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Notre Dame at No. 4 in only poll that matters

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Notre Dame begins its most-feared month in precipitous position to reach the College Football Playoff. The selection committee released its first rankings Tuesday night, and the 8-0 Irish came in at No. 4, behind two other unbeatens who combined can claim the last three national championships and one-loss LSU.

Notre Dame may be able to claim a bit stronger résumé than either No. 1 Alabama or No. 2 Clemson can, but the committee has the leeway to consider the eye test. Aside from the Clemson’s close calls at Texas A&M and against Syracuse (which debuted at No. 19 in these rankings) when starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence missed the second half due to injury, neither of the perennial powers have been challenged.

No. 3 LSU, meanwhile, has tallied wins against Miami, at Auburn and over Georgia.

“When you look at LSU’s résumé, they have six wins against teams above .500,” committee chair Rob Mullens said Tuesday night. “… They have a great résumé. Their only loss is a close loss at Florida. Really impressed with their defense and overall their body of work is really strong.”

Aside from the Orange, only Michigan made the rankings of all Irish opponents, past and present. The Wolverines (7-1) are not quite in playoff position at No. 5, but with LSU hosting Alabama this weekend, some space may open very quickly.

1: Alabama 8-0
2: Clemson 8-0
3: LSU 7-1, 27-19 loss at Florida on Oct. 6.
4: Notre Dame 8-0
5: Michigan 7-1, 24-17 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 1.
6: Georgia 7-1, 36-16 loss at LSU on Oct. 13.
7: Oklahoma 7-1, 48-45 loss vs. Texas on Oct. 6.
8: Washington State 7-1, 39-36 loss at USC on Sept. 21.
9: Kentucky 7-1, 20-14 loss as A&M on Oct. 6.
10: Ohio State 7-1, 49-20 loss at Purdue on Oct. 20.

The College Football Playoff semifinals are Dec. 29 in the Orange Bowl (Miami) and the Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas). The national championship will be Jan. 7 in northern California.