Just like it happened in 2018, it was another disappointing performance for the Irish in Arlington. In their second appearance with the new playoff format, Notre Dame once again fell in the semifinal, this time against Alabama 31 to 14. The Crimson Tide is now on its way to its 4th Championship game appearance in the last five years.
This semifinal game was seen as the rematch of the 2013 championship game in the old BCS format when the Tuscaloosa based team once again were crowned champions, beating a Manti Te’o led team 42 to 14. That game served as the only antecedent between the two in the 21st Century before the 2021 semifinal in the Rose Bowl. The Tide now tilts the scale 2 games to none during the new millennium.
Nick Saban out-coached Brian Kelly just as it happened 8 years ago, dominating the line of scrimmage and jumping to a comfortable lead early in the game after two offensive drives led by QB Mac Jones and RB Najee Harris. Unfortunately, just when Notre Dame had managed to shorten the gap, Heisman Favorite Devonta Smith appeared and showed why coach Kelly called him “the college football player of the year” in the post game press conference. Smith finished with 130 yards and 3 Touchdowns; another Heisman hopeful Mac Jones finished with 297 yards and 4 passing touchdowns. For Notre Dame, QB Ian Book finished with 229 yards, an interception and a rushing touchdown as he played his last game in a Notre Dame uniform, as he finishes his amazing collegiate career as the winningest QB in program history. The other scorer for the South Bend team was RB Kyren Williams, who ran for 64 yards and that score, with that performance, Williams finished a brilliant year in which he put up 1061 rushing yards and 12 Touchdowns.
It’s true the margin of victory was only 17 points, but that doesn’t reflect the true dominance that Alabama had over Notre Dame, the Irish were unable to adjust defensively and offensively to put Saban’s team in danger.
Notre Dame’s season comes to an end after 12 games, the Irish finish the 2020-21 campaign with 10 victories including 2 over teams ranked in the Top 15, and 2 losses, both of them coming against the two best teams in the country according to the CFP ranking.
At the end of the day, the 2020 college football season will be one that Notre Dame fans will remember for a long time, not only it was a great 10 win season that helped them make the playoffs and they managed to be one of the best teams in America, but they also encountered new challenges like becoming a member of the ACC and that national success is completely proportional to joining the Coastal Conference, and it makes you think that if Notre Dame joined a conference permanently and were competing in it year in and year out, maybe that would make the Irish finally climb that step to once again become nationally relevant and would make them compete for the championship.