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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Kelly, players drive home CFP-worthiness

December 19, 2020

When it was over, politicking began in earnest.

On the heels of its blowout-loss, 34-10, Saturday in the ACC Championship, Notre Dame began to assert its case for inclusion in Sunday's College Football Playoffs final four selection.

The Irish await their fate for the next 15-plus hours – the selections are being announced Sunday shortly after noon on ESPN – as winners in 10 of their 11 games.

They own two quality wins that compare with the best of any team other than Alabama.

Their experience this season is nearly double that of presumptive selection, Ohio State; the Buckeyes are Big Ten championships after a 22-10 win Saturday to punctuate their six-pack season.

“We've got two top-15 wins,” Brian Kelly said in his Notre Dame post-game press conference. “We've got a win over this Clemson team that was No. 1 in the country. I don't know that anybody has the resumè of those wins.

“We've played 11 games. That matters. Playing 11 games, testing your team week in and week out, I think that, in my mind, puts us as without question one of the top four teams in the country.”

Irish quarterback Ian Book, limited to just 219 passing yards and sacked six times by the Tigers, echoed his head coach's stance.

“I think we belong in it,” Book said. “It's our first loss. We've played 11 football games. That's a lot of football games. We beat the No. 1 team. Beat the No. 15 team on the road. Think we deserve it. Think tonight wasn't our night. Everybody who's played football before understands there's bad nights. That was tonight.”

Clemson, with the ACC title and having already been sitting third in the CFP rankings, is assured of a berth. Ohio State's win against Northwestern in Indianapolis likely assures the Buckeyes of a spot.

Alabama's the presumptive No. 1 overall seed as long as it closes out Florida Saturday night in the SEC Championship.

That leaves the No. 4 spot. The Irish's most significant competition comes from Texas A&M, which is riding a seven-game winning streak after winning, 34-13, Saturday at hapless Tennessee.

The Aggies' best win is against Florida at home; they also have a 28-point loss to the Tide.

After A&M's win in Neyland Stadium, Fisher's pleading for the Aggies began in full.

“I don't care what league you're in,” Fisher said postgame as he noted the Aggies' seven-game winning streak was more than some teams' seasons, “if you're going to pick the best four teams, we're one of them.”

Notre Dame's nine ACC wins, plus a non-conference victory against rebuilding South Florida, and a berth in its first-ever conference championship game are the foundational merits of the Irish's CFP credentials.

“You know we've been consistent up until now,” said Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. “We have wins over the No. 1 team and the No. 15 team, I believe. We were (10-0) before this. We've got guys on this team willing and determined to win. We just came up short.

“It's out of our hands at this point. We'll sit back and prepare for anybody. We'll get back to it. That's my best shot.”

After he turned the college football world a bit sideways Friday when he admitted the Irish might not participate in the postseason if parents could not attend games, Kelly still emphasized what he stated was his team's worthiness for a second playoff berth in three seasons.

“We've got a really good football team,” Kelly said. “There's no doubt this is one of the four-best teams in the country.

“We'll leave the rest up to the committee.”

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