Why Notre Dame will (or won’t) win the College Football Playoff

No. 4 Notre Dame enters the College Football Playoff with a 10-1 record and a chance to win its first national championship since 1988. This is the Irish’s second Playoff appearance under Brian Kelly.

Notre Dame faces the longest odds to win the national title among the other three playoff teams in No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State. The Irish are heavy underdogs against the Crimson Tide in the semifinal at the Rose Bowl, which was relocated to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is a closer look at the Irish’s playoff history, and the reasons why Notre Dame will (or won’t) win a national championship in 2020:

Notre Dame playoff history

This is Notre Dame’s second College Football Playoff appearance. The Irish made their last Playoff appearance against Clemson at the semifinal in the 2018 Cotton Bowl Classic. Notre Dame lost that game 30-3.

Notre Dame playoff matchup

The Irish last played Alabama in the 2013 BCS championship game. The Crimson Tide won that game 42-14. Notre Dame has a 5-2 lead in the all-time series, but none of those victories were after 1987.

Why the Irish will win national title

Nobody will see it coming if they do, but the Irish must prove they learned from a 34-10 loss against Clemson in the ACC championship game. Kelly can play the underdog card, and the Irish do have the second-best statistical defense among the four playoff teams (335.1 ypg.). Notre Dame’s offensive line will determine whether the Irish can compete with Alabama. The Irish can slow the game down with running backs Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree, and Ian Book must be efficient against an Alabama pass defense that can be tested. If Notre Dame can pull the upset against the Crimson Tide, then the confidence would be at an all-time high against either Clemson or Ohio State.

Why the Irish won’t win national title

Notre Dame beat Clemson 47-40 in the regular season this year, but you saw the difference with Trevor Lawrence off the field. Alabama has the most balanced elite offense in the FBS with Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith leading the way. Book struggled in the rematch with Clemson, and the margin for error against Alabama is even less than that. The Crimson Tide simply present too many problems on both sides. The Irish’s big-game failures against Alabama and Clemson are well-documented, and they are 0-5 in their last five meetings against the Buckeyes, too. A loss in this playoff would only add to that negative perception.

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