Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Notre Dame, Alabama to clash in BCS title game

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 title game.

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 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 again irking some fans.

As for the main event in the penultimate BCS, there was little controversy: No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) against No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in Miami. The Irish clinched their spot a week ago by completing their perfect season against Southern Cal.

"The tradition of Alabama and Notre Dame brings special attention to it, but we're just trying to the best team on Monday, Jan. 7," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. "All of that tradition, what's happened in the past, is not going to help us Jan. 7, but we do respect the traditions."

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.

Alabama earned its spot Saturday, beating Georgia 32-28 in a thrilling SEC title game. The Tide put its no-frills muscle on display, mashing Georgia with 350 yards rushing. Eddie Lacy ran for 181 to up his season total to 1,182 with 17 touchdowns. T.J. Yeldon has more speed, going for 1,000 yards with 12 TDs.

Notre Dame's Kelly built his reputation at previous stops on fast-paced spread offenses. In South Bend, Ind., he has put the fight back in the Irish, who have not won a national title since 1988. Notre Dame has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the country (10) and is sixth in total defense (286 yards per game). The face of the Irish is middle linebacker Manti Te'o, who is a likely Heisman finalist.

Along with 300-pound linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, they form a red-zone wall. Late goal-line stands highlighted wins against Stanford and USC.

"There's some pretty physical guys that have some great toughness and some great licks," Saban said of Notre Dame.

A look at BCS games that don't include Florida teams:

Rose Bowl: Unranked Wisconsin (8-5) makes its third straight trip to this bowl, while No. 8 Stanford (11-2) is hoping for another victory in its run through the BCS. It's a rematch of the 2000 Rose, won 17-9 by Wisconsin. But the Badgers have lost their last two trips, against TCU and Oregon. Stanford is in its third consecutive BCS bowl, having been to the Orange and Fiesta in consecutive seasons previously.

Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Oregon and No. 7 Kansas State, teams in the national-title picture just two weeks ago and 11-1 now, will give the Fiesta a second straight marquee matchup after last year's Okahoma State-Stanford double-overtime thriller. The Ducks, with Heisman Trophy contender Kenjon Barner and all those fleet-footed players, against the gritty Wildcats and their Heisman-worthy quarterback, Collin Klein. The score could easily go as high as last year's 41-38 Cowboys' victory.

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