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Fifty years ago marked Notre Dame’s final season of 44 straight from 1925-68 in which it did not go to a bowl game.
The bowl ban was voluntary because national titles were voted on by the Associated Press and coaches at the end of the regular season (1965 was an exception among the coaches), i.e. the 1966 championship for the Fighting Irish with a 9-0-1 record without needing to go to a bowl.
However, in 1968 the Associated Press decided it would wait until after the bowl games to make its selection on who is No. 1. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Notre Dame then rescinded its non-bowl policy in 1969.
In the 50 seasons from 1969 through 2018, this year will mark Notre Dame’s 36th postseason event— and possibly 37th as well if it wins the first game of the four-team College Football Playoff that will be held Dec. 29 at the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas and the Orange Bowl in Miami..
The 12-0 and No. 3 Fighting Irish are expected to make their debut in the five-year history of the event, along with 13-0 and No. 1 Alabama and 13-0 and No. 2 Clemson. The best bet for the fourth spot is Big 12 champion and 12-1 Oklahoma, which avenged its lone defeat this year, to Texas, with a 39-27 victory versus the Longhorns in their league title game.
Ohio State also finished 12-1 after defeating Northwestern in the Big Ten title game, but it was already behind the Sooners in the College Football Playoff poll, and a 49-20 defeat to 6-6 Purdue likely will leave it on the outside looking in for the second straight year.
Former No. 4 Georgia made a strong case for itself with a 35-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC title game after holding a 28-14 lead in the second half, but with two losses, the first a 36-16 setback at LSU, the odds still might be against the Bulldogs to become the first team to make the CFP with multiple defeats.
When including the 1925 Rose Bowl, a 27-10 win versus Stanford that won Notre Dame the national title, the Irish are 18-18 all time in the postseason events. Here are some other notable facts and figures:
• During an extraordinary 24-year period from 1970-93, Notre Dame won the most major bowls — which at the time was comprised of Cotton, Orange, Rose, Sugar and later Fiesta — with 10.
• In that same 24-year stretch, the Fighting Irish played 10 bowl games against a team that was either ranked No. 1, undefeated or both, and recorded a 7-3 mark record against them.
The wins came versus Texas in the 1971 (24-11) and 1978 Cotton Bowls (38-10 to win the national title), Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl (24-23 to win the title) and 1975 Orange Bowl (13-11), West Virginia (34-21) in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl (another national title), Colorado in the 1990 Orange Bowl (21-6), and Texas A&M (28-3) in the 1993 Cotton Bowl.
The defeats were to Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl (21-17), Georgia in the 1981 Sugar Bowl (17-10) and Colorado in the 1991 Orange Bowl (10-9), all resulting in national titles for the opposition with hard fought victories.
• At the end of the 1993 season, Notre Dame’s 13-6 bowl record was the best winning percentage (.684) among all schools that played in at least 15 bowl games.
• From 1994-2006, Notre Dame lost nine consecutive bowl games — an NCAA record that dropped its all-time postseason ledger to 13-15. The streak ended when the 6-6 Irish defeated Hawai’i 49-21 on Christmas Eve 2008 in the Hawai’i Bowl.
• The longest bowl winning streak for Notre Dame was five straight from 1973-78. It has not won more than three in a row since 1991-93, and has not had a streak longer than two games since 1994.
• Notre Dame’s greatest bowl has been the Cotton, where it is 5-2. It has not won more than two games in any other bowl. There is a good chance the Cotton Bowl is where Notre Dame could end up this season, although not the same venue. It would be at AT&T Stadium this time in Arlington, Texas, as opposed to the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas.
• The other bowl in the CFP where Notre Dame could wind up is the Orange, where it is technically 2-3 all time. That does not include the 2013 BCS Championship, a 42-14 loss to Alabama, which was played in Miami.
• Head coach Brian Kelly is 4-3 at Notre Dame in bowl games, but 0-2 in the “majors” with losses to Alabama (42-14) and Ohio State (44-28). The Irish are looking to snap a 24-year drought in winning a major, at which time more than three-dozen other teams have achieved the feat.