CFP: Notre Dame No. 4 behind Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State

A most unusual season will end with the usual suspects — Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State — plus No. 4 seed Notre Dame fighting it out for the national championship.

The College Football Playoff selection committee chose the Fighting Irish over Texas A&M for the fourth spot behind the No. 1 Crimson Tide (11-0), No. 2 Tigers (10-1) and No. 3 Buckeyes (6-0).



The Aggies (8-1) were No. 5 and Oklahoma was No. 6. Texas A&M’s lone loss this season was against Alabama.

Alabama (SEC), Clemson (ACC) and Ohio State (Big Ten) won their respective conference championship games on Saturday to cement their selections, which were announced Sunday.

Trevor Lawrence
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama-Notre Dame semifinal will be played on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl game, which has been moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“I know they have a really good team. I know have a really good quarterback. They have a tough defense. They have some skill guys who can make plays,” Tide coach Nick Saban said of the Irish on Sunday in an ESPN interview announcing the CFP semfinals. “You don’t win 10 games in a season without having really good players.”

Barta said the top-seeded Crimson Tide are going to the Rose Bowl because 16,000 fans will be allowed at the game, as opposed to 3,000 at the Sugar Bowl.

The Clemson-Ohio State matchup in the Sugar Bowl is on Jan. 1 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The CFP championship game is on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Familiar faces in CFP

Alabama and Clemson were selected for the sixth time in the seven-year history of the College Football Playoff. It was the fourth selection for Ohio State and the second for Notre Dame.

Alabama opened as a 17.5-point favorite and Clemson is a 6.5-point favorite.



“We understand that if we don’t play to our standard, we can be beaten down pretty bad,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “Now, we’re much better prepared than we were in 2002 in terms of physicality on both lines, we’ll be able to move the football certainly. We’ve been humbled about the way we play. This team has always come back with a resiliency about them.”

Committee comfortable with Ohio State at No. 3

Even though COVID-19 issues limited the Buckeyes to just six games, selection committee chairman Gary Barta said they were deserving of the No. 3 seed.

“The committee decided that Ohio State belonged in the field because they’re undefeated, they won their conference,” Barta said. “… In the end, there was not dissension in the room about naming Ohio State in that third spot.”

DeVonta Smith

Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said he understands the controversy. “I totally respect everybody’s situation,” he said on Sunday. “Everybody’s gone through different challenges.”

Ohio State didn’t play its first game until Oct. 24.

“There was a time where we didn’t have anything, didn’t have a season,” Day said. “And here we are, ranked No. 3. … As we went into quarantine and the preseason, we wanted an opportunity to get back to this situation. To go win the whole thing. When guys were fighting for the season, they were fighting to go play for a national championship.”


Notre Dame edges out Texas A&M

Notre Dame (10-1) was blown out 34-10 by a full-strength Clemson squad in Saturday’s ACC title game. The Fighting Irish won the first meeting against the Tigers — playing without quarterback Trevor Lawrence — 47-40 in two overtimes on Nov. 7.

Texas A&M (8-1) finished the regular season with seven straight wins. The Aggies lost 52-24 at Alabama on Oct. 3.

“Very similar resumes,” Barta said of ranking Notre Dame above Texas A&M. “In the end, the committee felt like Notre Dame earned its way there based on complete analysis of the resume. That probably came down to having an additional win over a ranked team.”

Ian Book
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Fighting Irish beat then-No. 19 North Carolina 31-17 on Nov. 27. The Aggies’ biggest win was a 41-38 victory over then-No. 4 Florida on Oct. 10.

Oklahoma (8-2) defeated Iowa State 27-21 in the Big 12 championship game on Saturday for its seventh consecutive win.

The selection committee also considered unbeaten Cincinnati (9-0). No Group of Five team has ever made the CFP. The Bearcats edged Tulsa 27-24 in Saturday night’s American Athletic Conference title game.



“I don’t know that anything held them back,” Barta said. “The committee has great respect for Cincinnati … they’re undefeated, a terrific team. It’s just comparing them to the six teams on your board. It’s just believed by the committee that those resumes are stronger overall than Cincinnati’s resume.”

Unbeaten Coastal Carolina (11-0) of the Sun Belt Conference was also overlooked. The Chanticleers had two wins against Top 25 teams, beating then-No. 21 Louisiana and then-No. 13 BYU.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)