theScore runs down the top storylines and developments from the College Football Playoff semifinals, and what it all might mean moving forward.
Trevor Lawrence may very well be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, but he was the second-best quarterback on the field in New Orleans on Friday. Justin Fields turned in a performance for the ages as Ohio State thumped Clemson 49-28. The Buckeyes star, coming off his worst game of the season versus Northwestern, threw six touchdowns against Brent Venables' defense, including this absurd 56-yard bomb to Chris Olave for No. 5 on the night.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the performance? Fields did a significant portion of his damage after suffering an apparent rib injury in the second quarter. After a huge shot knocked him out of the contest for a play, Fields returned and immediately threw a touchdown pass before heading to the medical tent. He somehow gutted out the rest of the game, thriving for 385 passing yards against an overmatched Tigers defense.
He isn't a Heisman finalist and likely won't be the No. 1 pick in the draft, but a shot at the national championship will surely outweigh those things for Fields. The 21-year-old showed in a big way Friday that the New York Jets will be just fine with the draft's No. 2 pick.
Clemson losing may have been surprising to some, but not even Brutus Buckeye himself would have foreseen Ohio State crushing the program that has appeared in the last six playoffs. The Tigers have resided among the best in the sport since 2015, but you have to go back further than that to find a loss that matched Friday's.
The 35 points given up in the first half is the most by Clemson since the 2012 Orange Bowl against West Virginia. The 21-point halftime lead by Ohio State was also the Tigers' biggest deficit through 30 minutes of a game since that Orange Bowl. Geno Smith threw six touchdown passes in that contest for the Mountaineers, a mark Fields tied Friday. (Hopefully, Fields' NFL tenure goes better for the Jets than Smith's if they select him No. 2 in the draft)
The fact this performance came after Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney ranked Ohio State 11th in the coaches poll only makes it sweeter for the Buckeyes.
After an impressive season, Notre Dame was a deserving No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff semifinals. With that out of the way, let's get down to business.
For a large part of Friday's game, the Fighting Irish and Alabama didn't appear to be playing the same sport in the Rose Bowl. That isn't a slight of Brian Kelly's outfit, and it's instead a compliment toward the Crimson Tide, who are damn good this year.
It was only a 17-point win, but it felt like double that throughout the affair. The biggest difference? The way the two offenses operate. Alabama's unit is a big-play waiting to happen, while the Irish rely on methodical drives that eat up the clock.
Over the last three seasons, Alabama has logged just three losses, and the school's opponents all scored 44-plus points in those games. You beat the Crimson Tide in a shootout, and not by holding them down. Ian Book and Notre Dame's offense aren't equipped for that type of game, which was one of the reasons the 19.5-point spread was the largest in CFP history.
The Fighting Irish's starting receiver duo of Ben Skowronek and Javon McKinley combined for 61 yards on six catches in the game. DeVonta Smith, who will likely win the Heisman trophy next week, provided seven catches for 130 yards and three touchdowns by himself for the Tide.
Smith celebrated being the first wide receiver to win The Associated Press' Player of the Year Award by absolutely torching the Irish's defense, showing why he's a virtual Heisman lock. Through his precise routes, blazing speed, and incredible hands, the senior standout showed the total package, and why he's one of the best in the history of college football.
Mac Jones, meanwhile, came to Alabama as an unheralded recruit, and he'll leave as one of the most successful quarterbacks in the program's storied history. Jones didn't struggle at all against Notre Dame's strong defense, spreading his 25 completions among eight players for 297 yards and four touchdowns. If he can put up those numbers against Notre Dame, it's a safe bet Jones is due for a productive night during the national title game, too.
Imagine slowing down Alabama's passing attack for a few plays, and then this happens.
He may not be on the Heisman finalist docket like Jones and Smith, but Najee Harris is still one of the nation's most impressive players. The running back's 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame leads to a very rare combination of speed and power, and he can somehow hurdle defenders like they're lying flat on the ground.
Harris finished with 125 rushing yards against one of the nation's top run-stopping units. He'll present similar problems to the winner of Ohio State vs. Clemson in the other semifinal, and Harris will undoubtedly give NFL defenses headaches next season as well.
While Notre Dame has turned in some strong results under Kelly, his record in the biggest contests remains a major blemish.
Since taking over the head coaching job in South Bend, the Irish have played in four BCS or New Year's Six bowls. They're 0-4 while being defeated by an average of 22 points in those contests.
Kelly's overall record with the Fighting Irish is now a very impressive 81-39. He's restored Notre Dame to a program held in national regard after the team went 75-59 in the 11 years before his arrival.
But despite that success, his squads consistently struggle against the country's best, often losing due to being overmatched at the skill positions. That will need to change for Notre Dame to compete for national titles under Kelly.