Jalen Hurts came off the bench to spark Alabama to a 35-28 comeback win over Georgia to capture a 6th SEC Championship under head coach Nick Saban on Saturday night in Atlanta.
'Bama trailed 28-21 in the 4th quarter when Hurts entered the game. He threw a TD pass to make it 21-all. Later, the key turning point came when Georgia inexplicably attempted at a fake punt on 4th-and-11 from mid-field with just over 3 minutes left in the game. Backup QB Justin Fields got only 2 yards on the play, giving the Tide the ball on its 48 with 3:02 left to play. From there, Hurts needed just 5 plays and a minute, 58 seconds to guide Alabama to the end zone, culminating with his own 15-yard run. Georgia's attempt at a Hail Mary was batted out of the end zone as time expired.
Alabama trailed 28-14 in the 3rd quarter.
The SEC title match drew a standing room only crowd of 77,141 in the 75,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Earlier in the day, Oklahoma beat Texas 39-27 in Arlington to claim the Big 12 Championship. The victory for the Sooners avenged a 48-45 regular season loss to the Longhorns in the 'Red River Rivalry' game in Dallas.
The Big 12 title game drew 83,114 to the 100,000-seat Arlington venue.
As expected, Clemson (13-0) had absolutely no trouble with Pittsburgh (7-6) and walked away from Charlotte with a 42-10 win in the ACC Championship It's the fourth straight ACC title for the Tigers and fifth since 2010. The Atlantic division tams - and more specifically, Clemson and Florida State - have won every ACC Championship game for the past 8 years. 67,784 attended in the 73,778-seat Bank Of America Stadium.
Ohio State shook off a 2nd half challenge from Northwestern, scoring the final 14 points of the game to win the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis 45-24. The Wildcats trimmed a 24-7 halftime deficit to 24-21 in the 3rd quarter, and got to within a touchdown early in the 4th. This is the Buckeyes' second straight conference title and third since 2014. Attendance was 63,000 in the 66,370 (standing room only) in the 63,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium.
Boise State was upset 19-16 in overtime at home by Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship. It is only the 9th home loss by the Broncos on the "Smurf Turf" since 1999 (121-9). This is Fresno State's first conference title since 2013. Attendance figures were not available at the time this article was published.
UCF trailed 24-7 after 1 quarter and by 17 points and 38-21 at halftime as backup QB Darriel Mack, Jr. fumbled on two of his three possessions. Playing in relief of McKenzie Mlton, Mack made up for it in the second half with a TD pass and 4 TD runs to rally the Knights to a 56-41 win over Memphis in the Conference USA Champion ship game in Orlando.
UCF finishes the season 12-0 for the second straight year - most amazingly under two different head coaches.as Josh Heupel replaced Scott Frost when Frost was hired at Nebraska.
The Knights secured the lone automatic bid into a New Year's Six bowl game, just as they did last year when they went to upset Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
UCF has now won 25 consecutive games.
Friday was a good night to be called Huskies, whether it be from Washington or Northern Illinois as both won their respective conference championship.
Washington and Utah entered the PAC-12 Championship game as the top two teams in the conference on defense so it should come as no surprise that not a single offensive touchdown was scored and the winning points came off a 66-yard return of a deflected pass, snatched out of thin air on the bounce off the receiver's legs.
The 3rd quarter score by Byron Murphy held as the game winning points in the Huskies' 10-3 victory over the Utes in a game that saw a total of 324 yards of offense, 187 of which came from Washington. In all, the Huskies picked off Jason Shelley 3 times en route to their second conference in title in the last 3 years.
Meanwhile, the Northern Illinois variety of Huskies rallied from a 29-10 deficit late in the 3rd quarter to shock Buffalo 30-29. Sutton Smith, the national leader in sacks with 46 entering the game, added 2 more to his total and NIU, as a team, had 4 sacks and 8 tackles for loss in the contest.
Buffalo entered the contest with a 10-2 record and had allowed just 8 sacks all year. Northern Illinois entered the game with a 7-5 record and was a 4-point underdog, but the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com had NIU favored by a scant 0.32 points. The computer improved to 6-0 in outright upset picks over the last two weeks and has hit 69% of its upset selections against the spread since early November of the 2017 season.
Northern Illinois improved to 12-1 all-time versus Buffalo while winning its 4th MAC title since 2010. West division teams have won the last 3 MAC crowns and 6 of the last 8.
Reported attendance in Detroit for the MAC Championship was only 10,255 - the lowest total in the 15-year history of the game being staged in Detroit.. Northern Illinois had the worst home attendance of all 130 FBS teams with an average of 10,404.
The PAC-12 game attendance was only 35,134 in Santa Clara - the lowest since Stanford and UCLA drew 31,622 in 2012.
Host school Appalachian State won the Sun Belt title game on Saturday, as expected. The Mountaineers bested Louisiana's Rajin' Cajuns 30-19 in Boone in the first-ever conference championship game for that conference.
Appalachian State is 38-12 overall and 28-5 vs. conference schools since becoming a member of the FBS and the Sun Belt in 2014. The Mountaineers have finished 2nd, 3rd, T-1st, T-1st and 1st during their five seasons in the league.
Attendance was only 14,963 in a 30,000-seat stadium.
UAB avenged a 27-3 loss at Middle Tennessee a week ago by revisiting Murfreesboro for the Conference USA Championship game and prevailing 27-25 after trailing 13-3 in the first quarter. Under the guidance of head coach Bill Clark, the resurrection of UAB has seen the Blazers go 18-3 overall, including 14-3 in conference games, over the past two seasons. Prior to that the program went dark for two years when it was eliminated after the 2014 season in a budget-cutting campaign. Clark worked tirelessly to rally community support and funding to successfully re-start the program.
The next goal for UAB is to win a bowl game. The school will be making only its 3rd-ever bowl appearance this season. Last year, the Blazers were whipped 41-6 by Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl. They also lost 59-40 in the 2003 Hawaii Bowl.
Attendance in Murfreesboro was an extraordinarily woeful 15,806 in a 37,132-seat venue.
Stanford won "The Big Game" rivalry, 23-13 at Cal. The Cardinal have taken 9 straight in the series.
After a 4-game losing streak seemed to put an end to Virginia Tech bowl appearance streak, the Hokies rallied to beat Virginia and Marshall in consecutive weeks to get to 6-6 and earn what will likely be a Military Bowl bid for their 26th straight postseason trip. Virginia Tech easily defeated the Herd (8-4) 41-20 on Saturday in front of a sparse crowd of 31,336 in a game that bean in poor weather. Ryan Willis threw four TD passes to four different receivers in the first half as the Hokies staked-out a 31-6 advantage at the break.
Two games this week pit FBS teams against FCS schools and Iowa State survived Drake 27-24 while Liberty cruised to a 52-17 over Norfolk State. FBS teams finish the year with a 105-7 (.938) record vs. the FCS and are now 1,324-124 (.914) since 2003.
Here are all of the FCS victories over FBS teams, so far, in 2018:
August 30: UC Davis 44, San Jose State 31
September 1: Villanova 19, Temple 17
September 1: Northern Arizona 30, UTEP 10
September 1: Nicholls State 26, Kansas 23 (OT)
September 2: North Carolina A&T 28, East Carolina 23
September 8: Maine 31, Western Kentucky 28
September 22: Illinois State 35, Colorado State 19
UCF - Won 25 straight overall (FBS longest), Won 18 straight conference games including consecutive AAC titles (FBS longest). Won 56-41 vs. Memphis in AAC Championship game at home on Saturday.
Alabama - Won 26 straight home games (FBS longest). Won 35-28 over Georgia in Atlanta in the SEC Championship game on Saturday.
Oklahoma - Won 20 straight true road games (FBS longest). Won 39-27 over Texas in Arlington the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday.
Rice - Had lost 11 straight overall (FBS longest). Season completed.
(NOTE: Rice's win also ended the longest current conference game losing streak at 14.)
Rutgers - Lost 11 straight over-all (FBS longest). Season completed.
(NOTE: Rutgers also owns FBS longest conference losing streak at 12 games).
San Jose State - Lost 13 straight road games (FBS longest). Season completed