at San Diego State’s temporary home. The Aggies are likely to face Oregon State.

Jordon Brookshire passed for 117 yards before getting replaced by Jalen Mayden for San Diego State, which had its four-game winning streak snapped in the school’s most lopsided loss since a 35-point defeat at Ohio State in September 2013.

Utah State’s 46 points were the most allowed in Aztecs coach Brady Hoke’s two stints and four seasons at SDSU.

The Aztecs played without starting tight end Daniel Bellinger, two additional tight ends, receiver Tyrell Shavers and at roughly a dozen other backups due to what the school termed “a medical concern.” San Diego State has declined to explicitly confirm any COVID-19 issues this season, but the current problems prevented the Aztecs from holding a full practice all week.

No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette 24, Appalachian State 16

LAFAYETTE, La. — Levi Lewis scored on a career-high 56-yard run and passed for another touchdown, and Louisiana-Lafayette capped off soon-to-be Florida coach Billy Napier’s time with the Ragin’ Cajuns by winning the Sun Belt Conference championship game.

Emani Baily rushed for 117 yards, highlighted by his 35-yard touchdown run on a third-and-9 play to give the Cajuns a two-touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter.

Lewis passed for 210 yards without a turnover and finished with 43 net yards rushing as Louisiana-Lafayette (12-1, 9-0 Sun Belt) lengthened its school-record winning streak to 12 games.

Cameron Peoples ran for a 43-yard touchdown in the first half for Appalachian State (10-3, 7-2), but the Mountaineers’ offense struggled to match its usual production while trying to play catch-up from its first possession.

Northern Illinois 41, Kent State 23

DETROIT — Quarterback Rocky Lombardi ran for three touchdowns and Jay Ducker ran for 146 yards on 29 carries to power Northern Illinois to the Mid-American Conference title in Detroit.

It is the Huskies’ (9-4) sixth MAC title in the last 11 years and first since 2018, when it beat Buffalo. Kent State (7-6) was vying for its first conference championship since 1972.


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