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College Football Playoff: Alabama vs. Notre Dame in Rose Bowl, Clemson vs. Ohio State in Sugar Bowl

Linebacker James Skalski sacks quarterback Ian Book.
Clemson linebacker James Skalski sacks Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book during the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.
(Brian Blanco / Associated Press)

Notre Dame’s 34-10 loss to Clemson on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game put the Fighting Irish in a vulnerable position entering Sunday’s College Football Playoff field announcement.

But the CFP selection committee stuck with the Irish as the fourth team in the bracket, leaving Texas A&M on the outside looking in.

The CFP matchups are locked in: No. 1 Alabama-No. 4 Notre Dame in the semifinal that would have been played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena but will now be at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and No. 2 Clemson-No. 3 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Notre Dame (10-1) was simply too appealing of a draw to ignore for a made-for-TV event like the CFP. The Irish also have a solid resume with two top-15 wins (Clemson without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence and North Carolina in dominating fashion).

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With L.A. County the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, common sense and science dictated that the Rose Bowl not host a College Football Playoff semifinal.

Texas A&M went 8-1 in the mighty Southeastern Conference, but its only good win came against Florida, which now has three losses. The Aggies were blown out 52-24 at Alabama early in the season, and it was never likely the committee would want to stage a rematch of that game.

They’re “two teams that have really similar resumes, played similar schedules,” said CFP selection committee chair Gary Barta, the athletic director at Iowa.

“Coming into this weekend, Notre Dame was undefeated; they had beaten the No. 2 team now in Clemson and on the road against the No. 13 team in North Carolina, and Texas A&M’s top win was against a very good Florida team, so very similar resumes. But in the end, the committee felt that Notre Dame had earned its way there based on the complete analysis of the resume, and that probably came down to having an additional win against a ranked team.”


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