No.1 Alabama (13-0, 8-0) had one more stop before the College Football Playoff, and that was Atlanta to take on No.15 Florida (8-4, 6-2) for the SEC Championship. Solid defense kept it close early for the Gators, but a lack of a running game and 3 interceptions by Austin Appleby sealed Florida’s fate. Alabama has the best defense in the nation and it showed. The Crimson Tide held the Gators to zero yards rushing on 30 attempts making it hard for Florida to get anything done offensively. The Tide did what they usually do, rushing for 234 on 38 carries. Bo Scarbrough led the Tide with 91 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns, Joshua Jacobs and Derrick Gore each chipped in a touchdown run. Jalen Hurts, managed the game well for Nick Saban and the Tide, completing 11 of his 2 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown and not turnovers. The strength of Alabama, year after year, is the defense. Down 7-3 Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick stepped in front of an Appleby pass and returned the interception 44 yards for the score. From that point on it was all Alabama who now turns its attention to No.4 Washington in the Peach Bowl Dec 31st.
No.3 Clemson (12-1, 7-1) found itself in a battle with No.23 Virginia Tech (9-4, 6-2) but came out victorious 42-35. Clemson, jumped out early going up 14-7 in the first quarter after Deshaun Watson found Jordan Leggett for the 21-yard score, and seemed to have control of the game. Instead, the Hokies battled hard to make it 21-7 going into halftime on a 11 yard Jerod Evan run to end the half. The Tigers came out firing in the 3rd quarter as both Watson and Wayne Gallman had touchdown runs early in the period giving the Tigers a 35-14 lead. Virginia Tech was able to stick around thanks to their opportunistic defense coming up with an interception on a tipped ball that fell into the arms of Virginia Tech linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka, giving the Hokie new life and momentum. The Hokies scored at the end of the 3rd on a Travon McMillian 27 yard run making it 21-35. Watson found Hunter Renfrow late in the 4th on a 15 yard passing touchdown putting the Tigers up 42-28. The Hokies pulled within 7 as Evans and Cam Phillips stunned the Clemson faithful on a 26 yard touchdown strike making it 35-42. Being an early favorite, Clemson found itself fighting until the last Virginia Tech drive of the game which could’ve sent it to overtime. Watson finished with 23 completions, 288 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Clemson will take on Ohio State (11-1, 8-1) in the Fiesta Bowl Dec.31st.
No.4 Washington (12-1, 8-1) handles business and earn themselves a spot in the College Football Playoff defeating No.8 Colorado (10-3, 8-1) 41-10. Colorado knew it would need all its pieces at full strength if they wanted to take down the Huskies, but couldn’t get in rhythm after quarterback Sefo Liufau went down on their first drive. The Buffaloes kept it close only down 14-7 at half. Liufau returned in the 2nd half only to throw 3 interceptions, one returned by Washington’s Taylor Rapp 35 yards for the touchdown. Huskies Jake Browning didn’t turn in his best performance only throwing 118 yards, but he had 2 touchdown passes and zero turnovers. Washington didn’t have to pass the ball much, as their running game and defense carried the team to victory. Myles Gaskins and Lavon Coleman both rushed for over 100 yards, ending with 159 and 101 yards respectively.
Big Ten Championship
No.6 Penn State (11-2, 8-1) shocked many college football fans by making it to the Big Ten Championship where they came back to defeat a tough No.7 Wisconsin (10-3, 7-2) team 38-31. With both teams holding outside chances of making the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten title game was the most intriguing of them all. Wisconsin pounced on Penn State out of the gate going up 14-0 after Corey Clement raced 67-yards for a touchdown 2 plays after forcing the Nittany Lions to punt. Penn State answered right back when quarterback Trace McSorley found Mike Gesicki for a 33-yard touchdown strike. After forcing a 3 and out, Penn State looked to tie the game at 14 but instead gave up a fumble recovery for a touchdown to Ryan Connelly putting the Badgers up 21-7. Right before the half Saeed Blacknall pulled in a 40-yard bomb from McSorley for the touchdown making it 28-14 at halftime. The second half was all Nittany Lions as Wisconsin could only manage three points the rest of the way. McSorley and Blacknall hooked up again for another long scoring strike, this time going for 70-yards. Saquon Barkley’s 1 yard run in the middle of the 3rd quarter made it 28-28. Barkley and McSorley, ultimately sealed the deal on an 18-yard touchdown pass in the beginning of the 4th quarter. A 24-yard field goal by Penn State at the end would give us our final score of 38-31
No.13 Western Michigan (13-0, 8-0) capped its perfect season holding on to defeat Ohio University (8-5, 6-2) 29-23 in the Mid-American Conference title game. Western Michigan jumped out early on the Bobcats, leading at halftime 23-7 behind the efforts of quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis. Ohio could’ve packed it in, but instead scratched and clawed turning this title match into a game. Bobcat quarterback Greg Windham did what he could to keep it close throwing for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the Broncos were too much in the end. Terrell ended the game throwing for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns. Being a senior, Davis’ last MAC game he went out with 144 yards and 1 touchdown on 8 receptions. Head coach P.J. Fleck, and the Broncos became the first team since Marshall in 1999 to go undefeated and win the MAC title. The Broncos’ incredible season is not over yet as we will see them play in the Cotton Bowl vs. No.7 Wisconsin Jan.2nd.
No.19 Navy (9-3, 7-1) saw their hopes of a Cotton Bowl go up in flames as they fell to Temple (10-3, 7-1) 34-10. Navy started out slow and never got it going after trailing 14-0 after one-quarter. For a team that averaged over 325 rushing yards per game, Navy couldn’t move the ball like they wanted to ending the game with 168 yards. That’s a credit to Temple linebacker Jarred Alwan (13 tackles 0.5 sacks) and the rest of the defense coming in prepared for the 3rd best rushing attack in the nation. The Owls were able to defeat Navy through the air and on the ground. Owl quarterback Phillip Walker had himself a solid game completing 16 passes for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns. Temple used a combination of Ryquell Armstead and Jahad Thomas; both had ten or more carries for the Owls and a touchdown helping seal a Temple victory. Temple will take on Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27.