Saturday's Top 25: Auburn thwarts Alabama’s playoff hopes
Auburn, Ala. — Another wild, triumphant Iron Bowl finish turned Auburn’s field into a teeming mass of orange and blue.
A missed Alabama field goal again had much to do with it.
Shaun Shivers scored on an 11-yard run with 8:08 left to put No. 16 Auburn ahead and another failed kick wiped away the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide’s playoff hopes in a 48-45 victory for the 16th-ranked Tigers on Saturday.
Auburn (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) survived a final, marathon Crimson Tide drive when Joseph Bulovas’ 30-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright with 2:00 left.
Auburn couldn’t get a first down on JaTarvious Whitlow’s three runs while Alabama (10-2, 6-2) burned its final two time outs. But the Tide was called for illegal substitution after the Tigers lined up with the punter joining the offense, setting off confusion for the Tide and a fist-pumping celebration for coach Gus Malzahn.
“That’s the craziest game I’ve ever played in,” Shivers said.
Auburn fans stormed the field to celebrate another Iron Bowl thriller, filling it from end zone to end zone as they did in the 2013 Kick-Six game, when the Tigers’ Chris Davis returned a missed Tide field goal 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown. Davis led pre-game cheers on the field Saturday.
“When we play at home and we play them, we get to the fourth quarter, we find a way to win – 2013, 2017,” Malzahn said. “It kind of held true to the script tonight and our crowd has a lot to do with that. Our guys believed and our crowd willed us.”
The Tide had made the first five College Football Playoffs fields, but its case was damaged with a 46-41 loss to No. 1 LSU. The team’s in-state rival delivered the final blow.
Alabama coach Nick Saban deflected questions about the playoffs.
“I think the lesson to be learned is how important it is to be accountable,” Saban said. “When you play against good teams, that’s when these things bite you.”
He wasn’t pleased with the call for having 12 players on the field at the end, though.
“I really feel that it was a pretty unfair play at the end of the game where they substituted the punter as a wide receiver,” Saban said. “So we put the punt team in. And when the quarterback was back in there, we tried to put the defense back in. I thought they should have given us a little more time to substitute and get (Jaylen) Waddle out as a returner.”
Alabama worked more than six minutes off the clock before settling for Bulovas’ attempt, the latest costly kicking mishap for Saban and the Tide.
Quarterback Mac Jones, who had replaced injured star Tua Tagovailoa, scrambled for 18 yards on fourth-and-7 to get the Tide into easier field goal range. The drive stalled at the 13 when Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown batted a third-down pass back to Jones, who threw a pair of pick-sixes.
Auburn backup linebacker Zakoby McClain returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter when the ball bounced off the back of tailback Najee Harris and into McClain’s arms, setting up a sprint down the sideline. Smoke Monday returned another one 29 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“It’s my fault,” Jones said. “And those two turnovers ended up being pretty big, so that’s on me.”
Waddle caught three touchdown passes and scored on a 98-yard kickoff return for the Tide, helping Alabama build a 45-40 fourth-quarter lead.
The 5-foot-7, 179-pound Shivers, who was playing the role of injured wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, delivered on his only carry. Whitlow took the direct snap and handed it to him. Shivers smashed into Xavier McKinney, knocking the safety’s helmet off on the way to the end zone. Bo Nix’s two-point pass to Shedrick Jackson made it 48-45.
“That was just pound and ground football,” Shivers said. “That’s all I knew growing up. I don’t fear anybody. I just had to make it happen. I knew that could have sealed the game because I knew our defense was going to hold on.”
Nix, a freshman who attended the 2013 game as a fan, passed and ran for a touchdown. The two-time high school state champion whose father was an Auburn quarterback clutched the game ball during interviews.
“That makes it my three state championships, I guess,” he said.
Alabama led 31-27 at halftime after the teams combined for 17 points over the final 1:06. Anders Carlson booted a 52-yard field goal after replay officials put one second back on the clock, three points that wound up being pivotal. Carlson made four field goals of 43 yards or more after some late-season struggles.
Jones finished 26-of-39 passing for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Najee Harris ran 27 times for 146 yards and a TD.
(At) No. 1 LSU 50, Texas A&M 7: Joe Burrow padded his Heisman Trophy resume with 352 yards and three touchdowns passing and beat Texas A&M for its first unbeaten regular season since 2011.
Burrow’s night was highlighted by a deep, pin-point accurate pass on a 78-yard touchdown strike to JaMarr Chase, who had 197 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
Burrow has 4,366 yards and 44 touchdowns passing this season, smashing LSU single-season records in both categories. Burrow’s yards passing total also broke the SEC record, which had stood since 1998, when former Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch passed for 4,275 yards.
Burrow’s 44 TDs has tied the SEC’s single season mark set by Missouri’s Drew Lock in 2017. And LSU (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 2 CFP) has at least two games – possibly three – still to play.
LSU entered the week talking redemption and emphatically backed it up, outgaining Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4) 553-169.
No. 3 Clemson 38, (at) South Carolina 3: Trevor Lawrence threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns to lead Clemson to its 27th straight victory and second consecutive 12-0 regular season.
Travis Etienne ran for two touchdowns to break Atlantic Coast Conference marks for career touchdowns (57) and rushing scores (53) as the Tigers dominated on the way to a sixth straight win over South Carolina (4-8).
Lawrence had touchdown throws of 10 and 65 yards to Tee Higgins and of 16 yards to Justyn Ross. Lawrence also had 66 yards rushing for Clemson (No. 3 CFP), which will attempt to become the first program to win five straight league championship games when it meets Virginia next weekend.
No, 4 Georgia 52, (at) Georgia Tech 7: Jake Fromm threw four touchdown passes and Georgia cruised into the Southeastern Conference championship game with its biggest win ever over its state rival.
The Bulldogs (11-1) were 28-point favorites over the Yellow Jackets (3-9) and this one was never in doubt, even as Georgia struggled a bit offensively, fumbled the ball away three times, dealt with injury woes, and failed to cover an onside kick.
This was a mere speed bump on the way to next week’s SEC title game, where the Bulldogs will face No. 1 LSU with a berth in the College Football Playoff on the line.
Fromm was 14 of 29 for 254 yards, connecting on scoring throws of 20 yards to Charlie Woerner, 17 yards to Tyler Simmons, 41 yards to George Pickens and 9 yards to Dominick Blaylock.
Georgia Tech wrapped up its first season under coach Geoff Collins with just 139 yards and seven first downs on offense.
(At) No. 6 Utah 45, Colorado 15: Brant Kuithe scored three touchdowns and Utah is locked up a spot in the Pac-12 championship game for the second consecutive season with a victory over Colorado.
The Utes (11-1, 8-1, No 6 CFP) needed a quarter to get rolling, but romped to their eighth straight victory. Tyler Huntley was 14 for 17 for 165 yards and connected with Kuithe twice for touchdown receptions.
Colorado keyed on Zack Moss and made it tough to run between the tackles, but the Utah career rushing leader had 88 yards on 20 carries and scored on a 1-yard run to put the game away in the fourth quarter and set up Utah’s matchup against No. 14 Oregon on Friday in Santa Cara, California.
Steven Montez threw for 157 yards on 17-of-26 passing for Colorado (5-7), setting two major career records as he eclipsed Sefo Liufau on the Colorado passing and total offense lists in his final game.
No. 7 Oklahoma 34, (at) No. 21 Oklahoma State 16: Kennedy Brooks rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown to help Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State.
Jalen Hurts passed for 163 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 63 yards and a score and caught a touchdown pass for the Sooners (11-1, 8-1 Big 12, No. 7 CFP) in their fifth straight victory in the series.
Oklahoma has won 21 consecutive November games dating to 2014. The Sooners will play Baylor in the Big 12 championship game next Saturday.
Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher, ran for 104 yards and a touchdown for his 10th consecutive game with at least 100 yards rushing. The Cowboys (8-4, 5-4, No. 21 CFP) had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Oklahoma held Oklahoma State to 335 yards. Parnell Motley led the way for the Sooners with an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
(At) No. 8 Florida 40, Florida State 17: Kyle Trask threw three first-half touchdown passes, including two to Freddie Swain, and Florida hammered rival Florida State to end a four-game, home losing streak in the series.
The Gators (10-2, No. 11 CFP) locked up consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in a decade, finished unbeaten at home for the first time in four years and celebrated their first winning streak against the Seminoles (6-6) since 2009.
Florida scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions, needing two fourth-down conversions to get the first two, and was able to start celebrating before halftime. Receiver Kadarius Toney taunted FSU players by posing and pointing at a scoreboard as they left the field at halftime.
The pass-happy, one-dimensional Gators picked apart FSU’s beleaguered defense, a scene rarely seen in a game that typically features stout defenses. Trask completed 30 of 41 passes for 343 yards, including two short ones to Swain that went for scores.
Swain caught a screen pass, waited for a block, split two defenders and sprinted 19 yards to cap the opening drive. He made it 20-7 in the second quarter when he broke a tackle near the sideline, outran one defender and bowled through another at the goal line.
No. 11 Baylor 61, (at) Kansas 6: JaMycal Hasty rushed for three touchdowns and Baylor forced six turnovers.
Charlie Brewer threw for 182 yards and a touchdown as Baylor (11-1, 8-1 Big 12, No. 9 CFP) equaled the school record for wins in Matt Rhule’s third season as coach. Trestan Ebner, Gerry Bohanon, Qualan Jones and Jacob Zeno also rushed for TDs as the Bears piled up 263 yards on the ground.
Only three times since the program’s founding in 1899 have the Bears won 11 games in a season.
Next up for Baylor is the Big 12 championship game Saturday against No. 7 Oklahoma. The Sooners beat the Bears 34-31 on Nov. 16.
Kansas (3-9, 1-8) finished Les Miles’ first season as coach with its fourth straight loss.
(At) No. 14 Oregon 24, Oregon State 10: Justin Herbert threw for 174 yards and a touchdown in his final game at Autzen Stadium and Oregon held off Oregon State in the 123rd Civil War rivalry game.
Oregon (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) wrapped up the regular season with a perfect record at home for the eighth time. The Ducks reached 10 wins overall for the first time since 2014.
Oregon was cruising toward a possible bid in the College Football Playoff last weekend when it was upended 31-28 at Arizona State. The loss dropped the Ducks from No. 6 in the rankings. Oregon was already assured of a spot in the Pac-12 championship game Friday in Santa Clara, California.
Oregon State (5-7, 4-5) was denied a bid for bowl eligibility in coach Jonathan Smith’s second year. The Beavers haven’t made a postseason appearance since 2013.
(At) No. 15 Stanford 45, Stanford 24: Ian Book threw for 255 yards and four touchdowns and Notre Dame reached double-digit wins for the third straight season.
Book threw two TD passes to Chase Claypool and also connected with Tony Jones Jr. and Tommy Tremble to help the Fighting Irish (10-2, No. 16 CFP) snap a five-game losing streak at Stanford Stadium. Notre Dame also put together three straight seasons of at least 10 wins for the second time in school history, having previously done it under Lou Holtz from 1991-93.
Davis Mills threw two TD passes for the Cardinal (4-8), who have lost four straight for the first time since 2007. Stanford also finished with its first losing record since 2008, ending a streak of 10 straight bowl bids.
No. 24 Navy 56, Houston 41: Jamale Carothers rushed for career highs of 188 yards and five touchdowns, Malcolm Perry ran for 146 yards and a touchdown and Navy beat Houston.
Carothers scored on runs of 8, 17, 19, 29 and 75 yards, and CJ Williams and Tyreek King-El also rushed for touchdowns for Navy (9-2, 7-1 American). The Midshipmen ran for 447 yards and Navy outgained Houston (4-8, 2-6) 554-527.
Perry, who also threw for 107 yards, set a school record with his ninth 100-yard rushing game this season and tied a school record with his eighth consecutive 100-yard rushing game.
Houston’s Clayton Tune threw for 393 yards, a career-high four touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 61 yards. Marquez Stevenson had eight catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.