Alabama to meet Notre Dame in relocated CFP semifinal game
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Top-ranked Alabama will face Notre Dame No. 4, originally slated to be the 107th Rose Bowl, in the college football playoff semifinals.
The January 1 semi-final game was moved from Pasadena to the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, allegedly due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the Los Angeles area, but mostly due to the resulting ban of fans at spectator sports in California.
It's still unclear whether the Dallas Cowboys Stadium game will be called the Rose Bowl, but the decision ended a streak of 78 consecutive years in Pasadena for a bowl game that was first played in 1902.
The festive week of the most posh Rose Bowl game celebrations had largely been canceled, disrupting a popular annual holiday tradition for hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles residents and tens of thousands of visiting fans.
In July, the organizers canceled the parade of the rose tournament, an event from 1890 - every year since 1945. Thousands usually camp on the streets of Pasadena on New Year's Eve to secure the best spots for the parade and the lavish parade The spectacle is also a national television program on New Year's morning.
The Rose Bowl game has been played at the leafy Arroyo Seco every year since 1942, when the west coast was deemed unsafe due to the attack on Pearl Harbor just 3 1/2 weeks earlier. The State of Oregon defeated Duke in Durham, North Carolina in that version of the Rose Bowl, but the game has been played in Pasadena every January since then.
The tradition-loving Rose Bowl had already changed over the past two decades with the development of the various playoff systems in college football. The game was no longer guaranteed the preferred annual encounter between Pac-12 and Big Ten opponents, but it remained one of the most coveted postseason destinations for teams across the country.
This matchup would also have been one of the greatest in the history of the stadium.
Notre Dame has only played at the Rose Bowl once: in 1925, legendary trainer Knute Rockne and his four riders defeated trainers Pop Warner and Stanford to end an undefeated season.
Alabama's first bowl game was the 1926 Rose Bowl, and The Tide played in six early editions of the game. They haven't been in the official Rose Bowl game since 1946, despite defeating Texas in the BCS National Championship Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 7, 2010.
The decision to postpone the game was not unexpected and was mainly driven by objections from competing schools to fly across the country to play without fans.
Clemson manager Dabo Swinney and Notre Dame manager Brian Kelly both complained last week about the California government's decision to deny two exemptions from the game. Kelly even claimed his team might boycott the game.
"I love the Rose Bowl!" Kelly said during a television interview with ESPN on Sunday his complaint was the inability of gamblers families to watch the game.
In the end, Clemson was fielded for the Sugar Bowl semi-finals, while Kelly's team will have families in the Texas stands in a game between two of college football's most famous programs, with the national championship favorites pitting the final addition of the four - Team playoffs.
"I'm just so grateful that everyone could sit down and think about (and decide) that it makes sense to get the families involved," said Kelly. "It wasn't really about the fans because our boys did well without fans, but it was really about the families."
Alabama (11-0) won the SEC and rolled through the schedule with another high-performance season under coach Nick Saban, who is pursuing his sixth national championship with the Crimson Tide. They have topped the CFP rankings from the beginning to the end of this season, having missed the playoffs for the only time since the system started last year. They ended their perfect season beating Florida 52-46 in the conference title game on Saturday.
"This team has done a phenomenal job throughout the year dealing with disruption, overcoming adversity (and) being resilient to various events," Saban told ESPN. "They stayed really focused. We told them early on that the team that would handle the disruption best would be the team that had the best chance of being successful in the end."
Notre Dame (10-1) beat Texas A&M for last place in the playoffs, and the Fighting Irish will be big underdogs against the powerhouse Crimson Tide. Alabama made the Irish 42-14 famous in the BCS National Championship Game on January 7, 2013.
The Irish were number 2 on the CFP rankings last month, but their 34-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC title game put their playoff hopes at risk, especially as A&M won the last seven SEC games in a row. Notre Dame's loss to Clemson produced the 16-game winning streak, the longest in the FBS.
The playoff committee still chose the popular Irish to be a big underdog against Alabama. But instead of a week amid the pomp and grandeur of the Rose Bowl, the teams will spend their semifinals week in Texas after the preparation time for the Christmas break has been cut.
Saban will give his players three Christmas days off before they go back to work. He said he "didn't have the heart" to keep players away from their families.
The coronavirus infection rate in Southern California, while critical, is a percentage better than the situation in Tarrant County, where the AT&T Stadium is located.
More AP College Football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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