Defending National Champion Clemson became the first team in college football history to win five consecutive conference championships when it overpowered Virginia in the ACC Championship game.
The Tigers extended their nation-best winning streak to 28 games and have now won 19 ACC championships and 25 overall championships in Clemson program history.
Led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Tee Higgins, Clemson scored the first five times it had the ball on its way to an ACC Championship game record 62 points and 619 total yards.
Higgins finished with three touchdown receptions and 182 receiving yards, each setting an ACC Championship Game record. With those three TD catches the junior tied Clemson’s all-time receiving touchdowns record with 27 and earned the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week.
Lawrence set an ACC Championship game record with four touchdown passes. He finished with 302 passing yards and for the eighth consecutive game threw at least three TD passes.
Tigers running back Travis Etienne chipped in with 114 yards and a touchdown to eclipse 1,500 yards on the ground this season. It’s the second year in a row he went over the 1,500-yard mark, becoming the first player in program history to accomplish the feat.
For the fifth consecutive year the undefeated Tigers will participate in the College Football Playoff. Clemson was awarded the No. 3 seed and will face second-seeded Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28 in one CFP semifinal.
The Tigers’ fifth CFP playoff appearance ties Alabama for the most appearances in the brief history of the four-team playoff.
Baylor: Forced to use its second and third string quarterbacks, the Bears still took the Big 12 Championship game into overtime before falling to Oklahoma by a touchdown. Twice Baylor rallied from double-digit deficits to force extra time in its first appearance in the conference title game. After losing starting quarterback Charlie Brewer in the first half, the combination of redshirt freshman Gerry Bohanon and true freshman Jacob Zeno combined to throw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns without an interception to keep Baylor in the hunt. The Bears had a crack to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, moving inside the OU 20 before stalling and settled instead for John Mayers 27-yard field goal as the final points in regulation. Junior defensive lineman James Lynch had 2.0 sacks in the championship game, setting the Baylor single-season mark for sacks in a season with 12.5.
The Bears’ only losses this season came at the hands of College Football Playoff-bound Oklahoma. Baylor finished No. 7 overall in the rankings and earned an invitation to a New Year’s Six Bowl invite to the 86th playing of the Sugar Bowl. The Bears, who were 1-11 two years ago, will play No. 5 Georgia in New Orleans. This is the reward for a senior class that played under three different head coaches and lost 16 of 18 games during one stretch.
Penn State: For the first time since 1975 the Nittany Lions will play in the Cotton Bowl to commemorate the 50th bowl game appearance in program history. Penn State finished No. 10 in the final rankings and earned an invitation to play American Athletic Conference (AAC) champion and 17th ranked Memphis (12-1) in Dallas on December 28. This will be the Nittany Lions’ third New Year’s Six bowl appearance in the last four years under head coach James Franklin and the sixth straight season Penn State has been bowl eligible.
Illinois: Ending a five-year drought of making an appearance in a bowl game, the Fighting Illini earned the 19th bowl invitation in program history with a trip to the Bay Area. Illinois will play Cal from the Pac-12 in the Redbox Bowl on December 30. Although Illinois and Cal have played 10 previous times, this will be the first meeting in a bowl game.
Notre Dame: Coming off its third consecutive 10-win season, the Fighting Irish will play their 148th different opponent in program history when they face Iowa State from the Big 12 Conference in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando on December 28. This is the ninth time in 10 years head coach Brian Kelly has taken Notre Dame to a bowl game and will mark appearance No. 36 in the postseason for the Fighting Irish.
Kent State: After winning their final three games just to reach six wins, the Golden Flashes are headed to a bowl game for only the fourth time in program history and the first since 2013. Kent State will play Utah State from the Mountain West Conference in the Frisco Bowl on December 20 in Frisco, Texas. With wins over Buffalo, Ball State and Kent State, the Golden Flashes are the only FBS team to win their final three games of the season to become bowl eligible.
Western Michigan: For the third time in the last four years the Broncos are bowl bound. Western Michigan earned an invitation to the First Responder Bowl in Dallas on December 30 and will face 8-4 Western Kentucky from Conference USA. This is the 10th overall bowl appearance for Western Michigan since it earned its first bowl invitation in 1961.
Florida State: The Seminoles will appear in the postseason for an NCAA-best 38th time in the last 40 seasons after receiving an invitation to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on December 31. Florida State will play Arizona State from the Pac-12 for the fifth time in program history. The last time FSU played in the Sun Bowl was 1966 and the last time the Seminoles and Sun Devils squared off was 1984.