After wandering in the college football wilderness for nearly two decades the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame returned to prominence in 2012. Unranked at the start of the season, they compiled a 12-0 record as an independent school to finish #1 in the nation. They were helped along the way when teams like Oregon and Kansas State, which seemed headed for undefeated seasons as well, pooped themselves against lesser opponents. But Notre Dame, propelled by a tough defence lead by sophomore linebacker Manti T’eo, swept away their competition and qualified for the title game.
Taking the field against them will be the 12-1 Alabama Crimson Tide. They too sport a tough defence, finishing #2 in the nation in points allowed at 10.1 per game. The Tide also play in the uber tough Southeastern Conference. While Notre Dame faced a handful of so-so teams during its schedule like Navy, Wake Forest and Purdue, Alabama rarely had that luxury. To qualify for the BCS title game, Alabama beat #3 ranked Georgia Bulldogs 32-28, and the Tide’s only loss this year came at home 29-24 to #15 ranked Texas A&M which was lead by Heisman Trophy winning freshman QB Johnny Manziel.
Can the Irish recapture the magic on the college gridiron that once seemed to be theirs by divine right? Or will the Tide roll over them and claim the SEC’s seventh straight national championship? We’ll find out tomorrow night when the two teams meet in Miami. (TSN, 6:30 p.m.)