NEW ORLEANS -- The first-ever College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual turned into a one-sided rout. The second one? It was a down-to-the-final-second classic and an upset for the ages.
No. 4 Ohio State, a team some questioned whether it even belonged in the playoff over Baylor and TCU, ran past No. 1 Alabama 42-35 at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Thursday to rattle all preconceived notions.
The Buckeyes advance to play No. 2 Oregon Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where they will seek their first national title since 2002. The SEC dynasty is officially over, after a horrible bowl season by the league's supposedly superior West Division and Alabama's second straight loss at the Sugar Bowl.
Here's how Ohio State got it done at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to restore some serious Big Ten pride:
It was over when: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott busted through the right side of the Alabama defense for an 85-yard touchdown run and a two-score lead with 3:24 left. All "Big Ten speed" jokes must cease for at least eight months after Elliott outran flailing Crimson Tide defenders a couple times on the night. Alabama wasn't quite done yet, as it would score another touchdown and get the ball back again after some weird Ohio State play calling. But Tyvis Powell intercepted a Hail Mary on the final play to seal the shocking result.
Game ball goes to: Elliott and Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. Alabama hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and had the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation during the regular season. Elliott reached 100 yards by the end of the first quarter and finished with 230 rushing yards and two scores. Jones, meanwhile, outplayed Alabama counterpart Blake Sims and showed no fear on a big stage. While he was far from perfect, Jones completed 18 of 35 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown while also providing a major run threat whenever the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder rumbled through would-be tacklers.
And special recognition goes out to Alabama's JK Scott, who might have had the best punting performance in a big game ever, averaging 55 yards on seven attempts and placing five punts inside the Ohio State 20-yard line. He gave new meaning to "Punt, Bama, punt."
How the game was won: Hard as it might be to believe, Ohio State was just tougher, better and faster, particularly at the offensive skill positions. The Buckeyes fell behind 21-6 in the first half, thanks largely to two first-half turnovers and a pair of drives inside the Alabama 5-yard line that ended in field goals. But from there, they settled down and rallied to score the next 28 points, confounding the feared Alabama defense with both the run and the pass despite dealing with terrible field position all night long. The Buckeyes did just enough on defense, led by a standout performance from freshman Darron Lee and some questionable play calling by Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who abandoned the run at times even though Derrick Henry (13 carries for 95 yards) was nearly unstoppable.
Stat of the game: Alabama allowed only 88 yards rushing per game this season, tops in the FBS. Ohio State gashed the Tide for 281 rushing yards and 537 yards overall. There's also this: The Buckeyes were 10-of-18 on third down, while Alabama was just 2-for-13.
Best play: Late in the first half, Ohio State went with some trickery in the Alabama red zone. After a handoff, receiver Evan Spencer took a pitch and then passed the ball to Michael Thomas, who managed to just barely land his left foot in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown against tight coverage. Apparently, the Buckeyes can plug anyone into a quarterback role and still score.