Ohio State and Notre Dame are in.
The teams seemed like safe bets to make the four College Football Playoff spots, but speculation still swirled about their invitations until Sunday’s announcement made it official: No. 1 Alabama (11-0), No. 2 Clemson (10-1), No. 3 Ohio State (6-0), No. 4 Notre Dame (10-1).
Alabama will play Notre Dame in a Jan. 1 semifinal match at the Rose Bowl, which was moved from Pasadena, Calif., to Dallas for the first time in history. The California region is a COVID-19 hot spot, but Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly still lobbied for a new location so families could attend the semifinal. Families will be allowed to attend the game in Dallas.
Clemson will face Ohio State at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
The champion will be determined on Jan. 11 in Miami.
Notre Dame’s playoff hopes seemed tenuous after it was crushed by Clemson, 34-10, in Saturday’s ACC Championship game, which was payback for the Irish’s regular-season victory in South Bend, Ind. After the Nov. 7 win, Irish fans stormed the field to celebrate the 47-40 victory over the Tigers, who didn’t have quarterback Trevor Lawrence available.
It was Clemson’s lone loss of the season.
The Irish, playing football in a conference for the first time because of COVID-19 scheduling issues, are the first team to lose a conference championship game and still make the playoffs.
“We felt like our body of work was outstanding,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in an ESPN interview.
The Buckeyes capped an undefeated season with a 22-10 victory Saturday against Northwestern for the Big Ten championship. The CFP committee said it would not hold the number of games played against teams, but many wondered if the Buckeyes’ six-win season would pale in comparison to teams with more robust schedules.
Ohio State had three games wiped off its schedule because of COVID-19 protocols. 22 players were absent — because of the virus and injuries — along with two coaches in the victory against Northwestern.
According to ESPN, the Big Ten has lowered its 21-day sit-out rule to 17 days for players who test positive, which would allow the Buckeyes to return those players who currently have COVID-19 in time for the playoffs.
“We’re hoping to get everybody healthy and in one piece here,” said Ohio State coach Ryan Day in an ESPN interview. “Everyone has gone through different things this year. I think how special these guys are and all they’ve overcome. This team has learned more life lessons than any team in my coaching career.”
Texas A&M (7-1), which finished fifth in the rankings, was also considered a strong candidate. The Aggies only defeat was a 52-24 loss to Alabama.
Oklahoma (8-2) finished sixth in CFP rankings.
Cincinnati (9-0) also had buzz, capping an undefeated season with a 27-24 victory against Tulsa in Saturday’s AAC championship. But the Bearcats were left out of serious consideration.
Northwestern will learn its bowl fate later on Sunday.