NEW YORK — On one side, a blossoming dynasty from the college football capital of the Deep South. On the other, the sport’s most famous team, trying to reclaim its place among the elite.
Notre Dame and Alabama bring star power and power football to the BCS championship.
The matchup became official Sunday night when the final standings were released and, to no one’s surprise, the Fighting Irish were first and the Crimson Tide was second.
The one bit of drama on college football’s selection Sunday was whether Northern Illinois could be this year’s BCS buster. The Huskies got in, getting a spot in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, taking a bid away from Oklahoma and sparking heated debate about a system that never fails to tick off fans in some way.
As for the main event in the penultimate Bowl Championship Series, there was little controversy: No. 1 Notre Dame against No. 2 Alabama in Miami on Jan. 7.
The Irish clinched their spot a week ago in Los Angeles by completing a perfect season against rival Southern California.
Alabama earned its spot Saturday, beating Georgia 32-28 in a thrilling Southeastern Conference title game.
Coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are on the verge of one of the great runs in history. Alabama would become the first team to repeat as champs since the BCS was implemented in 1998, and it would be the 11th time a team has won consecutive AP titles since the poll started in 1936. Alabama is already one of seven programs to repeat. The Tide has done it twice. Notre Dame is another.
Notre Dame has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the country (10) and is sixth overall in total defense (286 yards per game).
In two years, college football switches to a four-team playoff to determine its champion.
No doubt fans of Florida (11-1), Oregon (11-1), Stanford (11-2) and Kansas State (11-1) wish they could push the start date up on that, but for the most part there isn’t much griping about this championship matchup.
Notre Dame is the only undefeated team that is eligible – thanks to Ohio State’s NCAA sanctions – and Alabama is the champion of the league that has produced the past half-dozen national champs.
Roll Tide or return to glory? To be determined in South Florida.