The Plays From Week 14 That Shaped the College Football Landscape

The SEC Championship that served as a rematch of last season’s national championship game didn’t disappoint as No. 1 Alabama came behind to beat No. 4 Georgia in the fourth quarter 35-28. Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts’ game-winning touchdown run, which clinched the Crimson Tide’s fifth consecutive College Football Playoff berth, headlines the plays from Week 14 that shaped the college football landscape.

 

Georgia’s fake punt sets up Jalen Hurts’ game-winning touchdown run

Georgia’s offseason will be filled with questions about what would have happened if the Bulldogs had elected to punt the ball on 4th & 11 from the 50-yard line with 3:04 left in the game. Instead of potentially pinning Alabama deep in its own territory, Georgia coach Kirby Smart called a fake punt in which backup quarterback Justin Fields received a direct snap, never really looked to throw the ball and he was tackled after just a two-yard gain.

The Crimson Tide took over own downs at their own 48-yard line and Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, who replaced injured starter Tua Tagovailoa in the second half, had an incredible moment in which he capped off a five-play, 52-yard scoring drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.

In January, Hurts had been replaced by Tagovailoa at halftime in the same building against the same opponent during the national championship game and on Saturday, he came off the bench to help the Crimson Tide win an SEC Championship and enter the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed.

Oklahoma sacks Texas QB Sam Ehlinger for a game-changing safety

For a conference known for its high-powered offenses and seemingly optional defense, the Big 12 Championship was swung by a defensive play.

After Oklahoma took a 30-27 lead on a field goal from Austin Seibert, Texas punted, Oklahoma fumbled, and when the Longhorns got the ball back, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger was blindsided by a corner blitz and sacked in the end zone by Oklahoma’s Tre Brown for a safety.

The safety gave Oklahoma a five-point lead and the ball, which the Sooners turned into an 11-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a one-handed grab in the end zone by tight end Grant Calcaterra.

Oklahoma’s 39-27 lead with two minutes left proved insurmountable, especially after Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff was called back due to holding. It was potentially a 16-point swing — if Texas were to score a touchdown on the drive when it took the safety — that likely clinched a playoff berth for Oklahoma.

Charlie Fessler’s fumble is overturned, Northwestern capitalizes with a touchdown.

Ohio State had an uphill battle to surpass both the loser of Alabama-Georgia and No. 5 Oklahoma to make the College Football Playoff. It likely needed a blowout win over Northwestern and a loss by the Sooners to make a serious run at the No. 4 seed.

But Ohio State struggled to distance itself from Northwestern for most of the game. Even after the Buckeyes took a 24-7 lead into halftime, the Wildcats cut the lead to 24-21 on Clayton Thorson’s touchdown pass to Cameron Green from two yards out. Two plays earlier, Thorson connected with wide receiver Charlie Fessler, who was stripped by Ohio State’s Damon Arnette on the way to the ground. The play, which was ruled a fumble recovery by Ohio State on the field, was reviewed and overturned, setting up the Northwestern touchdown.

The fact that Ohio State was in a close game with Northwestern in the second half ended any hope of a potential blowout win similar to Ohio State’s 59-0 throttling of Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten Championship. A huge win over Northwestern may not have been enough for Ohio State to crack the top four but the Buckeyes’ 45-24 victory likely wasn’t enough to offer confidence in the committee that Ohio State is one of the four best teams in the country.

A.J. Terrell’s interception sets up Tee Higgins touchdown reception before halftime

On a rainy night in Charlotte, Pittsburgh cut Clemson’s lead to 14-10 on Qadree Ollison’s touchdown run in the middle of the second quarter but the Tigers responded with a touchdown of their own, then A.J. Terrell picked of Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett near midfield and returned the ball to Pitt’s 10-yard line. One play later, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence found wide receiver Tee Higgins for a touchdown, extending the Tigers’ lead to 28-10 just before halftime.

If there was any hope that Pitt could hang with Clemson, that sequence quickly squashed it and showed just how dominant the Tigers are on both sides of the ball compared to the rest of the ACC.

Darriel Mack Jr.’s final touchdown run for UCF

After trailing 38-21 to Memphis at halftime of the AAC Championship, UCF scored touchdowns on its first five possessions of the second half to win 56-41 and keep their incredible winning streak still alive. UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr., who started in place of the injured McKenzie Milton, threw for 348 yards and had six total touchdowns, including four rushing touchdowns in the second half.

He punched the ball in the end zone from five yards out with 2:29 to play, putting the Knights ahead by 15 after the PAT, in what proved to be the knockout punch. It was a massive comeback that gives UCF the chance to string together back-to-back undefeated seasons and potentially claim another national title like the school did last year.