A week from this morning most folks in these parts will either be celebrating an unheard-of seventh straight SEC championship or cursing Notre Dame. Again, in both cases.
The SEC has made the BCS system its own party, dominating the title game to the tune of six wins in a row, many of them lopsided. You have to go back to 2006 and Vince Young (remember him?) leading Texas over Southern Cal to find a team outside the most powerful conference in America that’s won the national title.
And from this vantage point, the run continues. Not that one of Alabama’s sweetest potential wins in school history won’t come without its anxious moments. The Irish – at least according to the oddsmakers – are the biggest underdogs in championship-game history. The number has remained around nine since Vegas issued it right after the SEC title game, one that longtime oddsmaker Jimmy Vacarro says will prompt more legal wagering than any game in college football annals. And that’s doesn’t count Uncle Joe around the corner.
But Notre Dame is perhaps the most improved team in the nation. Nobody thought Brian Kelly’s squad would even be a factor in the BCS picture. But he’s done a tremendous job in South Bend, developing a dominating defense that Nick Saban, who knows a little about the subject, says is the best in the land. Quarterback Everett Golson was as far down as third on the depth chart last spring before emerging as a dual threat that conjures up images of – I hate to say it – Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Not that I think Golson is in Manziel’s class, but he is capable of directing a fast-paced attack, the only style that’s been successful against the Tide this year.
But in my opinion, Alabama’s a much more proven team that’s face a far more rugged schedule. In fact, on most Saturday’s, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina would handle the Irish. Boastful, over-confident talk just like Notre Dame hopes is permeating the Alabama squad? Of course.
However, it’s been my observation down through the years that in huge games the team with the best quarterback and coach wins. And there’s no doubt AJ McCarron is the superior signal-caller in this matchup. I’d look for Notre Dame to stack the line early and dare McCarron to throw, and I’d expect the results would be similar to what happened when LSU tried the same thing in last year’s BCS showdown. Yes, the most cohesive offensive line in Tide history will spring one of its talented backs for triple-digit numbers by the final horn, but McCarron is now a game-winner, not just a game-manager.
And then there’s that other factor that wins games like this. Who has the best coach? I’ll answer that with a question. Who would you choose over Saban with this much time to prepare for an opponent? His teams are methodical, machine-like executionists, everyone where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there.
That’s not to mention if there are any butterflies based on experience, the edge should go to the seasoned squad of Alabama.
One thing that won’t play a role between the lines is revenge. Nobody on Alabama’s roster was even born the last time the two teams met, a series that stands 5-1 in Notre Dame’s favor, including the ‘73 Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl that ensued that prompts Tide fans to mumble under their breath to this day. But we live in the present, not the past, and here’s thinking Alabama gets 2013 off to a savory start for its self and its legion of finally-contented followers.
Phil Paramore’s column appears Tuesdays in The Dothan Eagle. He can be heard weekdays from noon until 2 on SportsTalk WOOF The Ball AM560/FM 100.1 or at www.woofradio.com. He can be reached at the same website.