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Exterior view of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during a game between the Saints and the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 23, 2011. The Superdome will host its first CFP National Championship game on Jan. 13, 2020.

College football is throwing itself a big 150th birthday bash all season long.

If it’s a party the game wanted to cap off the whole thing, it came to the right place.

The CFP National Championship Game is headed to New Orleans on Jan. 13. Though the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has twice hosted CFP semifinals in the Allstate Sugar Bowl as part of the once-every-three-year rotation, this will be the first national championship game in the Crescent City since Alabama’s infamous 21-0 win over LSU in the 2012 BCS title game.

“It’s a great event,” Sugar Bowl CEO Jeff Hundley said of the CFP championship game. “We’ve watched it grow from its first year in Dallas, and it keeps getting bigger and better every year. It’s something we’ve always wanted to have.”

The championship game signals a return to the major championship event rotation New Orleans has become known for. The NCAA men’s Final Four is back in the Superdome in April 2022, while Super Bowl 58 will be there in February 2024.

Local sports fans should enjoy the spotlight of college football’s ultimate game while they can. It will be years before it returns.

CFP organizers have decided to take the championship game to 10 venues in its first 10 years. New Orleans is the waypoint on the CFP title game’s trek east from the San Francisco Bay Area last January — site of Clemson’s shocking 44-16 rout of Alabama — to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in 2021. The CFP moves on to Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium in 2022, followed by the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers’ new stadium in Inglewood, California, in 2023 and Houston’s NRG Stadium in 2024.

LSU fans are hoping history will be a predictor of good things for the Tigers in 2019. The last three times the BCS championship game was played in the Superdome — after the 2003, 2007 and 2011 seasons — LSU was there, winning national titles in the first two games over Oklahoma and Ohio State.

With a preseason top-10 buzz, there is a legitimate reason to believe the Tigers can at least earn their first berth into the CFP playoffs. LSU is coming off its first New Year’s Six bowl trip with a 40-32 victory over Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl, and a return trip to Arizona would be just the ticket. The Fiesta Bowl, along with the Peach Bowl, will host the national semifinals Dec. 28.

Being a part of the CFP’s “final four” is one thing. But the biggest question the rest of college football faces is, Can anyone stop Alabama and Clemson from reaching the national championship game for the fourth time in five years?

The two programs have dominated the first half-decade of the CFP, winning two titles apiece. More than that, they have faced each other three times in the championship game, with Clemson winning two of the three matchups. Alabama also beat Clemson in a semifinal showdown in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago.

While there are other legitimate contenders out there such as Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU and Michigan, Clemson and Alabama are stacked up as the heavyweight favorites to beat once again. Each led by a Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback — Clemson by Trevor Lawrence, Alabama by Tua Tagovailoa — and will open play as the top two teams in the national polls.

Alabama, much to the dismay of non-Alabama fans everywhere, is the only program to reach the playoffs all five years of the CFP (Bama lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl after the 2014 season). Is such dominance by Bama and Clemson bad for the college game? It probably isn’t good, but it exists nonetheless. And it’s up to the LSUs and Oklahomas and Ohio States to change the equation if they can.

Whether it’s Alabama, Clemson, or other teams squaring off on the floor of the Superdome the night of Jan. 13, it will be the culmination of one huge celebration of the game, up to and including the announcement of an all-time 150th anniversary team in the days leading up to the championship final.

Is there a better place to host such a big show than New Orleans, the city that loves football and a party in equal measure? Hundley doesn’t think so, and there’s no reason to try to prove him wrong.

“Everyone is excited and looking forward to it,” he said. “We want to do it better than it’s been done before. It’s something that has us engaged and energized.

“We’re a city built for this, to showcase this event and all the different fan events around it in the best way possible.”

Let the games begin.

For more information on college football’s 150th anniversary celebration, visit www.CFP150.org.

CFP Championship Game history and future sites

Year Score Site

2015 Ohio State 42, Oregon 20 Arlington, Texas

2016 Alabama 45, Clemson 40 Glendale, Arizona

2017 Clemson 35, Alabama 31 Tampa, Florida

2018 Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT) Atlanta

2019 Clemson 44, Alabama 16 Santa Clara, California

2020 Jan. 13 Mercedes-Benz Superdome

2021 Jan. 11 Miami

2022 Jan. 10 Indianapolis

2023 Jan. 9 Inglewood, California

2024 Jan. 8 Houston


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Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com