Zach Barnett

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No. 1 Ohio State kills Selection Sunday suspense by rallying past No. 8 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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For about 20 minutes on Saturday night, it seemed we were in for an interesting Selection Sunday. No. 8 Wisconsin led No. 1 Ohio State 21-7 and, with the 12-0 Buckeyes bid already secured, it became a discussion point as to whether the winner of an Ohio State-Wisconsin Big Ten Championship could jump a 1-loss Big 12 champion at the 11th hour, a la 2014.

And then the second half kicked off.

Ohio State accepted the ball to open the second half and rolled 75 yards in five plays, as Justin Fields found Chris Olave for a 50-yard gain and tight end Jeremy Ruckert for a 16-yard touchdown. Then the Buckeye defense forced a three-and-out, Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti dropped the ball, and the College Football Playoff selection committee might as well have shut their television sets off and gone home. Ohio State only turned that dropped punt into a field goal, but the writing was on the wall in Sharpie.

Zach Hintze missed a 48-yard field goal that would’ve stretched the Wisconsin lead to 24-17, KJ Hill (who, earlier on the drive, became Ohio State’s all-time leading pass catcher) put Ohio State on top with a 16-yard grab with 2:23 to go in the third quarter, and then put the game away for good with a 13-yard scoring catch with 12:09 to play.

While time will tell if it’s enough to hold off No. 2 LSU for the right to avoid No. 3 Clemson, Ohio State raced past the Badgers with a 27-0 second half to win its third straight Big Ten championship game, 34-21.

After slow starts each, Fields finished 19-of-31 for 299 yards and three touchdowns, while JK Dobbins carried 33 times for 172 yards and a score. After rushing 13 times for 135 yards and a score in the first half, Jonathan Taylor mustered just 13 yards on seven carries in the second half — including a loss of six on a 4th-and-2 pitch from the Ohio State 32 with 2:39 remaining, as Chase Young swallowed the Wisconsin running back and ended the comeback effort before it truly started.

Though it didn’t end well, Wisconsin did indeed come out swinging.

Paul Chryst‘s team won the toss, elected to receive, hit Quintez Cephus for a 27-yard completion on the first play of the game and scored on a 44-yard Taylor run.

Ohio State moved into Badger territory on its first possession, but Fields was stuffed for no gain on a 4th-and-7 run from the Wisconsin 34. The Buckeyes moved into Wisconsin territory again on their second try, but Fields was sacked on 3rd-and-10 from the Wisconsin 34 and this time Ryan Day punted.

Taking over after the punt at its own 20 with 1:20 to play in the first quarter, Wisconsin pieced together a vintage Wisconsin drive: 14 plays, 80 yards, six and a half minutes and capped by a 6-yard Taylor run, who became the seventh player to top 6,000 yards in the process of putting the Badgers up 14-0 with 10:19 to play in the first half.

Wisconsin again sacked Fields on 2nd-and-10 on the ensuing possession and Ohio State appeared headed for a three-and-out, but Day dialed up a pass from punter Drue Chrisman to Luke Farrell for 21 yards, keeping a drive alive that eventually reached the Badger 4, where Fields fumbled the ball away on a 3rd-and-goal run.

However, Ohio State forced a Wisconsin punt and then finally got on the board when Dobbins leaped into the end zone with 42 seconds left in the half. Wisconsin might’ve been content to take its 14-7 lead to Lucas Oil Stadium’s home locker room, but Taylor popped a 45-yard run to the Ohio State 30 — in the process becoming the first 100-yard rusher against Ohio State all season. Another Taylor run pushed the ball to the 25, and then Jack Coan hit Cephus for a leaping 24-yard grab, and Coan did the rest, putting Wisconsin back up 14 with 10 seconds left before halftime.

Wisconsin leading Ohio State in Big Ten title game

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Georgia came out punching in the SEC title game, we saw how it worked out for them. Wisconsin employed a similar strategy, and the Badgers lead Ohio State 21-7 at the break in Indianapolis.

Paul Chryst‘s team won the toss, elected to receive, hit Quintez Cephus for a 27-yard completion on the first play of the game and scored on a 44-yard Jonathan Taylor run.

Ohio State moved into Badger territory on its first possession, but Justin Fields was stuffed for no gain on a 4th-and-7 run from the Wisconsin 34. The Buckeyes moved into Wisconsin territory again on their second try, but Fields was sacked on 3rd-and-10 from the Wisconsin 34 and this time Ryan Day punted.

Taking over after the punt at its own 20 with 1:20 to play in the first quarter, Wisconsin pieced together a vintage Wisconsin drive: 14 plays, 80 yards, six and a half minutes and capped by a 6-yard Taylor run, who became the seventh player to top 6,000 yards in the process of putting the Badgers up 14-0 with 10:19 to play in the first half.

Wisconsin again sacked Fields on 2nd-and-10 on the ensuing possession and Ohio State appeared headed for a three-and-out, but Day dialed up a pass from punter Drue Chrisman to Luke Farrell for 21 yards, keeping a drive alive that eventually reached the Badger 4, where Fields fumbled the ball away on a 3rd-and-goal run.

However, Ohio State forced a Wisconsin punt and then finally got on the board when JK Dobbins leaped into the end zone with 42 seconds left in the half. Wisconsin might’ve been content to take its 14-7 lead to Lucas Oil Stadium’s home locker room, but Taylor popped a 45-yard run to the Ohio State 30 — in the process becoming the first 100-yard rusher against Ohio State all season. Another Taylor run pushed the ball to the 25, and then Jack Coan hit Cephus for a leaping 24-yard grab, and Coan did the rest, putting Wisconsin back up 14 with 10 seconds left before halftime.

While Fields closed the half 7-of-14 for 127 yards with 10 rushing yards and a fumble, Coan went 6-of-13 for 100 yards while running for 33 yards and two scores. Taylor rushed 13 times for 135 yards and a touchdown, including two runs of 44 yards or more.

For the half, Ohio State gained 233 yards, moved 50 or more yards on three of its possessions and 41 on the fourth, but still scored only seven points. Having spent less than ten minutes trailing all year, Ohio State has trailed 28:57 and counting tonight.

Ohio State will receive to start the second half.

No. 2 LSU makes its case for No. 1 seed in downing No. 4 Georgia for first SEC title since 2011

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Saturday belonged to LSU, not Georgia, and that fact was cemented when the normally sure-footed Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 37-yard field goal, his second of the day, to keep the Bulldogs’ deficit at 20-3 with 4:17 to play in the third quarter.

But if that wasn’t the play, this was: a weaving 71-yard completion from Joe Burrow to Justin Jefferson, a play that took the ball from LSU’s 20-yard line to the Georgia 9, clinched Burrow’s Heisman Trophy victory and may have just put the finishing touches on the Bayou Bengals’ argument to be the No. 1 seed when the final rankings come out Sunday morning.

Burrow iced the game when he hit Terrace Marshall, Jr., for a 4-yard touchdown on third-and-goal three plays after the completion. LSU’s Derek Stingley, Jr., snared his second interception of Jake Fromm on the next play from scrimmage, and three plays after that Burrow’s fourth touchdown pass put LSU up 34-3 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Tigers cruised to a 37-10 win, claiming their 12th SEC championship, its fifth of the championship game era and first under head coach Ed Orgeron. The last time LSU (13-0, 9-0 SEC) won the SEC, in 2011, the national title game was played at home, in New Orleans. The title game is on Bourbon Street again this January, and this time there will be no rematch with Alabama — or Georgia, for that matter.

The 2-year-old Mercedes-Benz Stadium has quickly become a house of horrors for the program just up the road. After losing the 2017 national title game to Alabama there, Kirby Smart‘s program has now dropped win-and-you’re-in games to close its past two regular seasons. Georgia (11-2, 7-2 SEC) will now head to its second straight consolation Sugar Bowl to play Big 12 runner-up Baylor.

But while Georgia’s season effectively ended Saturday, LSU’s is just beginning. The Tigers will presumably compete with Ohio State for the No. 1 seed and the right to play No. 4 Oklahoma back in Atlanta, and Burrrow will compete with the Ohio State trio of Chase YoungJustin Fields and JK Dobbins for the Heisman. Burrow’s closing argument: 28-of-38 for 349 yards with four touchdowns and no picks while rushing 11 times for 41 yards.

LSU never trailed, as Burrow found Ja'Marr Chase for a 23-yard touchdown to close an 8-play, 75-yard march on the Tigers’ first possession. He hit Marshall for a 7-yard score to put LSU up 14-0 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter, and would have had a 71-yard touchdown to Marshall to put LSU up 21-3 early in the second quarter, but Marshall dropped it.

For as bad as Saturday went, Georgia came out swinging, as Fromm had Tyler Simmons open for what could have been a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, but Simmons dropped it. Then, facing a 3rd-and-9 at its own 44, Fromm had Demetris Robertson open but the pass skipped off the turf and the Bulldogs punted.

Fromm closed the day 20-of-42 for 225 yards with a touchdown (that came with the score 34-3) and two interceptions. The day momentarily looked much, much worse than his stat line, as LSU’s Grant Delpit sacked Fromm late in the second quarter and Fromm’s knee awkwardly twisted as he was yanked to the turf. Stetson Bennett IV entered to throw a 3rd-and-17 pass, but Fromm returned the next series and played the remainder of the game. No Bulldog rushed for more than 24 yards, and Georgia rushed for just 61 yards to LSU’s 134.

No. 2 LSU leading No. 4 Georgia at the half in Atlanta

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No. 2 LSU is halfway to its first SEC championship since 2011. At the break in Atlanta, the Tigers hold a 17-3 lead over No. 4 Georgia.

Georgia came out swinging, as Jake Fromm had Tyler Simmons open for what could have been a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, but Simmons dropped it. Then, facing a 3rd-and-9 at its own 44, Fromm had Demetris Robertson open but the pass skipped off the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf and the Bulldogs punted.

Punting proved fatal against LSU’s offense, as the Tigers went 75 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 23-yard strike to Ja'Marr Chase, a throw made possible because Joe Burrow had about eight seconds to sit and scan against a three-man pass rush. The teams then traded punts, and Rodrigo Blankenship failed to get Georgia on the board when his 52-yard field goal was no good at the 1:56 mark of the first quarter.

The Bulldogs momentarily scored a huge break when Lewis Cine recovered a Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble at the LSU 37, but replay showed his right forearm down before the ball popped loose, and so the Tigers retained possession. Four plays later, that possession ended in a 7-yard Burrow pass to Terrace Marshall, Jr., putting LSU up 14-0 with 12 ticks left in the opening frame.

Georgia finally got on the board with a 39-yard Blankenship field goal at the 11:28 mark of the second quarter, then gained even more life when Marshall dropped what would have been the easiest 71-yard touchdown of his career on 3rd-and-6. The Bulldogs’ momentum was halted when Grant Delpit sacked Fromm, not only turning a 2nd-and-8 into a 3rd-and-17 but momentarily knocking Fromm out of the game when the Georgia quarterback’s knee twisted while Delpit pulled him to the turf. Stetson Bennett IV entered the game and threw incomplete, and LSU went 57 yards to set up a 41-yard Cade York field goal.

Fromm re-entered the game and led Georgia into LSU territory, but his 1st-and-10 pass down the sideline was intercepted by Derek Stingley, Jr., handing Burrow the ball at his own 13 with 95 seconds left in the first half. He found Edwards-Helaire for 24 yards on the first play of the drive, ran for 17 and hit Chase for 11 on a 3rd-and-5, but fired incomplete on three straight throws from Georgia’s 30 and York’s 48-yard field goal hooked wide left. Burrow ended the half 17-of-25 for 204 yards with two touchdowns (plus a dropped would-be 71-yard touchdown.) He also leads all players with 39 yards on seven rushes.

LSU out-gained Georgia 255-136 in the half, but Georgia remains in the game. Fromm was 10-of-21 for 117 yards and an interception, while Georgia rushed for just 19 yards on 15 attempts.

The Tigers will receive to open the second half.

No. 6 Oklahoma hopes 5th straight Big 12 title will be enough for 3rd straight Playoff berth

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In the first four years since his hiring, Oklahoma rode Lincoln Riley‘s offense to four Big 12 championships. The No. 6 Sooners made it a perfect 5-for-5 on Saturday, but this time they overcame their offense and leaned on their defense to hold off a resilient No. 7 Baylor, 30-23 in overtime.

The Sooners blew two 10-point leads, endured two Jalen Hurts turnovers, knocked Baylor’s top two quarterbacks out of the game only to see the third stringer rally the Bears to overtime, but the Sooners’ defense forced three incompletions and a sack in the extra frame to preserve the win.

Oklahoma (12-1, 9-1 Big 12), who has won on a league-best 13 championships — all of them coming in the past 20 seasons — and five consecutive, will now turn its attention to Atlanta, where a No. 2 LSU win over No. 4 Georgia likely sends the crimson and cream to the College Football Playoff for the fourth time in Riley’s five seasons and three consecutive.

But before Oklahoma could think about the Playoff, the Sooners first had to win this game.

After a pair of punts to open the game, CeeDee Lamb — who missed OU’s epic comeback in Waco last month — announced his presence with a 71-yard reception, taking the ball from OU’s 22-yard line to the Baylor 7. Kennedy Brooks provided the Sooners’ only first half touchdown two plays later with a 6-yard rush.

The Sooner defense then forced a three-and-out and again pushed into the Bear red zone, but a third down sack by James Lockhart forced a 44-yard Gabe Brkic field goal.

Baylor’s offense continued struggling after falling behind 10-0, as their next two possessions failed to gain a single yard. However, the Bear defense stiffened, and James Lynch forced a fumble while sacking Jalen Hurts, which BU’s Terrel Bernard recovered at the Oklahoma 29. Baylor again struggled to move forward, gaining just three yards, but the field position allowed John Mayers to get Baylor on the board with a 44-yard field goal at the 10:20 mark of the second quarter.

The Bears then forced a punt on OU’s third consecutive possession, and backup quarterback Gerry Bohanon checked into the game after Charlie Brewer exited to be evaluated for a possible head injury. Bohanon and Jon Lovett combined to register Baylor’s first first down in a quarter and a half, but the Bears gained just one and punted on a 4th-and-14 from the OU 45.

That punt put Baylor’s offense back on the field — its defense. As Hurts threw to Lee Morris, Morris slipped and Jordan Williams snared it for the Bears, returning the ball to the OU 23. After a sack and an incompletion, Bohanon’s stat line read seven total touches for minus-5 yards. So, naturally, he threw a 33-yard strike to Tyquan Thornton on 3rd-and-20 to tie the game with 2:59 left in the first half.

The touchdown was Baylor’s first since the 11:02 mark of the second quarter… of the first Baylor-OU game, ending a streak of 12 straight drives that ended shy of the end zone.

Now facing its own scoring drought, Oklahoma went three-and-out, as its possession was derailed when Lynch again sacked Hurts for a 7-yard loss on 2nd-and-2. A 39-yard punt gave Baylor the ball at its own 47 with 1:22 left in the first half, and Bohanon converted another 3rd-and-long by throwing a 29-yard moonshot to Thornton, turning a 3rd-and-11 at the OU 40 into a 1st-and-10 at the 11 with 29 seconds left, and a 28-yard Mayers field goal gave Baylor, at that point the owner of all of 98 yards of total offense, a 13-10 lead halftime lead.

Oklahoma began the second half much the way it started the first. The defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense went 63 yards to set up a tying 24-yard Brkic field goal. The play before the field goal was one of those you immediately marked with an asterisk: after calling timeout, Riley dialed up a QB draw on 3rd-and-8, which did not achieve the line to gain.

Still, Oklahoma forced yet another three-and-out on Baylor’s next touch, and then the Sooners took the lead at the 7:53 mark of the third quarter with an 18-yard Nick Basquine catch (his first since 2016) to cap an 8-play, 74-yard drive. Yet another Baylor punt later, Oklahoma pushed its lead to 10 with a 24-yard Brkic field goal. With its lead at 23-13 with 10:31 to play in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma had control of the game, but they had not put it away.

Having gained all of 13 second half yards at that point, Baylor pulled Bohanon for third-string quarterback Jacob Zeno, and that move immediately paid off when his first pass found Trestan Ebner for an 81-yard catch-and-run score, bring the Bears back within 23-20 with 9:41 remaining. As fitting with this game’s character, a team that gained 111 yards in the first three quarters out of nowhere connected on the longest touchdown pass in Big 12 Championship history.

Oklahoma moved 31 yards on its next touch but again failed to put the game away, as Riley elected to punt on 4th-and-7 from the Baylor 44 with 6:11 to go. He would immediately regret the decision.

After a Bears offensive lineman was caught downfield, negating an 18-yard connection to Denzel Mims, Zeno hit Chris Platt for a 78-yard catch-and-run, moving the ball from his own 5 to OU’s 17. While Brewer and Bohanon went 7-of-21 for 71 yards, Zeno to that point was 2-of-2 for 159 yards. His third pass, though, sailed wide of Platt on 3rd-and-3, and forcing a 27-yard Mayers field goal.

A game that Oklahoma led 10-0 just over 10 minutes in and 23-13 seven minutes prior was now tied at 23 with 3:25 remaining.

A 31-yard rollout pass to Lamb overcame a holding call and pushed the ball from OU’s 15 to near midfield, but Lamb could not corral a 3rd-and-3 pass with 1:14 to go, and Riley elected to punt rather than risk giving Baylor the ball inside Sooner territory. Reeves Mundschau‘s punt rolled all the way to the Baylor 1 and the game went to overtime.

Baylor won the toss, and Oklahoma scored in three plays. A face mask of Lamb moved the ball to Baylor’s 11, a Hurts run pushed it to the 5, and Rhamondre Stevenson did the rest on a patented OU GT pull.

Oklahoma’s defense dominated the extra frame. After incomplete passes on 1st- and 2nd-and-10, the Sooners sacked Zeno on third down, then forced a hurried incompletion on 4th-and-20 to secure the win.

OU dominated the game everywhere but the scoreboard. The Sooners out-gained Baylor 433-265 and limited the Bears to just eight first downs, 3-of-15 on third down, and its three quarterbacks to just nine completions on 26 attempts. In fact, outside of Zeno’s 81- and 78-yarders and Bohanon’s 33-yarder, Baylor was 6-of-23 for 38 yards through the air. The Bears were also credited with 35 rushing yards on 29 attempts, including sacks. Meaning, outside of those three long completions, Baylor gained 71 yards on 52 plays.

For Oklahoma, Hurts went 17-of-24 for 287 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing for 38 yards on 23 carries. Brooks rushed for 59 yards on 17 carries and Stevenson totaled 48 yards on eight attempts; both players scored touchdowns. Lamb caught eight passes for 173 yards.