College football playoff ends with explosive overtime finish

Alabama coach Nick 
Saban claimed his fifth national championship this year with a 26-23 win over Georgia.

USA Today

Alabama coach Nick Saban claimed his fifth national championship this year with a 26-23 win over Georgia.

Jacob Bernstein, Staff Writer

At the start of the college football season, we expected an excited year filled with upsets, crazy overtime wins, competitive bowls, and everything in between.  From the so-called revival of Miami football to UCF being crowned the new “national champions,” this season has been nothing short of exhilarating. 

The season kicked off with a boring 62-7 blowout win, as the Stanford Cardinals beat the Rice Owls.  But, it concluded in quite the opposite fashion.  Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide pulled off one of the greatest moments ever in college sports.

This season was a roller coaster, filled with pride, joy, and sadness.  Alabama led the way at the start, only to fall to their arch rivals, the Auburn Tigers.  The Georgia Bulldogs fought hard, keeping a consistent winning record with help from star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.  The Oklahoma Sooners, led by Heisman Winning quarterback Baker Mayfield rumbled through the Big 12, and even put up an impressive fight against the Ohio State.  Ohio State certainly had a memorable season.  Senior J.T. Barrett took the reigns and fought hard to push the Buckeyes past teams, including #2 Penn State and undefeated #4 ranked Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game.  They fell short to Oklahoma 31-16, in addition to a devastating loss to Iowa 55-24.  Penn State were right there in the fight, but were considered out after Ohio State won their respective conference.  Clemson fought along the University of Miami all season in a roller coaster battle for the ACC.  Miami slipped to unranked Pitt to take them out of contention late in the season.  And UCF finished with a 16-0 record. Unfortunately, UCF did not have a shot in the college playoffs due to the lack of strength in schedule. Critics have called UCF’s season “godlike”, or “a miracle in central Florida!” and many believe just that.  They put up a good fight and were not placed in the 4 team playoff.

The 4 team playoff, announced on Dec. 3, picked overall best Clemson at number one, Oklahoma at number two, Georgia at number three, and Alabama at number four.  A few teams just missed out on the playoff, including Ohio State at five and Wisconsin at six.  Only the top four teams get to compete for the highly sought-after College Football Championship trophy.  Many football fans think that Ohio State was snubbed.  They pulled off great wins against Penn State, Michigan State, and even defeated Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship, but it was not enough to overthrow Non-Conference Champion Alabama.  The College Football Playoff Committee, led by Kirby Hocutt, chooses who plays in the 4 team clash.  The committee has made it very clear they are going to choose the best over teams, not the teams with the best resumes.  The 14-member committee thought the Crimson Tide were the better team.  And they fulfilled that prophecy later on.

The teams that don’t play in the four-team playoff can participate in other bowl games.  These games are definitely exciting, but nothing compared to playing for a national championship.  Other huge matchups include UCF vs. Auburn, Ohio State vs. USC, and Miami vs. Wisconsin.  

Then came the final four, #4 Alabama dominated #1 Clemson 24-6.  And Georgia slightly edged over Oklahoma in a double overtime thriller by a score of 54-48.  These were exciting semifinal games, but were nothing compared to the exhilarating National Championship game.

#4 Alabama looked for revenge vs. a very strong #3 Georgia Bulldogs team led by freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm.  Alabama were favored to win this game but only by a slight margin of 2.5 points.  There was no score in the first quarter, but in the second Georgia took a 13 point lead.  Then, in the second half, Nick Saban benched Alabama starting QB Jalen Hurts after he struggled in the first half.  He put in second string quarterback prodigy Tua Tagovailoa.  Georgia scored to make the game 20-3, and Alabama started to pick it up.  The Tide scored 17 unanswered points until overtime.  Alabama’s kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a game winning field goal with three seconds remaining.  Overtime followed with Georgia scoring a field goal, making the score 23-20.  Tua Tagovailoa needed to control his team after being sacked to a 6 yard loss.  Tua sent a deep ball down field, and completed the 41 yard touchdown pass for the overtime win, completing Bama’s 5th title run in 9 years.  It was a college football season for the books, and Nick Saban solidified his place as one of the best football coaches of all time.