By the Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Brian Robinson Jr. ran after a career-high 204 yards and topped Alabama rolled into yet another national championship game by overpowering the first non-Power Five team to reach the College Football Playoffs.
Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young threw three touchdown passes while mostly avoiding Cincinnati’s standout cornerbacks, and Crimson Tide beat the Bearcats 27-6 in the CFP semifinals at the Cotton Bowl last Friday. It was the sixth semifinal victory in a row for Crimson Tide.
Alabama (13-1) has only missed the four-team playoffs once and will try to win its second national title in a row and fourth in the eight seasons of the CFP format with coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide will play No. 3 Georgia, the previously undefeated team Alabama battled for the SEC title, in the championship game on January 10 in Indianapolis.
Alabama clearly did what they could to minimize the impact of cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant, and largely succeeded with Robinson knocking to the ground and Young throwing a lot of short, safe passes – even though he found Ja’Core Brooks hit for a 44-yard catch-and-run TD on a game away from the excellent defenders to a 17-3 lead just before the break.
The Crimson Tide opened the game with 10 consecutive runs before putting three receivers against Gardner, who has not given up a TD in coverage in his college career. Young found the Slade Ball open in the left flat for an 8-yard TD pass that put Alabama ahead to stay.
With their own dynamic quarterback in Desmond Knight, the NFL prospect returning for an extra season for just that chance, the Bearcats (13-1) were the nation’s only undefeated team until they faced the playoff flag holder.
Knight was fired six times, and outside of a 9-yard run in the opening of the second half, Bama never got injured with his feet. He was 17 of 32 for 144 yards.
Young completed 17 of 28 passes for 181 yards in the playoffs, four weeks after setting a record in the SEC Championship with 421 yards passing in a win over Georgia and three weeks after becoming the first Crimson Tide QB to win the Heisman Trophy .
NONE. 3 GEORGIA 34, NO. 2 MICHIGAN 11
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – Stetson Bennett threw three touchdown passes, Nakobe Dean led an angry defense and Georgia returned to their dominant ways, beating Michigan in the Orange Bowl semifinals to advance to the College Football Playoff Championship.
Georgia (13-1) had a rematch with the Southeastern Conference nemesis Alabama (13-1) in the title fight on January 10 in Indianapolis. It was 27 days ago that Crimson Tide rolled through the Bulldogs and shattered their air of invincibility after a 12-0 regular season in which they were hardly challenged.
Georgia became the first team in CFP’s eight-year history to score on each of its first five ball possessions, leading 27-3 at the break.
Michigan (12-2) went into its first playoff appearance after a milestone season, after ending a long drought against rival Ohio State on its way to winning the Big Ten.
Wolverines finished with 88 yards rushing after averaging 223 per game. Cade McNamara was 11 for 19 for 106 yards.
NONE. 20 WAKE FOREST 38, RUTGERS 10
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Sam Hartman threw three touchdown passes, two to tight-end Brandon Chapman, and Wake Forest beat the Rutgers in the Gator Bowl to reach 11 wins for the second time in the program’s history.
Hartman completed 23 of 39 passes on 304 yards. He added another 21 yards rushing and pushed his touchdown total to 50 this season – 39 passes and 11 rushing. AT Perry caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a scoring.
Demon Deacons (11-3) controlled the game from the start, scoring on their first three drives and opening a double-digit lead just before the break. It played more or less as expected as Rutgers (5-8) was a late replacement for No. 23 in Texas A&M.
Aggies withdrew due to lack of available players due to injuries, opt-outs, transfers and COVID-19 issues. The NCAA gave Rutgers the first shot at filling the void because it had the highest academic progress score of all the eligible 5-7 teams.
Rutger’s coach Greg Schiano quickly gathered his players from the Christmas break and held two workouts in a heated bubble before heading south. They got two more into nearby Ponte Vedra Beach this week before taking the course.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 24, WASHINGTON STATE 21
EL PASO, Texas (AP) – Lew Nichols III ran in 130 yards and a touchdown, leading the late substitution Central Michigan past Washington State in the Sun Bowl.
The Chippewas (9-4) ended a five-game losing streak with their fifth win in a row this season. When Boise State opted out of the Arizona Bowl due to COVID-19 issues, central Michigan moved about 300 miles east of Tucson, Arizona.
Miami also skipped the Sun Bowl for COVID-19 reasons. Central Michigan stayed in Arizona before the bus to El Paso the day before the game.
It was the first bowl victory for the Chippewas since beating Western Kentucky in the 2012 Little Caesars Bowl.
Washington State (7-6) could never get going on offense in the first half, finishing with just 53 yards and trailing 21-0 at the break.