MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.–We have had controversy. We have had confusion. We have what seemed to border on chaos in some instances.
Who’s No. 1? That’s easy, compared to who’s in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, or Big 12?
Texas-Texas A&M? Nope. that’s not going to work.
The Big East? San Diego State? (for now) Boise State? (not any more) TCU? (not anymore).
Maryland-Illinois? (coming soon)
Rutgers–Minnesota? (on the way)
Welcome to the wacky world of college football, where tradition is spelled in dollar signs. Where eastern teams are a minority in the Big East. Where the Big Ten has 12 teams, going on 14 and probably 16 teams. Where Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are now considered part of the Atlantic coast. Where Missouri and Texas A&M are in Southeast. Where the Big 12 has ten teams.
It has been that kind of year in college football as the 2012 season comes to an end on Monday night at Sun Life Stadium where the next-to-last BCS championship game will be held.
And yet, in the middle of all of this, in a sport where change is part of is new DNA, college football has given us No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 (and defending national champion) Alabama.
Depending which criteria you want to use, Alabama can claim 14 national championships. There is no dispute over the Tide winning two of the last three national championships.
Notre Dame says it has 11 national championships, which is one more than the official number many people use for the Tide.
Using any numbers, Alabama vs. Notre Dame has some special oomph to it.
But this Notre Dame team–the one that Brian Kelly has brought through a sometimes bumpy and even controversial unbeaten season–hasn’t been a player at this level, this late in the season since 1988, which is also the last time ND won the national championship.
Notre Dame vs. Alabama. Rockne vs. Bryant. Cheer cheer for old Notre Dame vs. Roll Tide. An old-fashioned rivalry built on accomplishment and tradition.
Small wonder this game is projected as an all time ratings favorite for a BCS title game.
Small wonder, people with extra tickets can make mortgage payments on their homes with the offers they are getting.
Kelly, in his third season in South Bend, knows what is at stake on Monday night, and he knows what a win or just an appearance in this game means.
“Playing in this game is an incredible springboard into the next season, because as I just mentioned, you set a goal, you set a bar,” said Kelly. They’ve (Alabama) already been here. You come back the next year, it’s unacceptable for a standard to be any less than being back here again. So it’s an incredible springboard.
When I was playing for championships at the Division II level, it just changes everything when you walk into that building on a day‑to‑day basis. Everybody is playing for championships. So this will be a great springboard in making sure that we get back to this game. ”
Even at Notre Dame, not many people thought the Irish would be in this game at the start of the season. The chatter around and under the Golden Dome was that 8-4 or 9-3 would be great. There was concern about whether the Irish even receive a bowl bid since at the non-BCS level, most of the spots traditionally used by ND were already committed to teams other than the Irish.
ND proved them all wrong. Now they will have to do it again against a team that most people think is better than the Irish. The Vegas wise-guys think Bama is almost a 10 point favorite.
Barring mistakes by the Tide, that sounds about right.
© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.