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Kelly, CFP head Barta discuss Notre Dame's Playoff selection

December 20, 2020
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Notre Dame is in the College Football Playoffs, and it's getting a rematch of Brian Kelly's first attempt to get the Fighting Irish to a national championship level.

Earning the No. 4 seed after a 10-1 regular season featuring key wins against then-No. 1 Clemson and at top-15 North Carolina, Notre Dame is rematching against top-seed Alabama Jan. 1 in Dallas at the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium after falling to the Tide in the 2012 Bowl Championship Series title bout. No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State round out the top four.

“(It's) the picture of two teams that have really similar resumes,” CFP Chairman and Iowa A.D. Gary Barta said of the Irish-Texas A&M comparison. “They played similar schedules.

“Coming into this weekend, Notre Dame had beaten the No. 2 team in Clemson and on the road against No. 13 North Carolina. They have very similar resumes but in the end the committee felt like Notre Dame had earned their way there and it probably came down to having an additional win against a ranked team.”

Said Kelly on ESPN, “I think there was some (anxiety). I think we felt like our body of work was outstanding. … We knew that our destiny was no longer in our hands but our body of work was outstanding.”

The Rose Bowl in Dallas is in the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. The venue is taking the place of the Rose Bowl, no longer part of the 2020 College Football Playoffs due to the state of California's restrictive policies pertaining to attendance at live sporting events as part of California's COVID-19 state-mandated guidelines.

“I’m just so excited that everybody that’s involved understsands how important that was,” Kelly said of making sure all venues allowed at minimum players’ families into the game. “Extremely grateful that we’ll be able to have the families of all of our student-athletes.”

Barta says that move also is designed now with an advantage to Alabama – or at least the Tide's fans.

“Again, related to the uniqueness of this year, the No. 1 team by the committee is given the benefit of, we know 16,000 fans are going to be able to watch (in person),” Barta said. “There's 3,000 watching in New Orleans (for the other semifinal). The committee decided the advantage was for the No. 1 team to have more fans able to watch.”

Las Vegas's Caesars Sports Book already is listing the Irish as 17.5-point underdogs against the unbeaten Tide, again SEC Championships after their 52-46 win late Saturday night against Florida in Atlanta.

“We understand that if we don't play to our standard, we can be beaten down pretty bad,” Kelly said. “Now we're much better prepared than we were in 2012 in terms of the physicality on both lines. I think we have the ability to move the football, certainly.

“We've been humbled about the way we play. This team has always come back with a resilience about them.”

 

 
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