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Loved the Rose Bowl? Notre Dame-Alabama might have similar scent

Think of the BCS title game as a pumped-up version of Stanford versus Wisconsin, a defensive, clock-control matchup. One note: The Irish are 5-1 all-time against the Crimson Tide.

January 06, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o celebrates an interception against Oklahoma during a 30-13 victory this season.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o celebrates an interception against… (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)

If you loved the Rose Bowl, you might also enjoy Monday night's Bowl Championship Series title game between Notre Dame and Alabama.

Think of this as a pumped-up version of Stanford versus Wisconsin, a defensive, clock-control matchup that ended in a 20-14 Cardinal victory.

Notre Dame and Alabama boast fine defenses and like-minded philosophies on how championships are won. Times staff writer Chris Dufresne examines the BCS title game's story lines.

Take it or leave it

No one said the BCS is perfect or that the best team has to win. You could even argue one-loss Oregon is the best-looking team playing right now.

Notre Dame is 12-0 but survived several harrowing finishes to finish the regular season undefeated. The Irish beat a bad Purdue team by three, outlasted Stanford in overtime and needed overtime to defeat a Pittsburgh team that had just been routed by Mississippi.

Alabama's lone loss to two-loss Texas A&M at home compares favorably to Oregon's lone loss to two-loss Stanford. Alabama, though, won the Southeastern Conference, while Oregon failed to win the Pac-12 North Division.

Young but not reckless

Young quarterbacks continue to have a huge impact. Redshirt freshmen Kevin Hogan (Stanford) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon) led their teams to Rose and Fiesta bowl victories, and true sophomore Teddy Bridgewater helped Louisville pull off a huge Sugar Bowl win over Florida. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel was simply sensational in Texas A&M's Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma.

Second-year freshman Everett Golson of Notre Dame hopes to continue the trend. Golson said he was more nervous before his first start in the Irish's opener against Navy in Ireland than he is for the BCS title game.

"For me it was sort of a disbelief type deal," he said of the Ireland experience. "It was a little far-fetched for me at the time. Now, I think I'm kind of settled in."

Last year, of course, another young quarterback, sophomore AJ McCarron, led Alabama to the championship.

Now a junior, he almost seems like an old man.

Hold that line

The game will be won in the trenches, but you knew that, right? Notre Dame and Alabama enter the game ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in NCAA scoring defense. Notre Dame's defense has allowed only 10.33 points per game, compared with Alabama's 10.69.

Notre Dame has allowed 10 touchdowns and 18 field goals this year. Alabama, in one more game, has allowed 18 touchdowns and only five field goals.

Alabama is also tops in total defense, allowing opponents only 246 yards per game. Notre Dame ranks fifth, allowing 286 yards per game.

"It's not about the crazy numbers, or passing yards, or the rushing yards," Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said. "It's about the big fellas up front."

Ala-what and Okla-who?

It's hard not to be impressed: Notre Dame has a 14-2 all-time record against Alabama and Oklahoma, two of college football's most successful programs. Notre Dame is 5-1 against Alabama and 9-1 against Oklahoma, including this year's shocking 30-13 win at Norman. Alabama Coach Bear Bryant was 0-4 all-time against Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide's lone bright moment against the Irish was a 28-10 home victory in 1986. The winning coach was Ray Perkins. The winning quarterback was … former Alabama Coach Mike Shula.

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