GRAPEVINE, Texas — The College Football Playoffs has been set and features four teams with a combined 39 national championships.
Alabama (11-0), ranked number 1, will face fourth-ranked Notre Dame (10-1) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, number 2 Clemson (10-1) will face third-ranked Ohio State (6-0).
Texas A&M and Oklahoma were both left out of the playoff, ranking fifth and sixth respectively.
Like many aspects of 2020, the College Football Playoff debate has been unlike any other before. While the all-but-certain guarantee that Alabama and Clemson would be at the top of the rankings was certainly a familiar tune for football fans, there were realistically three other teams vying for the remaining two spots: Ohio State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M.
While Ohio State only played six games and needed a rule change to take place to play in the Big 10 Championship, the Buckeyes have dominated their opponents, including two big wins over Indiana and Northwestern. However, the debate over whether the Buckeyes deserved to be in the playoffs while only playing six games divided sports journalists and coaches across the country.
Ultimately, the College Football Playoff committee believed Ohio State's body of work was strong enough with their on-field dominance to get into the playoff.
Notre Dame, competing as a member of the ACC for the first year, had compiled one of the best resumes in the country with wins over then-number 1 Clemson and UNC, though Clemson was without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence. There was also talk for Irish quarterback Ian Book to be considered for the Heisman.
However, Clemson handed Notre Dame their first loss (34-10) of the season in blowout fashion in the ACC Championship. Still, the wins the Irish had earlier in the season was enough to give them the nod into the playoff. The Irish will be the first team to lose in a conference championship game and still play in the playoff.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M had an early-season blowout loss to top-ranked Alabama by 28. Since then, A&M has been surging with a major win over Florida that kept the Aggies ranked ahead over the SEC East Champion Gators throughout the season.
The Aggies were hoping to be the fourth team to not compete for a conference championship and still make the playoff behind Ohio State (2016), Alabama (2017) and Notre Dame (2018).
There was no drama on Sunday for either top-ranked Alabama or second-ranked Clemson.
Alabama became the first school to win 11 SEC games in a season, cruising through its regular season by putting up lopsided scores against most of their opponents during the season, only struggling against Ole Miss and Florida in the SEC Championship. In addition to Florida, the Tide scored two other top-10 victories against Georgia and Texas A&M. Alabama's Mac Jones is also considered a favorite to win the Heisman.
This is the fourth season the Crimson Tide has been ranked number 1 going into the playoffs. The previous three times, the Tide was unable to capture the championship.
Clemson currently has the longest active streak of consecutive College Football Playoff appearances, stretching back to the 2015-2016 season.
The Tigers cruised through the early part of the schedule with their Heisman-contending quarterback Trevor Lawrence, whose only loss as a starter came against LSU in the 2019-2020 National Championship. However, Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before their game against Notre Dame. The Irish won that game in overtime, but the Tigers remained in playoff contention.
On Saturday, Lawrence and the Tigers cruised to a 34-10 victory to get revenge against Notre Dame. The two teams could face each other a third time in the National Championship. If that happens, it will be the first time two teams played each other three times in a single season in over a century.
Both playoff games will be on New Year's Day.
Alabama and Notre Dame will play in the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m. The game was moved from the actual Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, the site of the Cotton Bowl. The move came after the State of California denied the Rose Bowl an exemption to COVID-19 restrictions that would have allowed players' families to attend the game.
Alabama and Notre Dame last played in the 2013 BCS National Championship. Alabama won that game 42-14 for their 15th national championship.
Meanwhile, Clemson and Ohio State will play in the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans at 8:45 p.m.
Clemson and Ohio State played each other in the Fiesta Bowl during last season's College Football Playoff. Clemson beat the Buckeyes 29-23 to appear in their fourth CFP National Championship.