Bryce Young, No. 4 Alabama face stiff test from No. 1 Georgia’s defense

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
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The going only gets tougher for Alabama’s normally explosive offense.

While the Crimson Tide was held out of the end zone for the first 59 minutes and 36 seconds by Auburn, now they face the nation’s top defense.

Heisman Trophy front-runner Bryce Young and the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide are gearing up to square off against No. 1 Georgia on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Making matters more challenging, Alabama tailback Brian Robinson Jr. is nursing a left leg injury and his status is uncertain for the game. If he can’t play, that leaves Trey Sanders as the Tide’s only healthy scholarship running back against a defense allowing a nation’s best 6.9 points and 229.7 total yards per game.

Georgia’s formidable front seven, led by defensive lineman Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean, is also a huge challenge for an Alabama offensive line that has struggled at times.

“What really motivates us is to make sure we come with our `A’ game,” Alabama left tackle Evan Neal said. “We’re all competitors, man. It’s what it’s all about. You’re the best? Okay, let’s line up and go out there and play. That’s what it’s all about.”

Alabama didn’t come with its best for that Auburn game, even if the Tide ultimately turned a 10-0 fourth-quarter deficit into a 24-22 quadruple-overtime victory.

The Crimson Tide mustered just 68 yards on 30 first-half plays and allowed seven sacks in the game.

Young led Alabama to 217 fourth-quarter yards, including a 97-yard drive over the final 95 seconds.

The finishing flourish rescued the team’s playoff hopes and vaulted Young back to leading Heisman candidate status, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Leading receiver Jameson Williams also missed most of the game after a first-half targeting penalty in punt return coverage. The winning touchdown pass with 24 seconds left went to freshman Ja’Corey Brooks, just his fourth catch of the season and second of the game.

But Alabama still ranks seventh in passing and total offense, averaging 341.8 yards per game through the air and 492.2 overall.

Young has passed for 3,901 yards and 40 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He’s completing 68.9% of his passes.

“It’s like he’s composed at all times and has great presence in the pocket, great distributor of the ball,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Knows where all his outlets are. Can draw the defense to him and dish the ball, much like a point guard in basketball.

“This is just one of the best I’ve seen as far as quick release and getting the ball out, distributing the ball really good.”

Then there’s the backfield, where Saban said he has never been down to one scholarship runner. Others who moved to the position as emergency fill-ins, but that could be the plight his players face in this one if Robinson can’t go.

Sanders has run for 221 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ve got to get them ready to play the game,” Saban said. “There’s nothing else we can do about that. Injuries are a part of the game.”

Alabama has leaned heavily on Robinson at times, but Young’s biggest weapon has been Williams, along with fellow 1,000-yard receiver John Metchie III.

Williams has been the big-play threat, with 1,261 yards, 13 touchdowns and a 20.67-yard average per catch. Metchie has 90 catches for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns.

He also has plenty of faith in the Tide offense even facing by far its biggest challenge.

“I’m extremely confident,” Metchie said. “I think we’re concerned about ourselves more and playing our best brand of football, knowing that we’re going against a really good defense. But I think for us, it’s just playing our best brand of football.”

No. 3 TCU loses 31-28 in OT to K-State in Big 12 title game

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Ty Zentner kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime as 13th-ranked Kansas State beat No. 3 TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, leaving the Horned Frogs to wait another day to find out if they had already done enough to get into the four-team College Football Playoff.

The Wildcats set up the winning field goal after TCU (12-1) had the opening possession of overtime and Kendre Miller was stopped short on consecutive plays from inside the 1.

Deuce Vaughn ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard threw two TDs for the Wildcats (10-3, No. 10 CFP), who six weeks earlier had jumped out to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter before TCU scored the game’s last 28 points.

That was one of five games the Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) won when trailing after halftime. But they couldn’t do it again with the chance to guarantee being the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoff.

TCU, the first Big 12 team to complete a regular season undefeated since Texas in 2009, could still get into the playoff. While their case was helped when fourth-ranked Southern California (11-2) lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, the Frogs now have to wait until the final CFP rankings come out Sunday.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said before the game that TCU, with first-year coach Sonny Dykes, already deserved to be in the playoff.

“You look at their strength of schedule. You think about how they’ve performed all year long,” Yormark said. “I think regardless, they should be in, for sure.”

No. 4 USC falls to Utah in Pac-12 Championship, damaging playoff hopes

Utah vs. USC
USA Today
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LAS VEGAS — No. 12 Utah pounded a limping, bloodied Caleb Williams and roared past No. 4 Southern California 47-24 on Friday night to win the Pac-12 Championship and put USC’s College Football Playoff hopes in doubt.

The loss by the Trojans (11-2) could open the way for Ohio State (11-1) to take their spot in the playoffs. USC is fourth in the CFP rankings, the Buckeyes are one step behind.

Ohio State had to be Utah’s biggest fan. The Buckeyes move up in playoff consideration, with 12-0 Michigan at No. 2 with the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, that would give the Big Ten conference two playoff teams for the first time. It also would extend the Pac-12′s playoff drought — Washington in 2017 is the last team from that conference to make the playoffs.

Utah (10-3) is heading to the Rose Bowl, but the Utes already were going there regardless of the outcome of the title game. They are responsible for USC’s only losses, having edged the Trojans 43-42 on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City.

The Utes rolled up 533 yards of offense in the rematch, and Cam Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams threw for 363 yards and three TDs. He entered the game as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but wasn’t the same after getting injured in the first quarter.

The Trojans looked as if they were going to run away with the game, taking a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter behind some stellar play by Williams.

He appeared to hurt his left knee or leg in the first quarter on a 59-yard run in which he took a big hit at the end, and he suffered a bad cut on the pinky finger of his throwing hand. He spent most of the game limping, and wasn’t the same after a sterling first quarter in which the Trojans outgained Utah in total yards 194-70, and Williams had both touchdown passes.

After USC failed to pick up a fourth-and-8 from Utah’s 37-yard line, the Utes scored two touchdowns in the final 3:55 of the first half, and suddenly the game was tied at 17. Instead of a rout, the game was beginning to look like the shootout the Utes won in October.

The game took on that tone at times in the second half, but USC had no answer for how to slow down Utah, which outscored the Trojans 44-7 in overcoming that two-touchdown deficit.

ATTENDANCE RECORD

A announced sellout crowd of 61,195 made this the largest for a neutral-site Pac-12 Championship. It beat the previous record of 58,476 fans. who watched Southern California-Stanford in Santa Clara, California, in 2015.