Every week there was a major story line and a lot of history built into the 2012 season; this continues with Alabama next on the agenda for Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide is just 1-5 all-time against Notre Dame and their beloved Paul “Bear” Bryant is 0-4. However, both Irish and Tide fans are constantly accused of living in the rich, historical glory that that both programs have enjoyed for quite some time, so forget about the history between the teams, it’s interesting and full of tension but there’s more than history that makes this an intriguing matchup.
Bama has been “back” ever since Nick Saban put roots down in Tuscaloosa, winning 2 of the last 3 National Championships. What Saban has done with that program since the Shula/sanctions era ended has been great for college football and exactly the matchup Notre Dame needs to avoid the “they got lucky” or “see, the NCAA just wants Notre Dame to win” arguments. Alabama has been the best team in the eyes of everyone but the computers all season, even after the Irish claimed No. 1.
The Irish have, well, struggled of late; and by “late” I mean for about a quarter century, or so. To say it’s been a frustrating 23years, 340 days and 8 hours (approximately) is an understatement. The Irish fall from glory was full of false hope and missed opportunities. It got to a point where you just expected something bad to happen, and it usually did. Things have been different in Brian Kelly’s 3rd year. Kelly, two-time coach of the year and Manti Te’o, have fostered a change in the program that led the Irish return to the top of the college football world.
So essentially, this game for Kelly and the Irish is the same as it was for Saban in his 3rd year. Like Nick Saban, Brian Kelly came into a situation with a passionate fan base and high expectations; with a lot of fans thinking if it’s ever going to change, Brian Kelly has to be the guy. Notre Dame could not have overcome another bad coach. Saban had his chance to put Bama back on the map and now Kelly has his.
The story of this game is, one traditional power (Alabama)that has climbed back to the top of the proverbial college football mountain, facing another who is seemingly about to summit (Notre Dame). For Alabama fans, the story is a chance to take back 1973 when they claim Notre Dame “stole” a National Championship from them…but something tells me (mostly living in Birmingham for 5yrs) many of them also still wish Robert E. Lee could rise from the dead and take over the White House, so let it go. For Notre Dame, it’s a chance to complete the ascent back to the top, against the best; maybe see Touchdown Jesus’ arms appearing to be raised a little higher or a little extra glimmer atop the Golden Dome.
So here it is, Irish fans, it’s the one we wanted, or at least I wanted. I wanted Alabama and was glad they came back and won that game; not because it’s a lock, because it’s far from that. I wanted Bama because of what they represent in College football, along with the SEC. The Tide has won 2 of the last 3 titles and the SEC has won the last 7, so if the Irish are going to do it, they might as well do it in style. This one makes up for all the agony and missed opportunities, because when the Irish win this game, the last quarter century will be forgotten. Don’t act like you didn’t get a little misty eyed when the final seconds ticked away on the game clock at the coliseum a couple weeks ago, and you realized what it meant; no matter how much you tell your buddies you can bench.