Alabama reclaims national title with epic OT comeback

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Alabama reclaims national title with epic OT comeback

ATLANTA -- To add another championship to the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen, Alabama turned to its quarterback of the future, and Tua Tagovailoa proved that his time is now.

The freshman quarterback, who had played mostly mop-up duty this season, came off the bench to spark a comeback and threw a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith that gave No. 4 Alabama a 26-23 overtime victory against No. 3 Georgia on Monday night for the College Football Playoff national championship.

Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.

"He just stepped in and did his thing," Hurts said. "He's built for stuff like this. I'm so happy for him." The Tide might have a quarterback controversy ahead of them, but first Alabama will celebrate another national title.

For the third straight season, Alabama played in a classic CFP final. The Tide split two with Clemson, losing last season on touchdown with a second left.

What was Saban thinking as the winning pass soared?

"I could not believe it," he said. "There's lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, `Don't waste the feeling.' They sure didn't, the way they played tonight."

Smith streaked into the end zone and moments later confetti rained and even Saban seemed almost giddy after watching maybe the most improbably victory of his unmatched career.

After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won it for the Tide (13-1) in the final seconds of regulation, Georgia (13-2) took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime.

Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama's first play of overtime, losing 16 yards. On the next play he found Smith, another freshman, and hit him in stride for the national championship.

This game will be remembered for Saban's decision to change quarterbacks trailing 13-0.

"I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did," Saban said. "He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I'm so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable."

Saban now has six major poll national championships, including one at LSU, matching the record set by the man who led Alabama's last dynasty, coach Paul Bear Bryant.

This one was nothing like the others.

The all-Southeastern Conference matchup was all Georgia in the first half before Saban pulled Hurts and went with the five-star recruit from Hawaii.

The Tide trailed 20-7 in the third quarter after Georgia's freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard touchdown pass that had the Georgia fans feeling good about ending a national title drought that dates back to 1980.

A little less than a year after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, there was more pain for many of the local fans. Two years ago, Georgia brought in Saban's top lieutenant, Kirby Smart, to coach the Bulldogs and bring to his alma mater a dose of Alabama's Process.

Smart, who spent 11 seasons with Saban, eight as his defensive coordinator, quickly built Alabama East. It was Georgia that won the SEC this season. Alabama had to slip into the playoff without even winning its own division.

With the title game being held 70 miles from Georgia's campus in Athens, Dawg fans packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it turned out to be sweet home for Alabama.

But not without angst.

Alabama drove into the red zone in the final minute and Saban started playing for a field goal that would end the game and win it for the Tide. A nervous quiet gripped the crowd of 77,430 as `Bama burned the clock. With the ball centered in the middle of the field, Pappanastos lined up for a kick to win the national championship. The snap and hold looked fine, but the kicked missed badly to the left.

For the second straight week, Georgia was going to overtime. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in a wild Rose Bowl in double overtime to get here, and after Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa for a big loss on the first play, Alabama was in trouble -- second-and-26.

Not for long. Tagovailoa looked off the safety threw the biggest touchdown pass in the history of Alabama football.

SEC foes set for heated championship game

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SEC foes set for heated championship game

Updated 12:30 p.m.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Sony Michel burst through the line for a 27-yard touchdown run to give No. 3 Georgia a 54-48 victory Monday night against No. 2 Oklahoma, winning the first overtime Rose Bowl and sending the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff championship game.

Michel, who had a fumble in the fourth quarter returned for a go-ahead Oklahoma touchdown, ran for 181 yards and three scores for the Bulldogs (13-1), but none bigger than the last one in the second overtime.

"I made plays. I gave up plays. My team just had faith in me," said Michel, who did all that damage on just 11 carries. "That's what this team is all about. They showed true character today."

In the final game of one of his great career, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a touchdown pass that gave the Sooners a 17-point lead with 6 seconds left in the first half.

But the Heisman Trophy winner could not get the Sooners into the end zone in the first overtime when a touchdown would have ended the game (see full story).

Alabama routs Clemson in title rematch
NEW ORLEANS -- A pair of Alabama defensive players scored touchdowns 13 seconds apart in the third quarter, and the No. 4 Crimson Tide dominated top-ranked Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl semifinal game Monday night to give coach Nick Saban another shot at his record sixth national title.

The third straight playoff meeting between the college football powerhouses was a dud compared to their previous two meetings, both high-scoring classics with the national championship on the line.

Without Deshaun Watson, Clemson (12-2) simply has no answer for Saban's latest group of defensive standouts, sending Alabama (12-1) to an all-Southeastern Conference showdown against Georgia next Monday night in Atlanta.

Da'Ron Payne, a 308-pound defensive lineman, hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass to put the Tide ahead 17-6. On Clemson's next play, Kelly Bryant's pass deflected off the hands of his receiver and was picked off by Mack Wilson, who returned it 18 yards for a clinching touchdown.

Penn State moves up slightly to No. 9 in College Football Playoff rankings

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Penn State moves up slightly to No. 9 in College Football Playoff rankings

Not even style points could provide Penn State with the boost it needed to get into the College Football Playoff.

After a 66-3 drubbing of Maryland last Saturday to close out its regular season, the Nittany Lions moved up one spot to No. 9 in the latest CFP rankings.

PSU (10-2) still sits directly behind Ohio State, which will take on No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night.

Clemson is No. 1, followed by Auburn, Oklahoma and Wisconsin in the last College Football Playoff rankings before the semifinals are set by the selection committee on Sunday.

Alabama fell from No. 1 to fifth in the new rankings Tuesday night after losing to Auburn, and Georgia was sixth. Miami slipped after taking its first loss of the season last week from No. 2 to seventh, just ahead of Ohio State at eighth.

Each of the top four teams plays a conference title game this Saturday against another top-10 team, creating potential play-in playoff games. Clemson faces Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship; Auburn and Georgia play for the Southeastern Conference title; Wisconsin faces Ohio State for the Big Ten title; and Oklahoma faces No. 10 TCU for the Big 12 title.

If the top four win out, the semifinals likely would fall into place: Clemson would face Wisconsin in the Sugar Bowl semifinal on New Year's Day by virtue of giving the top seed a regional advantage, and Auburn and Oklahoma would play in the Rose Bowl semifinal.

It is likely Miami would jump into the top four by beating No. 1 Clemson and winning the ACC and same goes for Georgia if it can win a rematch against Auburn. The intrigue would start if Oklahoma and/or Wisconsin lose.

The selection committee could be faced with an Alabama (11-1) or Ohio State (10-2) choice. The Crimson Tide's resume is no wins against teams currently in the top 15, but the Buckeyes have two losses by double digits, including a 31-point blowout at Iowa.