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FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2018, file photo, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly watches during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, in South Bend, Ind. Brian Kelly is The Associated Press college football Coach of the Year, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, becoming the third coach to win the award twice since it was established in 1998. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2018, file photo, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly watches during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, in South Bend, Ind. Brian Kelly is The Associated Press college football Coach of the Year, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, becoming the third coach to win the award twice since it was established in 1998. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)|Associated Press
NCAAF

NCAAF: Mike Kern on Notre Dame vs. Clemson - Saturday, 4 pm

Semi-Final 1 will air on ESPN and DTV 206

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

I still remember my lead when I covered the Alabama-Notre Dame national-championship game for the Philly Daily News six years ago, when college football still used the BCS system to determine which two teams played for the title.

It read: “So Notre Dame waited 25 years for this?” The Fighting Irish had last won it all in 1988. They argued that they should have won it in 1993. But the trophy went to Florida State instead. Even though the Seminoles had lost in South Bend by a touchdown in the next-to-last week of the season. The Irish, however, would lose the following week at home to Boston College on a field goal at the end. It happens. And that time it happened to ND.

Anyway, so much for the history lesson. For whatever the reasons, maybe as a favor to Notre Dame Harvey, I took the Irish and the points against Bama. Yo, I might have even picked them to take it outright. As it turned out, the game was over after the first quarter, and the Tide wound up winning by 28. That happens, too. Especially, it seems, to me.

But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

Now the Irish are back in a position to maybe do something special. They’re the third seed in the four-team playoffs. They’ll play fellow unbeaten Clemson, which is no stranger to this situation, in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in the first of Saturday’s two semifinals. The Irish probably weren’t supposed to be here. Clemson was. Doesn’t matter any more. The Tigers have lost in the postseason to Bama two of the last three years. And the other time, in 2016, they beat Bama on the last play in the final. A lot of folks think those two will meet again. And the point spreads support that sentiment.

The Irish are getting 10 1/2. The money line is plus $350. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but if you’re confident taking the underdog in this spot it might be worth it to put at least a little on a straight-up upset. Just in case. I think Clemson obviously has the better athletes. It has better athletes than almost anyone, particularly along the defensive front. But its secondary has been less than all that, which might make a difference.

Brian Kelly was no doubt embarrassed in the 2012 final. That doesn’t mean he can’t get embarrassed again. The Irish can’t play catch-up. The longer they can keep it close, the pressure usually goes up for the favorite. Kelly better have a workable plan. They’re going to have to run the ball and shorten the game. I think they can still have a chance late. And when you’re getting double digits, maybe that’s all you can realistically ask. The bigger problem might be how well the Irish can hold up defensively.

Hey, the Irish only had to wait six years for this. They can only hope Harv doesn’t have to head to the bus early once more. Because you never know when the next time might be coming.