“Related to the uniqueness of this year, the No. 1 seed is by the committee is always given the benefit of the doubt or maybe the biggest advantage,” committee chairman and University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said. “In this case, know that there is going to be 16,000 fans able to watch in Arlington and we know there is going to be 3,000 fans that are going to be able to be watching the [Sugar Bowl] in New Orleans.”
Alabama last met Notre Dame on Jan. 7, 2013 in the BCS national championship game. The Tide won, 42-14.
Meanwhile, the second-ranked Clemson Tigers will face off against the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Ohio State only played six games and three games were canceled. It will be the second year in a row that these two teams will battle. Last year, Clemson beat Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said wide receiver Chris Olave could return against Clemson due to the Big Ten changing its rule that sideline athletes at least 21 days following a positive COVID-19 test, reducing that time period to 17 days. If the rule remained at 21, Olave would have likely been unable to compete in the College Football Playoff semifinal if he tested positive.
Because of the altered regular-season, the semifinals are 12 now days away.
“It’s very different to prepare,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s basically like an open date.”
The Texas A&M Aggies finished fifth in the final College Football Playoff Poll. According to Barta, he said Notre Dame’s extra victory against a ranked opponent helped give the Irish an edge over the Aggies.
“A great part of our discussion was related to those two resumes,” Barta said.
Notre Dame beat Clemson and North Carolina, which had been 15th in the previous playoff rankings. Texas A&M’s only victory against a CFP team was Florida. The Aggies played Alabama in October and lost by 28 points.
The decision didn’t go over well in Aggieland: Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond tweeted: “JOKE.” The Aggies can take out their frustrations on North Carolina in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2.
Notre Dame was beaten by Clemson 34-10 in the ACC Championship and many observers felt they didn’t belong in the Playoff.
“[Notre Dame and Texas A&M] are two teams that have really similar résumés,” said Barta. “They’ve played similar schedules. Coming into this weekend, Notre Dame was undefeated. They had beaten the No. 2 team now, Clemson, and on the road against the No. 13 team in North Carolina. Texas A&M’s top win was against a very good Florida team.
“Very similar résumés, but in the end the committee felt like that Notre Dame had earned its way there based on the complete analysis of the résumé, and that probably came down to having an additional win against a ranked team.”