SUGAR BOWL

NEW ORLEANS — Ezekiel Elliott sprinted down the field, nothing between him and the end zone. Cardale Jones was right on his heels, eager to join the celebration.

They can keep right on running.

Next stop, the national championship game.

BOX SCORE: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

Elliott shredded the fearsome Alabama defense and Jones again proved to be a worthy replacement at quarterback, leading Ohio State to a stunning 42-35 victory over the top-ranked Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night.

The Buckeyes (13-1) advanced to face Oregon in the Jan. 12 title game at Arlington, Texas.

Without the new playoff, they never would’ve had a chance.

“Obviously, we’re really thankful for the playoff system,” said Elliott, knowing the fourth seed would’ve been shut out under the old BCS system that only rewarded the two highest-ranked teams. “They gave us a chance to go out there and show that we’re one of the better teams in the nation and we deserve to be in the national championship.”

No doubt about that.

Ohio State rallied from an early 21-6 deficit, scoring 28 straight points against the Crimson Tide (12-2). Then, with the Buckeyes clinging to a 34-28 lead, Elliott came up with the play that essentially sealed the victory with 3 1/2 minutes remaining.

Right after Jones twisted for a 1-yard gain on third down to keep the possession alive, Elliott took a handoff around the left side, broke one feeble swipe at his ankles, and kept right on running for an 85-yard touchdown.

Jones wasn’t too far behind, jumping on his teammate’s back after they got to the end zone.

Oregon advanced to the title game with a 59-20 rout of defending national champion Florida State in the other semifinal at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks’ performance was impressive, indeed, but Ohio State coach Urban Meyer likes his team’s chances after taking down a team seeking its fourth national title in six years.

“We’re good enough,” Meyer said. “That was a classic.”

ROSE BOWL

PASADENA, Calif. — Marcus Mariota and Oregon turned an avalanche of Florida State mistakes into a mountain of points and the Ducks rolled past the defending national champions 59-20 Thursday to turn the first College Football Playoff semifinal into a Rose Bowl rout.

Mariota and the second-seeded Ducks (13-1) scored six straight times they touched the ball in the second half, with five of the touchdowns covering at least 21 yards and the last four coming after Florida State turnovers.

BOX SCORE: Oregon 59, Florida State 20

In the matchup of Heisman Trophy winners, Jameis Winston matched Mariota’s numbers, but the defending national champions were no match for the Ducks. The Pac-12 champions will play the winner of the Sugar Bowl semifinal between Alabama and Ohio State on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

Third-seeded Florida State’s winning streak ends at 29. In Winston’s first loss as a college starter, maybe his last game in college, he threw for 348 yards.

No Heisman jinx for Mariota. He was mostly brilliant again. The junior passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns and sprinted in for a 23 yard-touchdown with 13:56 left in the fourth quarter that made it 52-20 and made the Ducks the first team to reach 50 points in Rose Bowl history. This was No. 101.

“59-20, I did not expect that,” Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead said.

The Ducks fans spent much of the final quarter mockingly doing the Seminoles’ warchant and tomahawk chop. Next stop: The Lone Star state to try to win the program’s first national title.

The first playoff game at college football’s highest level, the type of postseason game fans have longed for forever, looked like it would be a classic for about two and half quarters.

Under a cloudless sky, on chilly day in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl featured the third matchup of Heisman Trophy winners and a couple of quarterbacks who could be vying to be the first overall pick in April’s NFL draft.

Mariota and Winston were both OK in the first half, missing some throws and making some spectacular ones. It was Mariota who threw the only interception, just his third of the season. The late pick didn’t hurt the Ducks much because Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo missed a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

For the sixth time this season, Florida State was trailing at the half.

And then the hole got deeper.

The Seminoles’ first turnover was a huge swing. Freshman Dalvin Cook was stripped by Derrick Malone Jr. with Florida State in Oregon territory. The Ducks quickly flipped the field and Freeman scored his second touchdown of the day from 3 yards out to make it 25-13.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich had called the Seminoles “unflappable” during the week leading up to the Rose Bowl — and they showed it on the next drive.

Winston threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to freshman Travis Rudolph. Midway through the third quarter it was 25-20 Oregon and then it was Mariota’s turn.

He zipped a pass to Darren Carrington near the sideline and the receiver made one cut and was gone for a 56-yard touchdown that made it 32-20.

Instead of an answer from Florida State, this time another fumble by Cook and the wave of big plays and points that the Ducks do better than any team in the country started rumbling.

Two plays after the turnover, Mariota hit Carrington for a 30-yard touchdown and it was 39-20 and the Rose Bowl, filled mostly with green and yellow, was rumbling, too.

COTTON BOWL

ARLINGTON, Texas — Connor Cook threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keith Mumphery with 17 seconds left to cap a three-touchdown, fourth-quarter comeback in No. 7 Michigan State’s 42-41 victory over playoff-snubbed Baylor.

BOX SCORE: Michigan State 42, Baylor 41

The Spartans (11-2) got the winning touchdown after Marcus Rush blocked a Baylor field goal with just more than a minute left.

When No. 4 Baylor (11-2) got the ball back for one last try, Bryce Petty was sacked on consecutive plays before Riley Bullough’s clinching interception.

Petty completed 36 of 51 passes for a Cotton Bowl-record 550 yards and three touchdowns, two to speedy freshman KD Cannon and the other to 390-pount backup guard LaQuan McGowan that put Baylor up 41-21 late in the third quarter.

Jeremy Langford ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns for the Spartans, whose only losses were to playoff teams Oregon and Ohio State.

OUTBACK BOWL

TAMPA, Fla. — Melvin Gordon rushed for an Outback Bowl-record 251 yards and three touchdowns and Rafael Gaglianone kicked a 25-yard field goal in overtime to give No. 17 Wisconsin a 34-31 victory over No. 19 Auburn on Thursday.

BOX SCORE: Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31

Gordon scored on runs of 25, 53 and 6 yards, bouncing back from a subpar performance in the Big Ten championship game to threaten Barry Sanders’ FBS single-season rushing record.

The Badgers star finished with 2,587 yards in 14 games — second most in FBS history. Sanders gained 2,628 in 11 games in 1988, when the NCAA did not include bowl results in a player’s statistics.

Nick Marshall threw for two touchdowns for Auburn, which also got a pair of TDs on the ground from Cameron Artis-Payne. The Tigers were unable to move the ball in overtime, though, and lost when Daniel Carlson’s 45-yard field goal hit the right upright and bounced away.

CITRUS BOWL

ORLANDO, Fla. — Marcus Murphy ran for 159 yards, Russell Hansbrough added 114 yards and a touchdown and No. 16 Missouri beat Minnesota 33-17.

BOX SCORE: Missouri 33, Minnesota 17

Missouri (11-3) won its third straight bowl game to reach 11 victories for the fourth time in school history.

Minnesota (8-5) trailed 19-17 entering the fourth quarter, but Missouri pulled away on Hansbrough’s 78-yard touchdown run and Maty Mauk’s 7-yard scoring pass to Bud Sasser.

Mauk settled down to throw two TD passes after interceptions on the Tigers’ first two possessions.

The Tigers forced three turnovers.

Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner was 21 of 31 for 258 yards and a touchdown.

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