Not since 1909 have two teams met three times in the same season. If No. 3 Clemson tops No. 2 Notre Dame in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game, there is a chance it could happen in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
And why not? That would be such a 2020 thing to have happen.
The Tigers (9-1, 8-1 ACC) came in ranked No. 3 in the latest CFP Committee Ranking for the fourth straight week, which was released on Tuesday. The Fighting Irish (10-0, 9-0 ACC) are once again second in the poll. Alabama is No. 1, while Ohio State checks in at No. 4.
Clemson and Notre Dame played the game of the year in college football on Nov. 7 when the Irish beat the Tigers 47-40 in double overtime. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence back, as well as defensive tackle Tyler Davis, middle linebacker James Skalski and stronger side backer Mike Jones—all four missed the Nov. 7 matchup in South Bend—many expect the Tigers to beat Notre Dame.
Vegas has Clemson listed as a 10.5-point favorite.
However, some believe there is no way the CFP Committee will set up a Clemson-Notre Dame III grudge match in the semifinals. College Football Playoff Committee Chairman Gary Barta says not so fast.
“Well, my sincere answer to that is we’ll come back, and we’ll pick one through four,” he said. “We won’t try to match them up. I’ve only been on the committee one year, but I’m sure Bill [Hancock] can contend, the committee does not come in and rank based on the match-up. We’re going to pick one through four in the order as a committee we believe is the best match-ups — excuse me, not the best match-ups, the best teams.”
If Clemson wins a close game to the Irish, it will be hard for the committee to rank Ohio State ahead of Notre Dame given the Buckeyes would have played five less games.
“I had mentioned before, and the committee has talked a lot about in 2020, it’s a vexing problem to try to compare teams that have played ten or eleven games to those that have played five or six, and that certainly has been the case,” Barta said.
The CFP’s final ranking will be released on Sunday after all the conference championship games have been completed.
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