Alabama showed off all its weapons in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Saturday.
Now the Crimson Tide can expect a return trip to Atlanta for the College Football Playoff.
Alabama, the nation’s No. 1 team, scored off a blocked punt and an interception return before wearing down No. 15 Florida in the second half with a dominant running game. The outcome was a 54-16 rout that positioned the Crimson Tide to go for their second straight national championship and their fifth title in eight seasons under Coach Nick Saban.
Up next is a likely semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 31.
The Crimson Tide (13-0, 8-0 SEC) raced to a 16-9 lead in the first quarter, despite being held to minus-7 yards and no first downs. They scored one touchdown off a blocked punt and another off an interception return. A field goal was set up by another interception, one of three thrown by Florida quarterback Austin Appleby in the first half.
The Tide led, 33-16, at the break — the most points ever scored in the first half of an SEC title game — and claimed the victory with scoring drives of 98 and 91 yards, sparked by a goal-line stand that finished off the last gasp by the Gators (8-4, 6-2).
A 24-point underdog, Florida had a few shining moments against the nation’s only unbeaten Power 5 team. The Gators marched the length of the field on the opening possession, the first touchdown given up by Alabama in more than 17 quarters. Florida had another long scoring drive near the end of the first half.
After Alabama went three-and-out to start the second half, Florida drove to the Crimson Tide 1-yard line. Jordan Scarlett tried to leap over the goal line on a third-and-goal, but he never got off the ground — Rashaan Evans beat his blocker and dropped Scarlett for a 1-yard loss. Appleby threw incomplete in the back of the end zone on fourth down, giving the ball back to Alabama.
Damien Harris broke off a 23-yard run, Jalen Hurts completed a 31-yard pass to ArDarius Stewart on third-and-19, and Bo Scarbrough had a 34-yard run and finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown.
Alabama went nearly as far on its next possession, driving from its own 9 for another touchdown that sent most of the Florida fans heading for the exits early in the fourth quarter. Scarbrough carried it six times, including a 1-yard scoring plunge.
After pulling their starters, the Tide scored a final touchdown to notch the second-highest point total against the Gators, topped only by Nebraska’s 62-24 victory for the national title in the January 1996 Fiesta Bowl.
OKLAHOMA 38, OKLAHOMA ST. 20 Baker Mayfield passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns at home, and No. 7 Oklahoma (10-2, 9-0) defeated No. 11 Oklahoma State (9-3, 7-2) in a matchup that decided the Big 12 champion and most likely guaranteed the Sooners a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy candidate, performed well, despite finishing the game without his top receiver, Dede Westbrook, who is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Westbrook caught four passes for 111 yards before being knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms after a hard hit by Cowboys safety Jordan Sterns.
Oklahoma’s response to Westbrook’s injury was similar to way the Sooners have bounced back throughout a season plagued by injuries.
“I’m just incredibly pleased with our team, their resilience through the season and in this game,” said Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops, who won his 10th conference title in 17 years.
Samaje Perine ran for 239 yards on a career-high 37 carries, and Joe Mixon caught a touchdown pass and had a 79-yard touchdown run for the Sooners.
Mason Rudolph completed 11 of 25 passes for 186 yards for Oklahoma State.
TEMPLE 34, NAVY 10 Phillip Walker threw two touchdown passes, Temple’s defense stuffed Navy’s running game, and the Owls (10-3, 7-1) claimed their first American Athletic Conference title by crushing the No. 20 Midshipmen (9-3, 7-1) in Annapolis, Md.
After Temple scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, protecting its 21-0 lead became easier when Navy lost quarterback Will Worth to a second-quarter ankle injury.
The Midshipmen’s coach, Ken Niumatalolo, said Worth is done for the season, along with running backs Toneo Gulley and Darryl Bonner, both of whom left with first-half injuries.
Although the defeat took Navy out of the running for the Cotton Bowl, the Midshipmen are expected to play in the Armed Forces Bowl after their game against Army next Saturday.
The Owls extended their winning streak to seven games and earned their first league title since finishing atop the Middle American Conference in 1967.
“It showed we have a really good team that is capable of doing a lot of good things,” said Walker, who finished 16 of 25 for 199 yards.
Temple lost to Houston in last year’s A.A.C. championship game. This time, the Owls dominated from the outset.
Not only did Temple open with touchdown drives of 75, 59 and 70 yards, but its defense derailed a Navy attack that was averaging 61 points in its previous three games.
“They just played better,” Niumatalolo said. “It wasn’t a magic wand. They just hit us in the mouth, and we hadn’t been hit in the mouth for a long time. Normally, we hit other people in the mouth.”
The Midshipmen had scored on 34 of 38 drives — including 33 touchdowns — before being denied on their first three possessions by the Owls. Worth was injured at the end of the third drive and did not return.
That spelled doom for an offense that produced more than 500 yards in each of its past three games. Navy finished with 306 yards, 168 on the ground.
The backup quarterback Zach Abey went 7 for 13 for 104 yards, with two interceptions.
The loss ended the Midshipmen’s 15-game home winning streak.
Middle linebacker Jarred Alwan led the Owls’ defense with 13 tackles, and defensive back Sean Chandler contributed eight tackles and forced a fumble.
Temple took the suspense out of the game with an early show of offensive firepower. After Walker completed a 13-yard pass to Keith Kirkwood on a fourth-and-7 from Navy’s 28-yard line, Jahad Thomas ran for a 15-yard score.
A 22-yard touchdown pass to Ventell Bryant made it 14-0, and Walker followed a Navy turnover with a perfectly thrown pass that Kirkwood caught in stride for a 56-yard touchdown.
W. KENTUCKY 58, LA. TECH 44 Anthony Wales rushed for 209 yards and four touchdowns, Mike White threw for 421 yards and three more scores, and Western Kentucky (10-3, 7-1) defeated Louisiana Tech (8-5, 6-2) in the Conference U.S.A. championship game in Bowling Green, Ky. Louisiana Tech won the regular-season matchup, 55-52, on Oct. 6.
WEST VIRGINIA 24, BAYLOR 21 Skyler Howard threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and No. 14 West Virginia (10-2, 7-2) outlasted visiting Baylor (6-6, 3-6) in their Big 12 regular-season finale.
Justin Crawford rushed for 209 yards to help the Mountaineers to their first 10-win regular season since 2007.
HERMAN’S CONTRACT APPROVED University of Texas regents approved a five-year contract worth at least $25 million for the Longhorns’ new football coach, Tom Herman.
The contract calls for an annual salary of $5.25 million during the first year and up to $6.25 million in the final year.
Herman was hired away from Houston to replace Charlie Strong, who was fired after three straight losing seasons.
Herman spent the past two seasons with the Cougars, with whom he went 22-4.
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