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By:Marq Burnett

ATLANTA — Whether joking or serious, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick knew who he needed to thank for the Crimson Tide’s playoff spot this season.

Alabama earned the No. 4 spot over Ohio State, which won the Big Ten title but had two losses. One of the Buckeyes’ losses was a 31-point drubbing at the hands of Iowa in November.

That ultimately led the College Football Playoff committee to pick the Crimson Tide over the Buckeyes.

Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy along with Fitzpatrick. The two met during their trip to Charlotte this week.

“I thanked Josey Jewell this Monday when we were in Charlotte,” Fitzpatrick said, smiling. “I just said thank you for beating up on Ohio State.”

Jewell’s response?

“He said he was just doing his job,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick spoke with a group of reporters on Wednesday at the College Football Hall of Fame. He’s a finalist for the Thorpe Award (nation’s best defensive back) and the Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year).

Alabama will face No. 1 Clemson on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia will meet in the Rose Bowl semifinal.

Alabama and Clemson have met the last two years in the title game, with both contests being decided by fewer than 5 points.

Alabama won a 45-40 thriller to clinch the 2015 national title. Last season, Clemson defeated the Crimson Tide 35-31 on a last-second touchdown pass.