Tua Tagovailoa threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns and No. 1-ranked Alabama beat No. 4 Oklahoma 45-34 on Saturday night in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl.
The high-scoring Sooners reached the semifinal despite a porous defense that was no match for Alabama’s diverse attack, and the Crimson Tide led 28-0 after only 17 minutes.
Alabama (14-0) advanced to the national championship game for the fourth consecutive season and will play Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California against familiar foe Clemson, which beat Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl. Clemson, ranked No. 2, and Alabama will face off in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, and have split two title games.
Tagovailoa’s performance in the semifinal argued for a Florida recount in the Heisman Trophy vote. He finished as the runner-up to Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray but won sweet consolation by completing 24 of 27 passes, with scores to four receivers.
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While Tagovailoa connected on his first nine passes for 184 yards, Murray was sacked twice before he threw a pass, and his first completion came with his team already down 21-0.
Murray had one brilliant moment, a perfect deep throw on the move to Charleston Rambo in the end zone for a 49-yard score. He passed for 308 yards and ran for 109 but took several jarring hits, including when All-America nose guard Quinnen Williams dislodged his helmet and forced him from the game for one play in the fourth quarter.
The Sooners finished 12-2.
NO. 2 CLEMSON 30, NO. 3 NOTRE DAME 3
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Trevor Lawrence threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns and Clemson beat Notre Dame to reach the championship game for the third time in four seasons.
Clemson’s overpowering and experienced defensive line, led by ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, smothered Ian Book and the Fighting Irish, holding them to 248 yards to help the Tigers improve to 14-0.
On offense, freshmen led the way. Lawrence, making his 10th career start, was 27 for 39 and did not throw an interception against a Notre Dame defense that had been one of the best on the country. Freshman receiver Justyn Ross had six catches for 148 yards and two long touchdowns.
The Irish (12-1) hung around for a quarter, with the team’s exchanging field goals. But early in the second quarter, Notre Dame All-America cornerback Julian Love went out with what coach Brian Kelly said after the game was a head injury and Lawrence started taking apart the Irish secondary.
Lawrence hooked up with Ross on a deep throw down the sideline and the big receiver beat Love’s backup, Donte Vaughn, for a tackle-breaking, 52-yard score early in the second quarter. The Irish looked as if they might be able to keep it close to halftime, but the offense couldn’t keep that ferocious Clemson front, even without suspended star tackle Dexter Lawrence, out of the backfield.
In the final 2 minutes, Trevor Lawrence connected with Ross on a 42-yard score and with Tee Higgins for a one-handed, 19-yard touchdown reception — again over Vaughn — with 2 seconds left in the second quarter. Lawrence was 13 for 15 for 229 yards in the quarter.
That made it 23-3 at half and once again the Fighting Irish looked outclassed against the best of the best. Not so different from the 42-14 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS championship game or the 44-28 loss to Ohio State in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. In fact, Notre Dame is 0-8 in BCS and New Year’s Six games since winning the Cotton Bowl in 1993.
NO. 10 FLORIDA 41, NO. 8 MICHIGAN 15
ATLANTA (AP) — Lamical Perine had a 5-yard scoring catch and 53-yard touchdown run to lead Florida’s strong rushing attack Saturday, helping the Gators cap their comeback season with a blowout victory over Michigan in the Peach Bowl.
After finishing 4-7 in 2017, Florida enjoyed a dramatic turnaround in Dan Mullen’s first season as coach. Florida (10-3) closed the season with four straight victories. Michigan (10-3) closed a promising season with two straight lopsided losses.
Feleipe Franks ran and passed for touchdowns for Florida. He had a 20-yard scoring run in the second quarter and finished with 74 yards rushing on 14 carries. Franks passed for 173 yards.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson led Florida’s defense with two interceptions, including one returned 30 yards for a touchdown with less than five minutes remaining. Gardner-Johnson’s first interception early in the second half, when Florida led only 13-10, set the tone for the Gators.
The Wolverines faced the unenviable task of having four top starters, including top rusher Karan Higdon and leading tackler Devin Bush, skip the game to focus on the NFL draft.
After giving up 567 yards in a 62-39 loss to Ohio State to close the regular season, Michigan’s defense again couldn’t play up to its No. 1 ranking. Florida had 427 yards — 257 on the ground.
VIRGINIA 28, SOUTH CAROLINA 0
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bryce Perkins threw three touchdown passes to Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia’s defense dominated and the Cavaliers beat South Carolina in the Belk Bowl for their first bowl victory since 2005.
Perkins completed 22 of 31 passes for 208 yards and ran for 81 yards to help the Cavaliers (8-5) ended the ACC’s longest bowl drought. Zaccheaus had 12 catches for 100 yards. Jordan Ellis ran for 106 yards and a touchdown, helping Virginia hold the ball for more than 42 minutes.
The Gamecocks (7-6) were shut out for the first time since an 18-0 loss to Georgia in 2006.
NEVADA 16, ARKANSAS STATE 13, OT
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Reagan Roberson bulldozed through one tackler and dove into the end zone on an 11-yard catch-and-run in overtime, lifting Nevada over Arkansas State in the Arizona Bowl.
Nevada (8-5) labored against Arkansas State’s defensive front all game before coming to life late, going up 10-7 on Devonte Lee’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left.
Arkansas State (8-5) racked up 499 yards, but was 1 for 5 in the red zone with two turnovers before marching quickly down the field at the end of regulation. Blake Grupe, who had one field goal blocked and badly missed on another, drilled a 32-yarder to tie it on the final play.
Grupe opened overtime with a 24-yard field goal, but Roberson bulled his way into the end zone to send the Wolf Pack rushing onto the field.