No. 1 Alabama 45, No. 4 Oklahoma 34
Kyler Murray has the Heisman, but Tua Tagovailoa has the last laugh.
Tagovailoa's Alabama Crimson Tide outlasted a long-winded but insufficient comeback effort on the part of the Oklahoma Sooners, coming away with a 45-34 win in the Orange Bowl and securing a trip to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
"I think this is a testament to what this team has been doing the entire season," Tagovailoa said in a postgame interview on ESPN afterward.
He's not wrong. Alabama improved to 13-0, with the majority of those wins in convincing fashion. It looked as if this would be another one of those coasts to victory after one quarter. The Tide started the game with a flurry of points, scoring 21 in the first and making it 28-0 just 1:59 into the second quarter. Tagovailoa was effective and efficient, engineering an offense that cut through Oklahoma like a hot knife through butter. He finished with just three incompletions in a passing line of 24 of 27, 318 yards and four touchdowns, all of which accomplished on an ankle that had been surgically repaired less than a month ago.
Oklahoma wouldn't lay down entirely, though, answering with a 20-3 run in the remainder of the second quarter and the entire third. But that was as close as they would get, as the Sooners' much-criticized defense held true to form late, failing to secure a stop and give Murray a chance to cut deeper into the deficit.
Murray registered his fourth career 100-yard rushing game and paired it with a 308-yard passing night, but that came as a result of needing to dig the Sooners out of the massive hole they created for themselves in the first 17 minutes of action. Ultimately, it's what did them in, as they came within 11 points of the Tide but ran out of time.
The question now, of course, is what Murray (and his coach, Lincoln Riley) will decide to do in the coming weeks. He has a choice to declare for the NFL draft, or fulfill his commitment to MLB's Oakland Athletics, who drafted him ninth overall last summer and signed him to a $4.66 million contract. Riley, a potential NFL coaching candidate, told reporters before the game he will stay in college. But as we know, these things can be fluid.
Alabama, meanwhile, will meet a rather familiar foe with the title on the line. The Tide will face the Clemson Tigers, who routed Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl.
No. 2 Clemson 30, No. 3 Notre Dame 3
Notre Dame went 12-0 and had that perfect number promptly obliterated in one fell swoop Saturday night.
The Irish were on the wrong end of a 30-3 rout laid on them courtesy of Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers, who are headed for another meeting with Alabama.
Lawrence completed 27 of 39 passes, including a crucial touchdown completion with 0:04 left in the first half to go ahead 23-3, for 327 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Travis Etienne rushed 14 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. Clemson racked up 538 yards of offense on a lauded Notre Dame defense that ranked 22nd in the nation in yards allowed per game as the Tigers rolled the Irish in a contest that was essentially decided by halftime.
Irish quarterback Ian Book completed 17 of 34 passes for just 160 yards and one interception, Notre Dame was held to just 248 yards of offense, was shut out of the end zone and never found its footing. As a result, the Irish are going home feeling the sting of yet another loss in a BCS or New Year's Six bowl game. Notre Dame is 0-6 in such contests since 2000, losing by double digits in each of them.
The Tigers move on to face the Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Clemson is 1-2 against Alabama in CFP meetings since 2016, losing to the Tide 24-6 in their most recent meeting in the 2018 Sugar Bowl.