Here are the players to know for the 12-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
SOUTH BEND – As expected, unbeaten Notre Dame held steady in the No. 3 spot of Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings.
A projected Dec. 29 semifinal matchup against No. 2 Clemson remains on the docket. Multiple Orange Bowl representatives were in attendance for Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over USC on Saturday.
The Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, would host the other semifinal.
Now the Irish must sit back and watch Saturday’s conference championship games to see if that’s indeed how it falls come Selection Sunday and the official bowl announcement.
“You just drive yourself crazy” trying to figure out all the permutations, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said after Saturday’s win completed a 12-0 regular season. “You just can’t let yourself go there. You don’t know what next week is going to hold and what it looks like. What history tells you … never go chalk. Never go chalk.”
Top-ranked Alabama faces No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship game, while No. 5 Oklahoma faces Texas in the Big 12 title game. Ohio State, which zoomed up to No. 6 after toppling then-fourth-ranked Michigan on Saturday, faces No. 21 Northwestern in the Big Ten title game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Clemson faces unranked Pittsburgh in the ACC title game. The Panthers had been the only team to hold a halftime lead against Notre Dame before USC was unable to maintain a 10-7 advantage at the break on Saturday in Los Angeles.
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The Irish also hold victories over Northwestern and No. 7 Michigan, which could help them hold off, say, Georgia should the Bulldogs upset Alabama.
Oregon AD Rob Mullens, selection committee chair, was asked during his weekly ESPN appearance how he defines “best” in the search for the four best teams in the land.
“We have a very thorough protocol,” Mullens said.
He went on to note head-to-head results, common opponents and conference championships would be among the leading factors. With Michigan out of the way, Notre Dame won’t have a head-to-head data point, to use committee jargon.
Nor will the independent Irish, having completed just their fourth unbeaten and untied regular season since 1950, have a conference championship on their resume. However, they could have a common opponent or two with teams in their general vicinity as they seek to hold onto the No. 3 spot.
As for placing the high-scoring Sooners ahead of Ohio State, Mullens said the committee “spent a lot of time on that one for sure.”
The Sooners have “defensive deficiencies,” Mullens noted, but “they’re scoring enough points to win games. At the end of the day it’s about results.”
Notre Dame is 1-2 all-time against Clemson, with the victory coming on the road, 21-17, in the national title season of 1977. In October 2015, again playing in Death Valley, the Irish roared back from a 21-3 hole to come within a missed two-point conversion of forcing overtime with seven seconds left in a 24-22 loss.
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