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Notre Dame To Meet Clemson In College Football Playoff

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Notre Dame's 12-0 regular season earned it the right to vie for the national title in the four-team College Football Playoff. (Associated Press)

Six weeks of endless chatter, hypotheticals and scenarios officially ended Sunday afternoon with the announcement of the four-team College Football Playoff.

No. 2 and ACC champion Clemson (13-0) will face No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) Dec. 29 in the Cotton Bowl, while No. 1 and SEC champion Alabama (13-0) will vie for its sixth national title in the last 10 years when it competes the same day against No. 4 and Big 12 champion Oklahoma (12-1) in the Orange Bowl.

Notre Dame-Clemson will kick off shortly after 4 p.m. while the Crimson Tide and Sooners will follow at 8 p.m.

The two winners will play at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., (San Francisco Bay Area) on Jan. 7, 2019 for the national title.

This will be Notre Dame’s fourth meeting ever against Clemson, which is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the five-year history of the CFP, losing to Alabama in the 2015 Championship (45-40), defeating the Crimson Tide the following year (35-31) to win its first national title since 1981, and then falling to Alabama last year (24-6) in the semifinal.

Notre Dame is making its debut in the CFP and becomes the 10th different team overall to advance to the four-team format. Its most recent national title was in 1988.

The Fighting Irish rallied from a 17-7 deficit in Death Valley to defeat Clemson 21-17 en route to the 1977 national title, but lost its last two meetings to the Tigers: 16-10 at home in 1979, and 24-22 at Clemson in 2015 when a failed two-point conversion in the closing seconds preserved the victory for head coach Dabo Swinney’s troops while marching toward its first CFP.

Notre Dame is 18-18 all time in bowl games, with the Cotton Bowl far and away its most successful. The Irish have played in the Cotton the most with seven appearances, where they are 5-2. They have not won more than two games in any other postseason event, and the Cotton Bowl also has a special history with the Fighting Irish:

• In 1969, Notre Dame broke its 44-year self-imposed ban on bowl games by playing No. 1 Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl. Although the Irish lost 21-17 in the closing minute, they elevated from No. 9 to No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll because of the impressive performance.

• The following year on Jan. 1, 1971, No. 6 Notre Dame, led by quarterback Joe Theismann, ended No. 1 Texas’ 30-game winning streak with a 24-11 triumph. Had unbeaten Nebraska not defeated LSU in the Orange Bowl (17-12) that evening, the Irish would have vaulted to No. 1, but instead finished No. 2.

• Seven years later on Jan. 2, 1978, No. 5 and 10-1 Notre Dame leapfrogged all the way to No. 1 with a resounding 38-10 pasting of No. 1 and 11-0 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The defense, led by Ross Browner and Bob Golic, forced six turnovers and held Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell in check, while the offense saw both Jerome Heavens and Vagas Ferguson reach 100 yards rushing.

• One season later, quarterback Joe Montana’s final game with the Irish saw him help rally the troops from a 34-12 deficit with 7:37 left in the game to an astounding 35-34 victory with a touchdown and extra point on the final plays of the game.

• In Lou Holtz’s second season as the head coach (1987), Notre Dame fell 35-10 to Texas A&M in the Jan. 1, 1988 Cotton Bowl — but that helped serve as an impetus to the 1988 national title.

• In consecutive seasons in 1992 and 1993, the Irish defeated 12-0 Texas A&M (28-3) and the 10-1 Aggies (24-21) in the Jan. 1 Cotton Bowls to finish No. 4 and No. 2, respectively.

In the 24 years since then, Notre Dame has failed to win a major bowl.

The game is no longer played in Dallas’ Cotton Bowl Stadium, switching to AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Irish played there in 2013 and defeated No. 22 Arizona State 37-34 in the Shamrock Series.

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