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My name is Eric. My love of and loyalty to the University of Alabama football team is unparalleled and completely inappropriate. I hate all other teams, and wish them peril. Also, you can hear my music at www.reverbnation.com/EricBlackerby or www.youtube.com/EricBlackerbyMusic

Monday, January 7, 2013

BCS National Championship Game (And Some History)

Alabama vs. Notre Dame: History

Notre Dame has been a pain in Alabama's ass for a long time.

In 1966, neither team lost a game. Alabama went undefeated, in one of Bear Bryant's most dominating years, while Notre Dame played for a tie in their last game against Michigan State. The nation was tired of Alabama, who had won it all in 1965 and 1964 already, and so they voted ND number one. Alot of older Bama fans are still seething about this. 

In 1973, both teams went undefeated until they faced each other in the Sugar Bowl. Per the rules at the time, the coaches voted Alabama the national title before the bowl game. In those days, bowl games were just exhibition games that didn't matter towards any rankings. But then Notre Dame beat Alabama, and they claim the title that year as well.

In 1974, Alabama went through the entire season undefeated again, but due to the controversy of the year before, the coaches waited until after the bowl game to vote. Alabama lost to ND, who had already lost 2 games that year, and missed out on the title.

In 1976, Alabama was ranked 10th when they lost to 18th ranked Notre Dame in November. Bama had already lost 2 games that year, so at least it wasn't another title that Notre Dame could steal away.

Quick timeout. Are y'all seeing a trend here? Throughout history, they hate on us so much. When Bama is successful, the rest of the country does what it can to put a stop to it. It happened back then, and we all see that it is happening now, with the outrage over Bama getting a second shot at LSU last year that led to other conferences agreeing to a playoff in the future. 

The way I see it, Bama should've been given the Title in 66 and ND in 73, which would even things out. So I really don't worry much about that.

There are also a few ties that the two schools share through history as well. 

Frank Thomas, who won national titles at Bama as a coach, was a QB for Notre Dame under Knute Rockne.

Mal Moore was an assistant coach at ND in the 80's under Lou Holtz.

Saban vs. Bryant

Nick Saban is coaching for the right to be put in Bear Bryant territory.

Though he would never admit that.

He said on the radio this week that it is unfair to Bryant to EVER put anyone in that conversation. So while Saban won't say it, I can and will.

The comparisons are uncanny. Bryant made many moves before coming to Bama in 1958. Everyone knows about Saban's history there.

Saban and Bryant are now the only two coaches in history to win the SEC at two different schools. 

Saban is the only one to win a National Title at 2 different schools, having done so at LSU in 2003.

In their first 5 seasons at Bama, Bryant and Saban both posted an identical .806 winning percentage and both won 1 SEC Championship.

Saban, however, won 2 National Titles to Bryant's 1.

If he wins tonight, that will make 3 titles in 4 years, something Bryant never accomplished. It was also make 4 titles in his last 8 years of coaching college football, another achievement that would eclipse Bryant. 

Bear won 6 National Titles overall, but it took him 25 years to do it. Saban is about to be halfway there after just 6 seasons in Tuscaloosa. If he stays around long enough, he will most definitely pass Bryant in this regard as well.

2012 Season

Notre Dame started the season unranked, while Alabama started the season in the top 2, depending on the poll, coming off a national title in 2011.

Notre Dame went undefeated, while Bama lost one game to Texas A&M, and the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel. Bama was able to work it's way back to the No. 2 spot when other teams lost, thereby getting a shot at Notre Dame and defending their title.

The two teams share alot of similarities defensively, while Bama is a mile ahead on offense.

They have one common opponent in Michigan, which Alabama beat soundly 41-14. The only thing that kept Bama from winning that game by 40 or 50 was Nick Saban's mercy.

When Notre Dame played Michigan, Notre Dame only scored 13 points. Michigan turned the ball over on 6 straight possessions and only scored 6 points. That's a credit to ND's defense, but it's a good measuring stick that Notre Dame could so thoroughly "dominate" that game, yet only win by 7 points. If Notre Dame could only score 13 points against Michigan, how does it expect to score more than that against Bama? And it will take more than that to win this game tonight.

Notre Dame only beat Purdue 20-17. It took a goal line stand in overtime to beat Stanford 20-13. Personally, I think the Stanford running back had the ball across the goal line, even though the refs called him short. So The Irish should've lost that game.

The next week they put a whooping on mighty BYU by a score of 17-14.

Perhaps their biggest win of the year came against Pitt the following week. Pitt took them to 3 OT's and it took Pitt missing an easy FG for ND to win that game. 

By the way, that same Pitt team, that ND struggled to survive against in 3 overtimes, lost to Ole Miss by 3 touchdowns. There's another good measuring stick.

ND needed another goal line stand to hold off USC at the end of the season. The same USC team that lost 6 games.

I have to give credit for the fight that Notre Dame has obviously possessed this season. It's much like Auburn in 2010, when the Tigers should've lost 5 or 6 games, but they just kept managing to pull it off somehow. As a fan and student of history, this is one of those games that we've seen upsets in before.

In 1992, Miami was coming off a national title, and Alabama survived several times through the year to somehow go undefeated. When Bama played Miami in the Sugar Bowl, nobody gave Bama a chance. Miami was a juggernaut on both sides of the ball, while Alabama was strictly a defensive team who got by with a smart QB and average offensive play. See where I'm going here?

The difference is that this Alabama team is not a team of thugs and prima donnas like that Miami team. Alabama is full of great players, who are mature leaders, and know what it takes to play to a high standard.

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o gets as much hype as any defensive player ever has, and he's great, but in reality he is no better than Bama's CJ Mosley. They have almost identical stats, while Mosley doesn't even play more than about 70% of any game and Te'o takes every snap. Te'o has only 1 sack all year. The hype is over the fact that he has intercepted 7 passes. When have you heard of a MLB doing that? It's crazy.

Position By Position Comparisons

At QB, Alabama has the unquestioned advantage with a returning starter who already has one national title, and Notre Dame is going with a freshman who was yanked from several games this year.

At RB, Alabama has 2 running backs who rushed for over 1,000 yards in the same season for the first time in history. Eddie Lacy, with almost 1300, and TJ Yeldon, with exactly 1000,  are one of the best combos of all time and Saban has made no bones about his affection for the two. Notre Dame's pair of backs, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, are a pretty good combo as well, but Riddick is still 120 yards short of 1000 and Wood is 260 short.

TJ Jones is the only good WR Notre Dame has and he only has 4 touchdowns this season, while Bama has 3 or 4 options that are at least on his level and probably better. Amari Cooper will be the best receiving threat on the field all night, and he is only a true freshman. 

The OL is a joke of a competition. Bama by 873,000 miles here.

Overall on offense, it's not much of a comparison, as Bama set school records this season already for points scored and yards overall, with still this game to be played.

On defense, Notre Dame stacks up much more evenly.

The DL and LB's are a huge strength for them. Louis Nix III is a beast in the middle of that line, and he will surely give Barrett Jones hell, no matter how healthy Jones is. On the end, Stephon Tuitt is an All American. Everyone knows about Te'o, but Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox are both solid backers as well. CJ Mosley, Nico Johnson, Adrian Hubbard and the rest are at least an equally impressive bunch. I give CJ the nod over Te'o, and maybe that's bias, but the stats and CJ's impact do not lie. Others will say that this is an advantage for ND, but I'd take Bama's guys over them.

It's funny that Bama gets so much flack for "poor" play in the secondary this year, when you have an All American future first round draft pick in Dee Milliner at corner, and 3 year starter Robert Lester at safety. The standard has been set so high by guys like Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick that people are just astonished to see Bama give up big passing plays, but that's been the case this year. More so than any of the previous 3 years, Bama can be taken advantage of deep down the field. Where I find comfort though is in the fact that Everett Golson doesn't have the deep ball passing ability of guys like Zack Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, and Johnny Manziel. Bama has already faced a better runner at the position and a couple of better passers. Alabama's secondary is yet another strength for the Tide over the Irish.

Brian Kelly won 2 national championships in Division II at Grand Valley St and I think he is an outstanding coach, but only one guy in that stadium tonight possesses THREE BCS National Championship rings. No contest here.

It seems ridiculous that one team could be better at every position than another team in a national title game, especially when it's the team that actually lost a game when the other didn't. But that is how I feel. QB, RB, and Offensive Line are the only ones that are huge margins though, as Notre Dame doesn't really have a weakness anywhere that can be easily exploited. 

Overall, of course I'm picking Alabama to win this game, and really it could get ugly. If the same teams that each played Michigan show up, then Bama could be putting in the backups to start the 4th quarter. 

I'm not gonna go that far though. I think ND will hang around for much longer than I'd like. I think they'll make a big play or two and keep it within a TD or so for most of the game. But I think Bama will be controlling everything by the time the 4th quarter comes around, and the final score will look like a bigger beatdown than it probably will be.

Alabama 34
Notre Dame 16

"Reports coming out of Miami are that Nick Saban has a relaxed and calm demeanor. This is horrific news if you are an Irish fan" - Robert Cooper, Bama Hammer