Bowl projections: Notre Dame takes fourth College Football Playoff spot ahead of Texas A&M

Let's start with the easy part. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State will be the top three seeds when the College Football Playoff releases its final ranking Sunday. 

Now comes the part that will be debated: Who is No. 4? 

Notice the choice of words. Debated instead of hard part. Because the decision for fourth is simple. Notre Dame will be in the playoff. 

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher can argue for his team. And he should. But the resume isn't there.

Cincinnati makes a compelling case with its run through the American Athletic. Had COVID-19 not wiped out two games or had there been more elite teams at the top of a competitive league, perhaps the argument would be stronger with the committee.

Oklahoma from the Big 12? Yes, the Sooners have won seven in a row, but this is a flawed team with two losses, including a blown 21-point lead at home to Kansas State, which was limited by positive coronavirus tests.

Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree (25) breaks free for a touchdown run as Syracuse cornerback Garett Williams (14) pursues during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in South Bend, Ind. (Matt Cashore/Pool Photo via AP) (Photo: The Associated Press)

So back to Notre Dame. Yes, the Irish were handled by Clemson in the ACC title game. But would any of these teams under consideration compete with the Tigers when they're fully operational? Texas A&M trailed Alabama by 21 at half and lost by 28. Pretty similar result compared with Saturday, which kind of balances each other's loss out.

Notre Dame has two victories against teams that will be in the top 15 of the rankings – Clemson and at North Carolina. Texas A&M will have one – Florida.

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Yes, the Aggies won eight games in the SEC. Who you beat, though, matters. The only victory besides Florida against a winning team came against 6-4 Auburn. LSU finished 5-5. The other wins were against the five worst teams in the conference with a combined record of 11-38. It's a similar schedule to what Notre Dame had in the ACC, except the Irish also played two more games and won the regular season title in their league. A&M was second in its division.

When the committee delivers its final verdict, expect Notre Dame to be the one called. 

Among the New Year's Six, Coastal Carolina's inability to play and a close loss by Florida means the Chanticleers get bumped out of a spot in favor of the Gators.

The bowl lineup for the postseason, including the College Football Playoff title games, stands at 33 games. Teams in bold have accepted berths.


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