Dec 31, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas State Wildcats running back DJ Giddens (31) runs the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Jordan Battle (9) during the first half in the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young throws five TDs, No. 5 Alabama trounces No. 9 Kansas State

Bryce Young threw five touchdown passes and No. 5 Alabama overcame a slow start to rout No. 9 Kansas State 45-20 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Saturday in New Orleans.

Young completed 15 of 21 passes for 321 yards and the Crimson Tide (11-2) scored 35 consecutive points to take command after falling behind 10-0.

Deuce Vaughn rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard passed for 210 yards, but was intercepted twice for the Big 12 champion Wildcats (10-4).

Kansas State tried to regain the momentum by starting the second half with an onside kick, but Alabama recovered. Three plays later Young threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks for a 28-10 lead.

On the ensuing possession Brian Branch intercepted Howard, giving the Tide the ball at the Wildcats’ 17-yard line. On the next play Jase McClellan produced Alabama’s only rushing touchdown from 17 yards out for a 35-10 lead.

Kansas State’s Ty Zentner kicked a 28-yard field goal and Young threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Kobe Prentice for a 42-13 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Alabama’s Will Reichard kicked a 49-yard field goal and the Wildcats’ Jordan Schippers ran 1 yard for a touchdown to complete the scoring.

Zentner’s 41-yard field goal and Vaughn’s 88-yard touchdown run, the second-longest in Sugar Bowl history, gave Kansas State its early lead.

Young connected with Jahmyr Gibbs for 60 yards to the Wildcats’ 9, setting up his 6-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Bond. That left Kansas State with a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

A 47-yard pass from Young to Jermaine Burton set up Young’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Latu for a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter.

On the ensuing possession the Wildcats converted two third downs and two fourth downs to reach the Tide 2 late in the second quarter, but on fourth-and-goal Howard threw an incompletion.

Alabama drove 98 yards in seven plays, the last of which was Young’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Burton with 10 seconds left, giving the Tide a 21-10 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) waves to fans as he leaves the field after defeating the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 49-27. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Alabama, No. 9 K-State have plenty to prove in Sugar Bowl

Alabama fell short of its annual expectation of being in the College Football Playoff.

Kansas State exceeded all expectations by winning the Big 12 championship.

The No. 5 Crimson Tide (10-2) and the No. 9 Wildcats (10-3) enter the Sugar Bowl on Saturday afternoon from different perspectives, but both teams say that being a warm-up for the CFP doesn’t diminish the importance of their game in New Orleans.

“This is not something that is not important to us,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We have a lot that we can prove in this game.”

The Tide and the Wildcats kick off ahead of the CFP semifinal clashes as No. 3 TCU plays No. 2 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State challenges No. 1 Georgia.

Alabama, which was ranked No. 1 in the AP preseason poll, can show that perhaps it should have been included in the playoff on Saturday. The Tide’s losses both came on the final play of the game against Tennessee and LSU, both of which were highly ranked at the time.

“It hasn’t gone as we wanted to this season,” running back Jahmyr Gibbs said. “So, we’re trying to finish the season off right.”

Quarterback Bryce Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, and star defender Will Anderson have said they will play in the Sugar Bowl, but 15 Alabama players have entered the transfer portal, per 247Sports.

Five of the departing players are offensive linemen and five more are wide receivers, leaving the Tide thin at those spots.

“We’re going to play a really good team that plays sort of old-fashioned, tough, very disciplined, well-coached,” Saban said. “So there’s not any way to make it easy to prepare for a team like that.”

Kansas State was unranked to start the season and didn’t enter the rankings until after it improved to 3-1 with a 41-34 victory at Oklahoma on Sept. 24. But it has remained ranked ever since and secured the Sugar Bowl berth with a 31-28 overtime victory against previously unbeaten TCU in the Big 12 title game Dec. 3.

“It didn’t even feel real for the first few days,” offensive lineman Hayden Gillum said. “It’s a surreal feeling and it’s special but we’ve got a great opportunity coming up and we’re gonna make the most of it, too.”

The Wildcats have not had any opt-outs and star running back Deuce Vaughn said he won’t decide about whether to leave early for the NFL until after the Sugar Bowl.

“The Sugar Bowl has been a game that I’ve wanted to play in since I was a little kid,” Vaughn said. “Everybody wants to finish the thing the right way.”

Alabama is favored by nearly a touchdown, but Kansas State has exceeded expectations all season.

“People are saying (the Tide) are having a down year for them and the fact that it’s a down year and they’re still ranked No. 5 tells you enough about Alabama,” Wildcats quarterback Will Howard said. “We get to measure ourselves against the best and we feel like we’re one of the best too.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) drops back to pass as offensive lineman Tyler Steen (54) blocls against the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 49-27. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama QB Bryce Young, LB Will Anderson to play in Sugar Bowl

Alabama coach Nick Saban confirmed to reporters Friday night that quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson will play in the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 31 rather than opt out to prepare for the NFL draft.

The Crimson Tide had no players opt out of the bowl game, according to Saban.

Young is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, and Anderson, considered among the best defensive prospects available, is expected to be a high selection as well.

More players in recent years have chosen to sit out bowl games to protect their bodies and, in turn, their draft stock. Saban framed Young’s and Anderson’s decisions as team-first moves.

“I think it sets a great example for guys that respect their teammates,” Saban said, “want to be a part of their team, know the impact that they can make, the value that they can make, that they can create for themselves by playing well against good competition. I’m extremely proud of these guys. We’re gonna support them in every way that we can.”

Alabama (10-2) missed the SEC championship game and finished No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings, the first team out of the playoff field. The Crimson Tide will face Big 12 champion Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl.

Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, has followed up a breakout season by completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 3,007 yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions thus far. Anderson, at one point considered the likely No. 1 draft pick in 2023, has tallied 51 tackles, 10 sacks and a pick-6 this season.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baylor Bears linebacker Terrel Bernard (2) reacts to a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half of the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Sugar Bowl moved to Dec. 31 to avoid TV conflict with ‘MNF’

The Sugar Bowl will be played on New Year’s Eve at 12 noon ET on Dec. 31 next season, rather than in its regular primetime TV slot.

The bowl game is normally held on New Year’s Day, which will fall on a Sunday in 2023. But it could not be moved to Monday, Jan. 2 with other bowl games because ESPN owns the broadcast rights and had a conflict with its “Monday Night Football” game, an AFC tilt between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.

Instead, the Sugar Bowl — held in New Orleans and usually pitting representatives of the SEC and Big 12 — will stay back on Dec. 31 and kick off at 11 a.m. local time.

Next season’s two College Football Playoff semifinal games, the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, will follow that day at 4 and 8 p.m. ET in some order.

The Orange Bowl will be played Dec. 30, but that isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Miami-based game that features the ACC champion. The two other traditional New Year’s Day bowls — the Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl — will be played during the day on Jan. 2.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Matt Corral (2) warms up before the 2022 Sugar Bowl against the Baylor Bears at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss star QB Matt Corral exits Sugar Bowl with leg injury

Ole Miss star quarterback Matt Corral left the Sugar Bowl on Saturday night with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter after a sack left him with a lower leg injury.

Corral, who was seventh in Heisman Trophy voting, was sacked by Baylor defensive lineman Cole Maxwell on the Rebels’ third series after converting a pair of fourth-down plays to keep the drive alive.

The quarterback clutched at his right ankle, stayed on the turf briefly and eventually left the field on a cart.

Corral, who also injured his ankle on Halloween weekend at Auburn, was taken to the medical facilities for x-rays and replaced by true freshman Luke Altmyer.
Corral, who decided against opting out of his final college game, will enter the NFL draft next spring and is projected to be a first-round selection.

Corral rushed seven times for 17 yards and was 2-for-6 passing for 10 yards with an interception before leaving the scoreless game.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) stands in the pocket with the ball during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Fields fires 6 TD passes as Ohio State routs Clemson in semis

Justin Fields threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns as third-ranked Ohio State crushed second-ranked Clemson 49-28 on Friday in a College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

The Buckeyes (7-0) will play No. 1 Alabama in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 11 with a chance for their first national championship since the 2014-15 season.

Fields completed 22 of 28 passes with one interception and ran eight times for 42 yards to lead the Buckeyes, who amassed 639 total yards. Trey Sermon ran 31 times for 193 yards and Chris Olave made six catches for 132 yards and two TDs for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State reeled off 28 unanswered points to take a 35-14 halftime lead behind Fields’ exploits, and the Buckeyes successfully avenged a 29-23 loss to the Tigers in last year’s semifinals.

In the first half, Fields was 16 of 18 for 223 yards and four touchdowns and ran seven times for 50 yards to help the Buckeyes overcome 7-0 and 14-7 deficits.

Trevor Lawrence was 33 of 48 for 400 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for Clemson (10-2). The Tigers managed just 44 rushing yards on 22 carries.

Fields tossed an 8-yard pass to Luke Farrell, the senior tight end’s first career TD catch, to make it 14-14 late in the first quarter. Fields then hit Jeremy Ruckert on a 17-yard scoring play for a 21-14 lead at 10:35 of the second quarter and connected with Olave for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 28-14.

On the latter drive, Clemson linebacker James Skalski was ejected for targeting for his hit on Fields. The Ohio State quarterback left the game for one play before returning to throw his third TD pass. The fourth came with 11 seconds left in the half, 12 yards to Ruckert.

After Clemson pulled within 35-21 on a Cornell Powell TD reception early in the third quarter, Fields threw scoring strikes of 56 yards to Olave and 45 Jameson Williams to make it a 28-point game a minute into the fourth quarter.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Indianapolis, IN, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) rushes up field ahead of Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Blake Gallagher (51) during the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship football game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.  Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY NETWORK

Clemson takes aim at Ohio State in Sugar Bowl

The impact of Ohio State’s 29-23 loss to Clemson in the 2019 College Football Playoff semifinal has reverberated for nearly a year among the Buckeyes.

On Jan. 1 they will have an opportunity to create happier memories at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans when they face the No. 2 Tigers (10-1) in a semifinal matchup for the third time in five seasons.

The Buckeyes (6-0) led 16-0 through 25 minutes last season before Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence led the comeback. Still, Ohio State drove to the Tigers’ 23 with a chance to potentially win the game until Justin Fields was intercepted in the end zone by Nolan Turner with 37 seconds left in the game.

“Fresh off of that game, it was right on our minds, and something that when we got back to work and winter workouts, January, February, it was right there for us,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Sunday. “Coming off that game, we just didn’t get over it in one day. It took time.

“As we got into spring ball, we started to move forward, and then the quarantine happened. The goal was to get back into the situation. … And we wanted – once that game was over, we wanted to get back here.”

There was even a sign with the score posted in the Buckeyes’ weight room – an honor usually reserved for rival Michigan.

After defeating Ohio State, Clemson was denied a second straight national title by losing to LSU. The Tigers also won the CFP title in 2016 following a 31-0 rout of the Buckeyes in the semifinal and they are 4-0 all-time in the series.

“If we’re playing Ohio State, it’s a playoff,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “Or it was a BCS bowl, back in 2013 in the Orange Bowl. We don’t have them on our regular schedule anytime in the near future, so you know it is a big, big postseason game when you play those guys.”

The No. 3 Buckeyes will try to establish the run using Trey Sermon, who gained a school and FBS conference championship game-record 331 yards during a 22-10 win over Northwestern in the Big Ten title game on Saturday.

Ohio State had 22 players out for the game, mostly because of COVID-19 issues, so the status of players such as top receiver Chris Olave and starting linebacker Baron Browning are unknown as they complete protocols. The Buckeyes might get a boost from the adjusted conference protocol for COVID quarantine, which is reduced to 17 days. Day said “a good number” of the players who missed the Big Ten title game should be cleared for the Jan. 1 game.

Lawrence tested positive earlier this season, missing the Nov. 7 double-overtime loss at Notre Dame. He showed he’s fully recovered by throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 90 yards and a score to down the Fighting Irish 34-10 to win the ACC championship Saturday.

He got support from running back Travis Etienne (124 yards and a TD on 10 carries).

Those two were lethal vs. the Buckeyes last season. Lawrence had 259 passing yards and a touchdown, plus 107 yards and a score on the ground while Etienne had 134 all-purpose yards and three TDs.

“I think (Lawrence) and Etienne are two of the most dynamic players in college football, and probably in the history of college football,” Day said.

Swinney’s opinion of Ohio State has been a hot topic since the release of the CFP rankings. Swinney said he felt the six-game resume of Ohio State, which began the season in late October, put the Buckeyes on a different playing field than many of the other contenders. Swinney backed up his feelings by rankings the Buckeyes No. 11 in the final coaches’ poll of the season.

“I think any time you step in between the lines, the game of football, there’s a lot that can happen. A lot,” Swinney said. “I mean, heck, in 2017, we lost to a three-win or four-win Syracuse team and still went to the playoffs. So anything can happen. Guys can get hurt. There’s a lot. So I think the fact that we’re going to have 11 games as well as the SEC teams — I mean, you look at Florida and Texas A&M and Alabama. I mean, these teams are going to have 11 games this year.

“It’s incredible and I think the Big Ten had the same opportunity and they chose not to play, and I think the only reason they ended up playing is because of the leadership of the SEC and the ACC and the Big 12, and have demonstrated that we can do it and do it in a safe way. So it’s been an unbelievably challenging season, that’s for sure. …

He continued: “Obviously, as coaches, we don’t control any of that stuff. So I do think that our team has played incredibly well. We had a double-overtime loss at the No. 2 team in the country now in Notre Dame, who’s a great team and an unbelievable game. Again, no matter what happens for Notre Dame or Clemson, nothing changes in my mind, as far as both of these teams being in the top four.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban argued Sunday that, while Ohio State is talented, the psychological toll of the elongated season and the physical challenges of playing a full SEC schedule made for an unfair advantage to teams that are relatively rested and fresh entering January.

–Field Level Media