Conference championship week supplies the fewest number of games, but all of epic proportions. The College Football Playoff committee has made its deliberation. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State have been chosen as the four programs to represent the NCAA in an inaugural playoff. The Big 12’s lack of a conference title game left Baylor and TCU both out to dry. Bowl games are in place and the Heisman finalists have been selected. It’s time to relive conference championship week in college football.
Southeastern Conference Championship Game
#1 Alabama vs. #16 Missouri
Summary: Head coach Nick Saban and Alabama return as Southeastern Conference Champions. Senior quarterback Blake Sims had his arm, legs and daughter all going for him last week. He completed 85.2 percent of his passes, setting a new SEC title game record. Sims threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama didn’t see much from T.J. Yeldon (ankle/foot), but he did total two touchdowns. Sophomore Derrick Henry owned Missouri in the second half. He finished with 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Amari Cooper broke records last week, but he also created opportunities for DeAndrew White and Christion Jones. White had four catches for 101 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Jones registered three catches for 40 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter. Cooper’s 12 receptions set a new SEC title game record, breaking Florida’s Reidel Anthony’s mark in 1996 (11). He finished with 12 catches for 83 yards.
Missouri’s defensive lineman Shane Ray was ejected for targeting Sims in the first quarter, but it didn’t stop Maty Mauk from taking shots at Alabama’s secondary. Missouri couldn’t run the ball, yet Mauk found ways to generate yards. 272 of Missouri’s 313 yards resulted from Mauk’s athletic ability to extend plays and release passes quickly. The Crimson Tide’s defense line pressured him a lot, but Mauk was able to fling passes in the air and trusts his receivers to make plays. Jimmie Hunt was on the receiving end on many of Mauk’s prayers. Hunt brought in six passes for 169 yards. Missouri made the contest interesting in the fourth quarter (trailing Alabama 21-13), but a heads up play from Alabama’s defensive back Landon Collins finished the job. He forced and recovered a fumble late in the contest. The Crimson Tide achieved its 24th conference title. Nick Saban has won five conference titles, tying him with Steve Spurrier for most all-time. Alabama is the No.1 overall seed in the College Football Playoff. It drew Ohio State and will face the Buckeyes in a semifinal round.
ACC Championship Game
#4 Florida State vs. #11 Georgia Tech
Summary: Head coach Jimbo Fisher, quarterback Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles escape again. Florida State is the lone undefeated team in college football, winning 27 straight games. Winston had four interceptions against Florida, but he displayed a Heisman-like performance last week. He completed 70 percent of his passes (21/30) for 309 yards and three touchdowns. Dalvin Cook pounded Georgia Tech for 177 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary both benefitted from Winston’s big game. Greene led Florida State’s receiving corps with seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. O’Leary weighed in with three receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia’s Tech quarterback Justin Thomas executed the triple-option offense well. He had 238 total yards (134 passing, 104 rushing), one touchdown and an interception to give him a great +4.1 grade according to ProFootballFocus.com. Synjyn Days gave Florida State’s defense all it could take plus more. Days totaled 67 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Darren Waller had five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Florida State’s defensive back Lamarcus Brutus made a critical play. He accounted for the interception off Thomas that sealed the game. The Seminoles edged Georgia Tech in total yards 488-465. Florida State is ranked third in the College Football Playoff. It faces Oregon in a semifinal round.
Final Score: Florida State 37—Georgia Tech 35
Mountain West Championship Game
#22 Boise State vs. Fresno State
Summary: Boise State still runs the Mountain West, despite not having Chris Peterson. Head coach Bryan Harsin led the Broncos to a conference title game, and the players rewarded him with a victory. Boise State’s quarterback Grant Hedrick recorded 236 total yards (155 passing, 81 rushing) and two rushing touchdowns. Running back Jay Ajayi had 70 yards rushing and a score.
Quarterback Brian Burrell had a rough outing for Fresno State. He tossed for 332 yards, but threw three costly interceptions. Josh Quezada didn’t accumulate much on the ground, but he did score a touchdown. Josh Harper led all receivers with 10 catches for 131 yards. Greg Watson caught seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Tanner Vallejo, Beau Martin and Donte Deayon all collected one interception apiece for Boise State.
Final Score: Boise State 28—Fresno State 14
Big Ten Championship Game
#5 Ohio State vs. #13 Wisconsin
Summary: Ohio State is without quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, but Cardale Jones is a solid consolation prize. Jones was not afraid of a big stage despite being the third string quarterback. He completed 70.6 percent of his passes (12/17) for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliot dismantled Wisconsin’s run defense. He averaged 11.0 yards per carry, collecting 220 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Curtis Samuel chimed in with 23 rushing yards and two scores. Jones has developed chemistry with Devin Smith. Smith rewarded him with four receptions for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
Wisconsin’s lack of an aerial attack showed up last week, but this time Melvin Gordon couldn’t bail it out. Ohio State held Gordon to 76 yards rushing, netting 2.9 yards per carry. The Badgers had four turnovers, including three interceptions off the arm of quarterback Joel Stave. Ohio State’s Doran Grant had two interceptions and Vonn Bell tallied one take away. Doom was in the mix for the Big Ten Conference after week three of the season, but Ohio State has made it proud. The Buckeyes are the fourth seed in the College Football Playoff and will face Alabama in a semifinal round.
Final Score: Ohio State 59—Wisconsin 0
Pac-12 Championship Game
#2 Oregon vs. #7 Arizona
Summary: Oregon avenged its only loss of the season last week, defeating Arizona 51-13. Junior quarterback Marcus Mariota has secured a spot as the favorite going into Saturday’s Heisman Trophy presentation. He torched Arizona’s defense, totaling 346 yards (313 passing, 33 rushing) and five touchdowns (2 passing, 3 rushing). Royce Freeman anchored Oregon’s ground game. He had 114 rushing yards on 21 carries. Arizona’s secondary had no answers for Darren Carrington and Charles Nelson. Both receivers had seven catches apiece. Carrington collected 126 yards and a touchdown. Nelson registered 104 yards.
Oregon’s defense stifled Arizona’s passing game. Jesse Scroggings III, Anu Solomon and Jerrard Randall all were used, but Scroggins had the best game with 79 passing yards, one touchdown and an interception. The Wildcats totaled 111 rushing yards, including 81 yards and a touchdown from Randall. Cayleb Jones led Arizona’s receiving corps with two catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Oregon blanked Arizona 23-0 in the first half. The Ducks defense forced two Wildcats turnovers. Oregon is the 2014 Pac-12 champion and will face Florida State in the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff.
Final Score: Oregon 51—Arizona 13
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