(Reuters) - The Ohio State Buckeyes and Oregon Ducks earned victories in the Sugar and Rose Bowls on Thursday, booking spots in the national championship as American college football entered a new era with its first ever playoff games.
The fourth ranked Buckeyes stunned top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide 42-35 in New Orleans, as quarterback Cardale Jones threw for 243 yards, rallying his team from a 21-6 deficit in the second quarter.
Jones put his team ahead to stay with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the third quarter, while running back Ezekial Elliott ran for 230 yards in the game.
“(Elliot)’s probably the most underrated back in the country,” Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer told reporters.
“A lot of respect to our opponent. That was a sledgehammer game.”
Earlier, second ranked Oregon crushed the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles 59-20 in Pasadena.
By winning the first ever semi-finals, the Buckeyes and Ducks will head to Arlington, Texas for the national championship game on Jan. 12.
The playoff replaces the poll system that decided which teams would meet in the national championship and the Ducks left no doubt that they belong in the title game after ending the third ranked Seminoles’ 29-game winning streak.
“We just tried to out-team them,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich told reporters.
”I think our defense played very, very well in the second half... offensively, we just tried to do enough to make a difference.
“We’ve got a great team. A great team of guys.”
The game was also a showdown of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks with this year’s winner Marcus Mariota of the Ducks going head-to-head against last year’s recipient Jameis Winston.
Mariota completed 26-of-36 passes for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran for another score.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, additional reporting by Cameron French Editing by John O'Brien/Amlan Chakraborty