Notre Dame earns first berth in College Football Playoff, will face Clemson

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Clemson is getting a new bowl experience and a playoff first-timer for its fourth consecutive College Football Playoff appearance.

The ACC champion Tigers (13-0, No. 2 CFP) will play Notre Dame (12-0, No. 3 CFP) in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 at AT&T Stadium.

While Notre Dame is the first independent team to make the playoff, the Irish went undefeated with 10 wins over Power Five teams.

Clemson has never played in the Cotton Bowl, or at the home stadium of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys that hosted the first national championship game in the CFP era four years ago and last was a semifinal game three years ago when Alabama beat Michigan State 38-0.

Notre Dame last played in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day 1994, beating Texas A&M when the game was still in its namesake stadium about 20 miles away at the site of the State Fair of Texas. The Fighting Irish are 5-2 in Cotton Bowl games.

The Irish were off Saturday when Clemson was beating Pittsburgh 42-10 to win its fourth consecutive ACC championship game exactly 10 years after Dabo Swinney was hired as the Tigers coach.

After not making the first playoff in 2014, Clemson is in the final four for the fourth year in a row. The Tigers made it to the championship game in 2015 and 2016, losing to Alabama the first time before beating the Crimson Tide two years ago.

SEC champion Alabama (13-0, No. 1 CFP), the only team that has made the playoff every year, plays Oklahoma (12-1, No. 4 CFP) in the other semifinal game Dec. 29 in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners won the Big 12 championship over Texas on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.

The semifinal winners play in the national championship game Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California.

The Fighting Irish have played at AT&T Stadium once, beating Arizona State 37-34 in October 2013.

Notre Dame has its first undefeated regular season since 2012 when the Irish were 12-0 before losing 42-14 to Alabama in the BCS national championship game.

This will be only the fourth meeting between Clemson and Notre Dame, the first in a bowl game. The Irish won the first meeting in 1977, while the Tigers won matchups in 1979 and 2015.

In that last matchup, then-No. 12 Clemson beat No. 6 Notre Dame 24-22 in heavy rains from Hurricane Joaquin as it impacted the East Coast that October day. Deshaun Watson threw two TDs and ran for another score.

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