It all comes down to this: The Fightin’ Irish attempting to “wake up the echoes” from the coma they have been in for nearly twenty years against Nick Saban and his SEC juggernaut, the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Historically this is a match-up for the ages. Two of the nations all-time premier programs, a north versus south pride war for all the marbles.
History: Given the recent history of the SEC some would consider this a surprise, but coming into the championship game Notre Dame holds a 5-1 all-time record vs the Crimson Tide in head to head match-ups. Perhaps the surprise is lessened when it is revealed that these two have not met on the gridiron since 1987, a 37-6 blowout by the Irish in South Bend. The only win in the series for the Tide came a year earlier in 1986, a 28-10 win that was played in Birmingham, Alabama.
This isn’t the first time they have met in a bowl game. Notre Dame edged the Tide 24-23 in the 1973 Sugar Bowl and beat them in the 1975 Orange Bowl 13-11.
As far as championship games pitting the titans of a sport against one another, Notre Dame vs Alabama is hard to beat. The Irish are third on the all-time wins list while the Tide come in at number seven. Alabama has 14 national championships, Notre Dame with 11, however they are tied at 9 a piece if you only count the “poll era” post 1936 to present day. Love them or hate them, they are titans of the sport. Read More
Oh, college football… How I love you!!
Well, that happened.
While a lot of people were saying that Alabama was ripe for a loss against a Texas A&M team that’s been playing really well over the past few weeks, most of this felt like lip service. You know, the kind of things that ESPN makes one person say on the Gameday set in order to appear unbiased.
And then- “Johnny Football”.
There are a lot of reasons why Alabama lost- coming off of an emotional win on the road in Death Valley, LSU’s offense showed a lot of people the issues that the Tide have in their secondary, Saban’s fear of the high speed offense is based on his knowledge of his team’s weaknesses; but the fact of the matter is that the Aggies outplayed Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, in several key areas of the game.
The Crimson Tide defensive front was stifled, for the most part, by the aTm offensive tackles. Combined with concerns about a quarterback’s mobility, the Tide were not able to mount the type of disruptive pressure that they are so used to.
Alabama’s offense made key mistakes and turnovers, and seemed out of rhythm all night long. The three turnovers didn’t help, particularly when the Tide defense couldn’t get any of their own… and the mental errors were even more egregious. On the final interception, it seems to me that the receiver on the end of the line of scrimmage did a poor job getting depth in the end zone, making it easy for defenders to cover both him and the primary target. In addition, with Bama’s defense stiffening and forcing a punt, to have a member of their punt return/block team create a neutral zone infraction for an automatic first down is an aggressive penalty, but one that is terrible to have happen in that circumstance. Again, the intensity was there for the student in question, but the lack of focus eventually cost them a final chance at victory.
But we can’t miss the point here- this game was won by Johnny Manziel’s continual ability to make plays and put the Tide defense on their heels.
After the third week in a row with this type of performance (Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State), the redshirt freshman has lifted himself into Heisman candidacy- and for good reason. Given the lack of a clear “star” this year, given Matt Barkley’s struggles, the game this weekend was his “Flutie to Phelan” moment; outstanding performance in high profile opportunity. I’ll leave the debate to others, but will certainly enjoy watching the electricity that all of these candidates provide.
Even if he doesn’t win this year, you’ve got to think that next year’s Heisman race is going to be something spectacular- Braxton Miller, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Gholston, Tahj Boyd, DeAnthony Thomas… and those are just the ones I’ve got off the top of my head.
(And since I’m on the topic, I think that Marquis Lee needs to be included in this year’s debate. But that’s just me).
Does this loss end the run of SEC titles in the final year of the BCS? Well, not exactly… more on this in a bit.