This one could be a classic
I can’t imagine a better matchup for a national championship game.
Alabama vs. Notre Dame. Roll Tide vs. Shake Down The Thunder. South vs. North.
Alabama claims 14 national football titles, Notre Dame 11. Some of those are disputed since they weren’t won on the field, but we’ve never had a matchup between two such storied programs.
Yet, as different as are Alabama and Notre Dame, these two football teams are quite similar as both are built around defense. We’ve all heard -far too many times -that offense wins games and defense wins championships. That’s certainly going to be true this year as neither of these teams is known for getting into those wild 70-63 shootouts that have become all-too-common in the modern college football world.
Rather, both play great defense, each allowing slightly more than 10 points per game.
Speaking of 10 points, when is the last time the No. 1 team in the nation was a 10-point underdog? I can’t remember that ever happening. But Notre Dame, the only major college team to go unbeaten, wound up the year at No. 1, while Alabama was No. 2. Yet, Alabama is a 10-point favorite tonight.
Usually, we spend the time between the final regular season games and the national title game debating if the participating teams really belong. Such words have not been uttered this year. These are the two best teams in college football -period.
Some question the quality of Notre Dame’s schedule. But the Irish played three games against teams that were ranked in the 10 and another against No. 18. Notre Dame played its traditional opponents and some -like Miami of Florida and Southern Cal -weren’t as strong as expected, which certainly isn’t Notre Dame’s fault.
Alabama, meanwhile, had to run the Southeastern Conference gauntlet. Yes, it stumbled against Texas A&M, but it beat four teams ranked in the top 11.
Every time we arrive at a big event like the World Series, the Super Bowl or the BCS title game, you always hear several people say they would like to see somebody new in there. But a West Virginia-Stanford game, for example, would create but a fraction of the interest surrounding tonight’s matchup.
Both schools are steeped in history. Notre Dame’s stories are legendary. The Four Horsemen. The Gipper. Rudy. The Era of Ara. Dr. Lou. Yes, it’s been a while since the Irish were relevant in the national championship discussion but there is no doubt Notre Dame is back.
Alabama, meanwhile, is a perennial national power. It boasts two of the greatest coaches of all time -Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant (who was getting votes for president at the 1972 Democratic National Convention) -and West Virginia native Nick Saban, who can win his fourth title tonight.
I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I can’t wait until kickoff. This is a classic matchup and must-see TV.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org