It’s not a slam dunk or a sure thing or whatever hip vernacular is used these days to get across a “done deal.”
No, all of us can talk whatever trash we want about what will happen in tonight’s BCS Championship Game at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, and really, truly believe every frothing-at-the-mouth syllable we utter. But, fact is, we don’t know for sure just how things will go down when No. 1 Notre Dame squares off with No. 2 Alabama for all the college football marbles – and accolades and a big, cheesy trophy.
Nothing is guaranteed. Not when it comes teams playing at this level. Not when both have been battled-tested throughout the fall, and not when both can boast rosters filled with some of the best individual talent in the nation.
Evenly matched? That’s hard to say. We could do enough comparison shopping to make moms at Christmas seem like novices.
Yeah, Alabama has the more recent history of unparalleled success, and that Southeastern Conference pedigree. It has national titles in 2009 and last season. It is, and probably should be, the favorite in this one. However…
The teams rank 1-2 in points allowed. ’Bama has a more potent offense going off points per game (38.5, which ranks 13th in the country, to 26.8, which comes in at 75th), but the two are a virtual wash in yards per game, both overall and in how they break down with rushing and passing. Each has a pair of very good running backs and though ND’s Everett Golson has electric ability, he’s every bit a manager on the field at quarterback as AJ McCarron is for the Tide.
ND’s Manti Te’o will be the biggest name between the lines tonight, but is he really the best player? Or even the best linebacker (Tide junior C.J. Mosley may have a say in that)? Or best talent on his own team (hello, tight end Tyler Eifert)? Or best defender on his own team (hey there, Stephon Tuitt)?
You could make a decent case for the alternatives – at least a better one than those previously made to have Te’o win the Heisman over Texas A&M freshman QB Johnny Manziel.
The Tide and Irish have one common opponent – Michigan. ’Bama blew out the Wolverines to start the season. Three weeks later, ND kinda cemented its ability to win ugly with a pretty boring 13-6 decision against Michigan.
Thing is, you might as well throw out those outcomes. They came about another lifetime ago at this point, and ND’s confidence is on a different plane now, having gone 12-0 in the regular season. The Tide, defending national champs that they are, proved to be beatable, getting beaten on the field by Louisiana State but not on the scoreboard one week, and then actually getting beaten on the field AND scoreboard by Manziel and A&M the next – at home, no less.
Frankly, with some better clock management and/or smarter play-calling down the stretch in the SEC title game, Georgia very well could be ND’s opponent tonight – not Alabama.
But that’s all part of the game, and why what transpires isn’t actually a given until the ball is snapped, play commences and bodies collide.
Coaching advantage? Well, while Alabama’s Nick Saban has been targeted as the featured face on the next Mount Rushmore creation to honor the sport’s legends, here are some things to consider:
The Great One arrived in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the 2007 season and had the Tide playing for a national title in his third year. Guess what year this marks in Brian Kelly’s reign at Notre Dame? Yeah, that’s right – third.
Mr. Magnificent won a national title way back in 2003 when he manning the controls at LSU prior to his two cups of coffee with the Miami Dolphins. That gives him three already. Did you know Kelly captured a pair at the Division II level a decade ago while coaching Grand Valley State? He also turned Cincinnati, a basketball school, into a viable BCS conference entity that actually posted a 12-0 regular season in 2009 before he bolted for South Bend, Ind.
Saban is defensive genius and a motivational dynamo. Kelly is an offensive genius and a motivational dynamo. Pick your poison with them.
Thing is, we can talk about experience all we want, too, and how that’s a great advantage to Alabama. The reality, though, is that no team has repeated as national champ since the BCS was put into place for the 1998 season. ’Bama would be the first to do so.
Additionally, only two schools have had players compete and win multiple crowns – Florida in 2006 and 2008, and Alabama in 2009 and 2011.
In short, every team that has emerged victorious – aside from Florida in 2008 and Alabama in 2011 – was in the exact same spot as ND finds itself entering tonight’s contest: being a potential first-time BCS title winner.
Even Saint Nick had to win a first time.
So, while, sure, ’Bama being a favorite makes sense. Even a healthy favorite (more than a TD and PAT) could be rationalized, if not legitimized – for the time being.
A word to the wise, though – just don’t bet the house on it like it’s a sure thing.
Too many unknowns could come into play, such as blown assignments, unforced miscues or even injuries.
We could be watching Irish backup QB Tommy Rees throwing the game-winning pass to TJ Jones just as easily as seeing ’Bama running back Eddie Lacy barrel across the goal line for the clincher in the waning moments.
You just never know … until it happens.