MIAMI – Sometimes, the buildup to a game can overwhelm what actually happens on the field.
Certainly, No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama would have to play nothing less than a classic to live up to all the hype for Monday night’s BCS championship.
Before either team stepped on the field in balmy South Florida, this was shaping up as one of the most anticipated games in years, a throwback to the era when Keith Jackson & Co. called one game a week, when it was a big deal for teams from different parts of the country to meet in a bowl game, when everyone took sides based on where they happened to live.
North vs. South. Rockne vs. Bear. Rudy vs. Forrest Gump.
The Fighting Irish vs. the Crimson Tide.
College football’s two most storied programs, glorified in movie and song, facing off for the biggest prize.
“It’s definitely not any other game,” said Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
“That’s football at its finest,” said Te’o, who heads a defense that has given up just two rushing touchdowns. “It’s going to be a great challenge, and a challenge that we look forward to.”
The Crimson Tide (12-1), have a chance to be remembered as a full-fledged dynasty. They will try to win a third national title in 4 years and become the first to win back-to-back BCS titles.
“To be honest, I think this team has kind of exceeded expectations,” coach Nick Saban said Sunday. “If you look at all the players we lost last year, the leadership that we lost ... I’m really proud of what this team was able to accomplish.”
Despite their impressive legacy, the Fighting Irish (12-0) weren’t even ranked at the start of the season. But overtime wins against Stanford and Pittsburgh, combined with three other victories by a touchdown or less, gave Notre Dame a shot at its first national title since 1988.
After so many lost years, the golden dome reclaimed its luster in coach Brian Kelly’s third season.
“It starts with setting a clear goal for the program,” Kelly said. “Are we here to get to a bowl game, or to win national championships?”
The schools have played six times, and not since 1987. The first of their meetings is remembered as one of the landmark games in college football history. Bear Bryant had one of his best teams at the 1973 Sugar Bowl, but Ara Parseghian and the Fighting Irish claimed the national title by beating top-ranked Alabama 24-23.
If you’re a long-time Notre Dame fan, you still remember Parseghian’s gutty call to throw the ball out of the end zone for a game-clinching first down. If you were rooting for the Tide, you haven’t forgotten a missed extra point that turned out to be the losing margin.
Of course, these Alabama players aren’t concerned about what happened nearly four decades ago.
For the most part, all they know is winning.
“There’s a lot of tradition that goes into Alabama football,” Mosley said, “and our plan is to keep that tradition alive.”
No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. No. 2 Alabama (12-1)
When: 7:30 tonight
Line: Alabama by 9½ (opened 7½ favorites)