Follow live: Purdue hits back vs. unbeaten Michigan in Big Ten title game

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The final weekend of the college football season is here and the stakes in the games could not be higher.

There is legitimate College Football Playoff drama. The No. 4 USC Trojans are out after their loss to the No. 11 Utah Utes in the Pac-12 title game. The No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs will have to await their fate after losing, in overtime, to the No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats.

The SEC, however, will be drama-free. At least as it pertains to Georgia. The Bulldogs cruised past LSU and locked themselves into the No. 1 spot in the final playoff ranking.

USC’s loss is the Ohio State Buckeyes‘ gain. Ohio State was No. 5 in the last ranking. TCU’s loss could put the No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide back in the mix.

The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines are last up on championship Saturday. They’ll face the Purdue Boilermakers. The drama would only arise for Michigan should it lose.

Here are the top plays, biggest moments and playoff takeaways from championship weekend.

Big Ten championship

Halftime: Michigan 14, Purdue 13

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm never plays it safe, no matter the opponent or the stage.

“There’s no reason you can’t take the field every week and cut it loose and play loose and free and aggressive, to win,” Brohm told ESPN this week. “That’s the approach we take.”

Brohm’s Boilers followed through in the first half of the Big Ten title game, even after falling behind 7-0. They attacked downfield against Michigan, capitalizing on some poor tackling and positioning from Wolverines defenders. Late in the first quarter, Brohm called a fake punt, converted by standout tight end Payne Durham, that kept a drive alive and resulted in a field goal.

He leaned on starting quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who missed practice Tuesday to be with his family following the unexpected death of his older brother, Sean. While there was little doubt O’Connell would play, he displayed his standard accuracy and poise despite the difficult circumstances. He completed 19 of 22 pass attempts in the half with two intentional throwaways. The Boilers are very much in the game, thanks to their pedal-down approach. — Adam Rittenberg

Wolverines regain the lead

Purdue responds with a TD

Michigan finds the end zone first


Playoff takeaway: Locked into No. 1

This will be the easiest part of the selection committee’s night.

Georgia further solidified itself as the No. 1 team in the country Saturday evening with its lopsided win over No. 14 LSU in the SEC championship game. Regardless of how soundly Michigan might beat Purdue in the Big Ten title game, there won’t be any debate over who’s No. 1 on selection day. If Michigan didn’t leapfrog Georgia in the fifth ranking after it beat then-No. 2 Ohio State, it’s certainly not going earn a promotion for beating an unranked, four-loss Purdue team.

The only question for Georgia is who it will face at No. 4 in a CFP semifinal. — Heather Dinich


If there was an image that encapsulated the SEC championship Saturday, it was this: Georgia star defensive lineman Jalen Carter knifing through the LSU offensive line and wrangling quarterback Jayden Daniels for a sack before lifting him up off the ground his left arm and holding out his right index finger to signal No. 1.

The message might have been two-fold. Carter showed why he’s in contention to be the top pick in next year’s NFL draft and why his team is the clear-cut top-seed in the College Football Playoff. When LSU showed some brief signs of life in the second half, like going for it on fourth-and-1 inside the red zone, it was Carter who helped stuff the run for no gain and a turnover on downs.

Georgia dominated LSU from start to finish to win. Even special teams got the job done as Nazir Stackhouse blocked a field goal attempt, Christopher Smith picked it up and ran 96 yards for a touchdown.

The Bulldogs’ offense was no slouch, either. Stetson Bennett was ruthlessly efficient, completing 23 of 29 passes for 274 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The running game, led by Kendall Milton, pitched in with 255 yards and two scores. — Alex Scarborough

UGA drops the mic

Tigers keep fighting

LSU turns a turnover into a TD

Halftime: Georgia 35, LSU 10

So Georgia is good and lucky.

Now maybe you create your own luck, but however you look at it, the Bulldogs got some fortunate bounces to jump out to a 35-10 lead on the Tigers in the first half of the SEC championship game.

First, after Georgia allowed LSU to drive the field and set up a chip-shot field goal, Nazir Stackhouse blocked the kick. Which was kind of normal. But then, with half the players standing around or celebrating as if the play was over, Chris Smith waited a moment, picked up the ball and ran it back 96 yards for a touchdown.

LSU responded with a touchdown of its own, but Georgia had an answer.

First, Stetson Bennett found Brock Bowers for a 3-yard touchdown reception. Then things got weird again.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels threw an errant pass, the ball bounced off Jack Bech‘s helmet and landed in the arms of Smael Mondon Jr. Georgia took over on the LSU 22-yard line and Bennett immediately hit Ladd McConkey for a touchdown to go ahead by two scores.

From there, it was a return to form for Georgia as it forced three consecutive three-and-outs and scored a pair of touchdowns to pad its lead. — Alex Scarborough

Georgia closes the half strong

Massive headwear

INT leads to Georgia TD

UGA’s offense gets involved

Trading big-play scores

Atlanta arrivals

Mike the Tiger is ready


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0:38

Ty Zentner knocks in the 31-yard field goal, giving Kansas State an overtime win and the Big 12 title.

Playoff takeaway: Comparing Tide vs. Frogs

If TCU was going to lose to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, this was how it had to happen — the overtime, 31-28 defeat gives the Frogs a good chance to remain in the top four, but until it’s official an air of uncertainty will loom.

The selection committee has to concur that TCU is “unequivocally” one of the four best teams in the country — meaning there has to be no doubt within the room that the Frogs belong in the top four without the Big 12 title. If that’s the case, they don’t necessarily have to resort to tiebreakers, but the committee will at least compare TCU and Alabama side-by-side on large monitors in the center of the room.

TCU just lost a close game to a top-10 team — the same team it beat during the regular season. The Frogs also have a common opponent with Alabama — they both beat Texas on the road — and that will be considered. Alabama’s best wins are at Texas, against Ole Miss, and Mississippi State, which is now a top-25 team.

A two-loss team has never made the CFP before, though, and Alabama didn’t win its division. The bigger debate in the room might be if Ohio State moves up to No. 3 without winning its division, while the Frogs drop to No. 4. — Heather Dinich


Kansas State finally found the antidote to TCU’s magic. After withstanding a furious 11-point comeback to get to overtime — including TCU’s Max Duggan rushing for 95 yards on an 80-yard drive due to penalties to tie the game — and the Wildcats stopped Kendre Miller twice from the 1-yard line, including on fourth down in the first half of overtime. As a result, K-State was able to play it safe and kick a field goal to walk off with a 31-28 win to claim a Big 12 championship for the third time in school history. Deuce Vaughn was the backbone for the Wildcats as usual, carrying it 26 times for 130 yards and a touchdown, adding two catches for 30 yards. — David Wilson


Playoff takeaway: Welcome back, Ohio State

With No. 4 USC losing to Utah on Friday night in the Pac-12 championship game, the No. 5 Buckeyes (11-1) should slide right into the top four on selection day. The committee will justify the move with Ohio State’s wins against Penn State and Notre Dame, plus its lone loss was to a top-four team in Michigan. It’s extremely unlikely and unexpected for two-loss No. 6 Alabama to leapfrog Ohio State at this point, which is why the fifth ranking was so important. The Buckeyes will maintain their edge over the Tide, whose last hope would be for undefeated TCU to lose convincingly to K-State in the Big 12 title game — and even that might not be enough.

USC’s Friday night flop was an all-too familiar finish for the Pac-12 with the selection committee watching together here in their meeting room at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas. They’re not going to reward three-loss conference champion Utah with a top-four spot, and two-loss USC simply doesn’t have the defense to make a case as Pac-12 runner-up — especially with a second loss to the same team. Utah should be heading to the Rose Bowl again but that will be the league’s ceiling this year. — Heather Dinich


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