Championship Saturday

Championship Saturday and what a day it was. Four out of the top five teams in college football with the three Heisman hopefuls in full action–this was a football day to remember. There were games to determine who takes the crown in four power conferences, and each had a major impact on the playoff seedings.

5. Oklahoma (11-1) vs. 14. Texas (9-3)

The Big 12 final was between the conference’s two powerhouses, Texas and Oklahoma. In the first regular encounter between the bitter rivals, Texas defeated Oklahoma 48-45 giving the Sooners their only loss of the season and gave Kyler Murray, the dual-sport quarterback, only his second loss since the 9th grade. This time around, after the first quarter and a half, it looked like the Sooners might have their second loss, effectively ending their playoff hopes. The Longhorns were able to handle the best offense in football-through the Sooners first three drives, Texas held Oklahoma to only six points and ended their streak of first quarter touchdowns. But, as any playoff-bound team does, the Sooners turned it on. Murray found CeeDee Lamb on a 28-yard pass play to pull the game into a one point contest, 13-14. In the next drive, the Sooners drove 80 yards in 50 seconds to close out the first half. Murray and the Sooners scored on the first drive of the second half to cap off a 21-0 run and go up 27-14. However, the Longhorns had a lot of fight left in them. On their next two drives, quarterback Sam Ellinger found Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the endzone to tie the game up at 27. The Longhorns had a chance to take the lead, but Cameron Dicker had his extra point blocked and the game stayed locked at 27. On the next drive, in 13 plays, the Sooners drove 61 yards but were held to only a field goal, which left the door open for the Longhorns, only down three. Surprisingly, the Sooners questionable defense, giving up an average of 32.5 points per game,  came up clutch in the late stages. In the last three offensive drives for the Longhorns, the Sooners questionable defense held the powerful Longhorns offense to a punt, an interception, and a game-sealing safety to put the Longhorns up 32-27. This was the Sooners first safety in five years, which ultimately landed Oklahoma in the playoff as the number four seed. Murray had another Heisman-worthy performance, ending the 39-27 win with 379 yards and three touchdown passes, and more importantly a chance to shock the world and be crowned champions of college football.

1. Alabama (12-0) vs. 4. Georgia (11-1)

A chance to take home the SEC title in a rematch of the 2018 College Football championship, in the same stadium, with the same quarterbacks… this game had legendary written all over it, and boy did it live up to the hype. Heisman favorite Tua Tagovailoa, who has 36 TDs and only two interceptions in Alabama’s undefeated season, came into the game hoping to secure his spot as the next trophy winner and lock down the number one seed in the college football playoff. No one could have predicted the beginning of this game. The Bulldog defense came after Tua, forcing two picks and after taking relentless hits in the backfield, causing him to spend more time in the medical tent than he did on the field. On the first drive of the game, Tua was sacked by lineman D’Andre Walker, and appeared to injure his left ankle. On the next play, Tua was intercepted by Richard LeCounte for only the third time all year, and then jogged gingerly off the field leaving the Crimson fans with cause for concern. On the other side of the field, Jake Fromm was dominating. On the first scoring drive, Jake Fromm went 4 of 5 for 58 yards and a touchdown pass to Isaac Nauta to go up 7-0. With 10 minutes left to play, Tua, already suffering from a sore left ankle, was helped off the field after Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams stepped on his quarterback’s ankle. Luckily, Alabama had a backup who wasn’t new to pressure situations. Jalen Hurts, a junior who was 26-2 as Alabama’s starter before being benched in the championship last year, was as ready as ever to take the field. Hurts came into the game flying. He capped off a 16 play, 80 yard drive by going 3 of 3, passing for 46 yards, ending with a ten yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy to tie the game up at 28. The Tide defense was able to hold the Bulldogs to a punt… or so they thought. Georgia coach Kirby Smart made a very questionable call to attempt a fake punt right around near field, and got stuffed. “Look, I wasn’t coming here to play to tie,” Smart said regarding the fake-punt decision. Unfortunately, his call didn’t exactly live up to his last name as Georgia  gave Hurts the ball at the 50 yard-line with three minutes remaining. Hurts ran in a 15-yard touchdown to win the game 35-28 and complete a 14 point comeback, the largest in any SEC championship game. So many times this year, Jalen Hurts was the first to congratulate Tua after a great play, but this time it was the reverse. “I’ve probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen,” Coach Nick Saban said. Hurts could have transferred or spent the season sulking. But instead he was the on his feet for every play of every game, and when his opportunity came, he made the most of it.

2. Clemson (12-0) vs. Pittsburgh (7-5)

The ACC championship went exactly as expected. Clemson, the two seed with a record of 12-0 routed Pitt 42-10 to win their fourth straight title. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence had a quiet, but effective night, going 12 of 24 for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Clemson running back Travis Etienne had a monsterous night rushing for 156 yards on 12 carries for two touchdowns. Etienne took a 75-yard rush to the house on the first play of the game, which set the tone for the rest of the night. Clemson defense also shined. They held Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett to an astounding 8 yards on only 4 completions. After a dominant performance, the Tigers locked down the number 2 seed in the playoff, hoping to reach the finals for the third time in four years.

6.Ohio State (11-1) vs. 21. Northwestern (8-4)

In the Big 10 championship, the Northwestern Wildcats put up a bit of a fight in the second half, but was overpowered by the Heisman-worthy performance of Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Haskins ended the night 34 of 41 for 499 yards and five touchdowns. Buckeyes  needed a convincing win to make a case for the playoff. They did beat the Wildcats 45-24, but according to the College Football Committee, that was not do enough. They were left out of the playoffs after Oklahoma secured the fourth seed. While Ohio State did not do enough, Haskins really made a case for his Heisman campaign. Ohio State might not have the College Football Committee on their side, but Haskins has the support of the King–after Lebron James tweeted, “Haskins for Heisman” after his incredible performance.

Championship Saturday was wild and has everyone pumped up for all bowl games and the playoff. Number one seed Alabama will play number four seed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and on the other side of the bracket, number 2 seed Clemson will battle 3 seeded Notre Dame. The regular season is over but the real excitement just begun.


Created by Jason Mazer

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Jason Mazer is a sophomore at Millburn High School. He is a frequent sports commentator on our live streams, and he also shares his podcast, "Sports Talk" with Emory Kaplan.