No. 3 Alabama punched its ticket to the College Football Playoff in a 41-24 upset of No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship on Saturday, while Cincinnati rolled by Houston in the AAC title game to compete a perfect season.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young passed for 421 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Crimson Tide to victory against the nation’s No. 1 overall defense.
Young was the title game MVP and made Georgia’s vaunted defense look like a scout team, surely bolstering his Heisman Trophy chances as he finished 26-of-44 without an interception. He rushed three times for 40 yards and a touchdown.
The Crimson Tide had been a betting favorite in 93 straight games, but was for once an underdog in the SEC title matchup, and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said his team relished the challenge.
‘The rat poison that you put out there this week was yummy,’ Saban told the media after the game. ‘You guys gave us a lot of really positive rat poison.’
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young passed for 421 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Crimson Tide to victory against the nation’s No. 1 overall defense
Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31), and defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis (48) lift the SEC championship trophy after their win against the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday
Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Bryce Young #9 celebrate their win against the Georgia Bulldogs
Ryan Royer #35 of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates with fans after their 35-20 win over the Houston Cougars for the 2021 American Conference Championship at Nippert Stadium on Saturday
The result secures Alabama’s position in the four-team College Playoffs, giving Saban a shot at another national championship.
Georgia, which went undefeated in the regular season, will also likely be selected for the playoffs.
The playoff field will be announced Sunday, with the semifinals set for the Orange and Cotton bowls on December 31.
The No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats also likely secured their playoff berth with a 35-20 win against visiting No. 21 Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.
After besting Houston to go 13-0 this year, Cincinnati could now become the first school outside a Power Five conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC) to be selected for the playoff since its inception in 2014.
‘If it’s meant to be, it will be. I don’t think these guys can be denied,’ Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell told reporters.
After besting Houston to go 13-0 this year, Cincinnati could now become the first school outside a Power Five conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC) to be selected for the playoff since its inception in 2014
Jerome Ford #24 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs the ball for a touchdown during the second half of the 2021 American Conference Championship against the Houston Cougars at Nippert Stadium on Saturday
‘If it’s meant to be, it will be. I don’t think these guys can be denied,’ Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said of the playoffs
Will Pauling #19 of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates with fans after their 35-20 win over the Houston Cougars
Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder, who finished his career 26-0 at home as a starter, threw three touchdowns and Jerome Ford had scoring runs of 79 and 42 yards.
Leading 14-13 at the half, the Bearcats scored 21 unanswered points in a 4:24 stretch of the third quarter against the Cougars (11-2). The spree started with scores 58 seconds apart to make it 28-13.
‘We just want to play football,’ Ridder told reporters. ‘That´s all we care about. Doesn´t matter who, where, when – just put the ball down. We want to play.’
The Bearcats even got a little help before taking the field: Baylor used a late, goal-line stand to upset Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game and end the Cowboys’ playoff hopes.
‘These things are difficult to swallow. But we´ll be back,’ Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
Cincinnati entered the day fourth in the playoff rankings. No Group of Five conference team had ever even been close to a playoff spot heading into championship weekend.
Oklahoma State was lurking at No. 5, trying to finish off its season 12-1 with consecutive victories against ranked teams.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) works against Georgia during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game
John Metchie III #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter of the SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs
Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) and defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis (48) celebrate with the trophy after a victory against the Georgia Bulldogs
Alabama Crimson Tide fans reacts during the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs
A Cowboys’ victory could have set off a playoff debate featuring a Big 12 team and a future Big 12 team in Cincinnati.
‘It’s interesting that a lot of the conversation is around Oklahoma State at five and Cincinnati at four,’ Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said before the title game at AT&T Stadium. ‘How ironic is that?’
Baylor’s victory gave Cincinnati some breathing room and boosted Notre Dame’s slim hopes of getting into the playoff for the second straight seasons.
There has never been a two-loss team in the playoff, but if Michigan were to lose the Big Ten title game later Saturday, Baylor (11-2) even with two losses might be able to make a case against the Fighting Irish.
Mild-mannered Baylor coach Dave Aranda passed on a chance to stump for his team, instead lamenting those two losses.
‘That’s my fault,’ he said. As for the playoff: ‘I´m sure it will work out the way it´s supposed to.’