A season filled with uncertainty brought on by the pandemic will end with a perfectly predictable College Football Playoff.
Alabama vs. Notre Dame. Clemson vs. Ohio State. Four of the bluest of blue bloods and the teams that have comprised the top four in the rankings for nearly two months. Notre Dame was picked Sunday over Texas A&M for the final spot, ending what little drama there had been.
“It’s been a unique season in so many ways,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.
Not not when it comes to the teams playing for the national championship.
The top four teams in the selection committee’s first rankings of the season were the same teams at the end, just in different order. Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State have also held the first four spots in the AP Top 25 since Oct. 25.
Only 11 schools have ever reached the playoff and all four of these participants have been there before.
The Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide will meet Jan. 1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, after a late pandemic-related relocation from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Tigers and Buckeyes are set to play the same day at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans if all goes according to plan.
The national champion is scheduled to be determined Jan. 11 in suburban Miami.
The Fighting Irish (10-1) are back in the playoff for the second time in three seasons, becoming the first team to lose a conference title game and make the final four. It was a novelty made possible only because of the pandemic, which pushed the famously independent Irish into a conference for the first time in school history.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is the second league to have two teams in the playoff, joining the SEC in 2017.
After sitting second in the CFP rankings for a month, Notre Dame was blown out 34-10 by Clemson in the ACC championship. That opened the door for No. 5 Texas A&M (8-1), but the Aggies were unable to become the third team in the playoff’s seven-year history to make the field without even winning its conference division.