Alabama vs. Notre Dame: How did they get to the BCS title game?

Alabama vs. Notre Dame: How did they get to the BCS title game?

Bleacher Report: by Barrett Sallee

Bobby Lussier, Staff Writer

With the college football regular season coming to a close, only two teams are left standing in contention for the national title. One of them is a high powered defensive monster that still holds the title of national champion from last year. The other one is such a surprising success story that it wasn’t even ranked as a top 25 team at the beginning of the year. Yet somehow these underdogs have emerged unbeaten from the regular season.

In college football, there are 124 schools in the 1A division, and as the regular season progresses, the BCS, or Bowl Championship Series, releases their rankings of the top 25 teams in the nation after every weekend of play. Once the season ends, the two top-ranked teams play for the national championship in January. After a long and hard-fought season, these two teams have fallen into place, and the time and place has been set for the big game, between the universities of Alabama and Notre Dame.

From the first week of the season, it was quite clear that Alabama was a dominant force that had an excellent chance to make it back to the championship, giving up just 14 points in their first three games and scoring 128 over that same span. Alabama has always been characterized by its formidable defense and in-your-face rushing attack, and this scheme is what has made head coach Nick Saban one of the most famous college football coaches in history. This scheme also allowed the Crimson Tide to the national title a year ago. Leading the Tide on offense is the monstrous 220-pound Eddie Lacey at running back with 16 touchdowns, and the incredibly accurate senior AJ McCarron at quarterback, who has thrown only three interceptions all year.

Notre Dame, like Alabama, is one of the most storied collegiate football programs in the nation. These two teams carry the second and third most national titles in the history of the sport, trailing only Michigan. However, Notre Dame’s football program has not been as elite as it usually is over the past decade, sporting a disappointing .576 winning percentage. Notre Dame was projected by many to continue along the path of mediocrity this season, but instead they rose to the occasion and fought hard to earn an undefeated record. Unlike the road of Alabama, Notre Dame’s path to the championship game wasn’t so easy, and their exciting finishes kept fans on the edge of their seats all year. This prestigious program stationed in South Bend Indiana has won half of their 12 games by 9 points or less, including 2 overtime victories, leading to a margin of victory that ranked outside of the top 10. Alabama, however, donned a margin of victory that ranked second in the nation, despite their devastating loss late in the season to Heisman trophy-winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, the only outstanding blemish on an otherwise flawless season. Notre Dame relies on its nation-leading defense, lead by Heisman finalist Manti Te’o. The offense for Notre Dame does not have an explosive play maker, an unusual trait for a successful college program, but when they needed a big play late in the game, someone would step up and provide it for them. This is a risky way to play the game, because there is no one person to trust with the ball in big spots, but it unifies the team as one and makes every member a contributor to their perfect season.

From all of these outstanding statistics, one enormous question surfaces: Who is the better team? This question will remain unanswered until Monday, January 7, when the two teams attempt to finish what they started back in August. Will the powerhouse of Alabama steamroll over the fearsome Notre Dame defense as they have done with many teams this year, or will the Fighting Irish find a way to pull it out and win one more?