Notre Dame finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll, which was a bit of a surprise. The fact Notre Dame finished behind Texas A&M was incredibly puzzling, and makes it quite difficult to give the final poll much credibility.
The only way to justify ranking Texas A&M ahead of Notre Dame is to simply say the Aggies won their final game and Notre Dame lost, which is a poor way of doing a final poll, which is supposed to rank teams off their entire resume.
Notre Dame finished the year 10-2 and Texas A&M finished 9-1. Notre Dame's losses came in the ACC title game and the College Football Playoff. Texas A&M didn't play in their conference title game and didn't play a playoff game.
Notre Dame and Texas A&M played two common opponents, Alabama and North Carolina. Notre Dame lost to Alabama by 17, Texas A&M lost to Alabama by 28. Notre Dame beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill by a 31-17 score (14 points). That's the same margin Texas A&M beat the Tar Heels by on a neutral field.
North Carolina played its game against Texas A&M without both of its 1,000-yard rushers, without its 1,000-yard wide receiver and without its best defensive player. Despite that, North Carolina held a fourth quarter lead and was tied at 27-27 until under four minutes left in the game. Notre Dame never trailed North Carolina in the second half.
Notre Dame beat the #3 and #18 teams while Texas A&M beat #13 and #18.
The #5 final ranking by Notre Dame marks the second time in three years that the Fighting Irish ranked in the top five at the end of the season. It's the third time it has happened in head coach Brian Kelly's 11 seasons.
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