INDIANAPOLIS - Trace McSorley threw four touchdown passes and No. 8 Penn State stunned No. 6 Wisconsin 38-31 in college football Saturday night, overcoming a 21-point first-half deficit in the greatest comeback in Big Ten title game history.
Penn State (11-2, No. 7 CFP) won its first conference title in eight years. The Nittany Lions must wait to see if the selection committee rewards them with one of the four coveted playoff spots Sunday.
Penn State trailed 28-7 with 5:15 left in the first half, but McSorley led the Nittany Lions to touchdowns on each of its next four possessions, finally taking a 35-31 lead on an 18-yard pass to Saquon Barkley with 13:41 left.
Things looked bleak early, but McSorley repeatedly burned the nation’s No. 3 defense with long passes on a record-breaking night.
McSorley finished 22 of 31 for 384 yards. The yardage and TD passes were both Big Ten championship game records. He also broke the school’s single-season records for yards passing and touchdown passes. And he wasn’t the only one to have a memorable performance. Saeed Blacknall caught six passes, two for touchdowns, and finished with a championship-game record 155 yards.
CBSSports.com’s Tom Fornelli and Adam Silverstein write that most experts expect the top current playoff rankings to remain the same, with the top 4 in order being Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington.
However, CBSSports.com’s experts write they want to see Penn State given a shot, and not just because they already beat Ohio State this season, but also because “It just seems somewhat illogical that a team that couldn’t win its own conference should be allowed to play for a national title over the team that did.”
ALABAMA 54, FLORIDA 16
ATLANTA - Alabama showed off all its weapons in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Now, the Crimson Tide can expect a return trip to Atlanta for the College Football Playoff.
The nation’s No. 1 team scored off a blocked punt and an interception return Saturday before wearing down No. 15 Florida in the second half with a dominant running game. The rout positioned Alabama to go for its second straight national title and its fifth crown in the last nine years under coach Nick Saban.
Next up: a likely semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 31.
The Crimson Tide (13-0, No. 1 CFP) bolted 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, another off an interception return. A field goal was set up by another pick - one of three thrown by Florida quarterback Austin Appleby in the first half.
The Tide led 33-16 at halftime - the most points ever scored in the first two quarters of an SEC title game - and iced 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, No. 15 CFP).
NO. 3 CLEMSON 42, NO. 19 VIRGINIA TECH 35
ORLANDO, Florida - Deshaun Watson bolstered his Heisman Trophy candidacy by passing for three touchdowns and running for two more to lead Clemson past Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Winning consecutive league titles for the first time in 28 years likely will send the Tigers (12-1, No. 3 CFP) back to the four-team College Football Playoff for the second straight year, providing Watson with an opportunity to resolve unfinished business from last January, when his team lost to Alabama in the national championship game.
The Clemson star completed 23 of 34 passes for 288 yards, including TDs of 21 and 10 yards to Jordan Leggett and 15 yards to Hunter Renfrow for a 42-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 85 yards on 17 attempts for the Tigers, who’ve won back-to-back ACC titles for the first time since winning three straight from 1986-88.
Watson’s counterpart, Jerod Evans, was just as impressive for Virginia Tech (9-4, No. 23 CFP). The 6-foot-3, 238-pound quarterback ran for two touchdowns and rallied the Hokies from a 21-point deficit to make it close at the end.
NO. 7 OKLAHOMA 38, NO. 11 OKLAHOMA STATE 20
NORMAN, Oklahoma - Baker Mayfield passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns as Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State in a matchup that decided the Big 12 title and likely guaranteed the Sooners a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Mayfield performed well throughout, despite finishing the game without top receiver Dede Westbrook. Westbrook caught four passes for 111 yards before being knocked out of the game on a crushing hit by safety Jordan Sterns.
Samaje Perine rambled for 239 yards on a career-high 37 carries and Joe Mixon caught a touchdown pass and busted a 79-yard touchdown run for the Sooners (10-2, 9-0 Big 12, No. 9 College Football Playoff).
Mason Rudolph completed 11 of 25 passes for 186 yards for Oklahoma State (9-3, 7-2, No. 10 CFP). His top target for the season, James Washington, caught two passes for 50 yards on eight targets.
NO. 14 WEST VIRGINIA 24, BAYLOR 21
MORGANTOWN, West Virginia - Skyler Howard threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as West Virginia held on in the Big 12 regular-season finale for both teams.
Justin Crawford rushed for 209 yards to help the Mountaineers (10-2, 7-2) to their first 10-win regular-season since 2007. They came from 11 points down in the first half to hand Baylor (6-6, 3-6) its sixth straight loss after a 6-0 start.
Baylor held the momentum for nearly three quarters in the final regular-season game for acting coach Jim Grobe, but that changed on two plays.
Howard, having one of his worst games of the season, threw to Gary Jennings over the middle and he turned it into a 58-yard scoring play. After Baylor got the ball back, Marvin Gross stripped quarterback Zach Smith, and Darrien Howard recovered for West Virginia. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Baylor gave the Mountaineers the ball at the Bears’ 6, and Howard scored on a 1-yard sneak on fourth down for a 24-14 lead.
TEMPLE 34, NO. 20 NAVY 10
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland - Phillip Walker threw two touchdown passes and Temple stifled Navy’s running game as the Owls claimed their first American Athletic Conference title.
After Temple (10-3) scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, protecting the 21-0 lead became substantially easier when No. 20 Navy (9-3, No. 19 CFP) lost standout quarterback Will Worth to a second-quarter ankle injury. Navy 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 facing Army next Saturday.
The Owls extended their winning streak to seven and earned their first league title winning the Middle American in 1967. Walker was 16 for 25 for 199 yards.