ATLANTA— Sitting beside Nick Saban, Lincoln Riley and Dabo Swinney at a gathering of the College Football Playoff coaches, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly referred to his team as “the new kids on the block.”
The description fit. Saban has guided No. 1 Alabama, the defending champion, to its fifth straight playoff. Swinney and Clemson are making their fourth straight appearance. Riley’s Oklahoma team is in the playoff for the third time in four years.