College football requires one more meaningful game, and don’t sleep on Notre Dame
by Joe Medley
Dec 02, 2012 | 5277 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If Alabama is to get a crystal trophy to match the one it earned Saturday at the Georgia Dome, the Crimson Tide must win one more game. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
If Alabama is to get a crystal trophy to match the one it earned Saturday at the Georgia Dome, the Crimson Tide must win one more game. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
ATLANTA — The best and worst thing about college football as we’ve known is its emphasis on the regular season and, by extension, de-emphasis of the postseason.

It makes for weeks of life and death from September through early December followed by one game of afterlife weeks later, and isn’t a shame there must be games beyond Saturday’s SEC Championship?

Who needs college football beyond No. 2 Alabama 32, No. 3 Georgia 28?

Who needs college football beyond the five lead changes, endless momentum swings and gasping moments those two teams created in a game that decided which SEC team will make it seven national championships in a row for college football’s top conference?

De facto national semifinal? Call it the de facto national championship.

OK, so college football needs college football beyond all of that. College football needs one more meaningful game to name a champion, and Sunday’s Bowl Championship Series selections made official what everyone knew.

National-champion-in-waiting Alabama (12-1) will play currently No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) on Jan. 7 in Miami. They call it the BCS final, and college football withholds the relevant crystal until that game ends.

Does that about sum up the view of things here in the SEC footprint?

If so, then get ready for well-earned lectures from the Ranter-In-Chief in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban knows the sobering reality that Alabama could lose to Notre Dame.

The Crimson Tide shouldn’t lose to the Fighting Irish, but these two teams are more alike than apart. Like Alabama, Notre Dame has a dominant defense, good enough to keep the game close. Like Alabama, Notre Dame is resilient, only the Irish have had more occasions to prove it this season.

That all should come in handy for Notre Dame, which has been installed as an 8.5-point underdog and will spend five weeks hearing that it has no chance against an SEC champion, let alone an Alabama team going for its third national title in four years.

We all know Alabama leads the nation in total defense, ranks second in scoring defense and ranks in the top 10 in all of the most relevant categories. Notre Dame is No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 6 total defense and also ranks in the top 10 in most categories.

Saban, speaking during a BCS final conference call Sunday, called Notre Dame’s front seven the best in the country.

That could explain why the Irish also rank No. 4 in rushing defense, which should set up a nice clash with Alabama. Against the best teams on its schedule, the Tide has shown that bad things happen when it strays too much from the run.

That showed most dramatically Saturday, when Alabama trailed 21-10 and came back with a determined running game. The Tide posted an SEC Championship-record 350 rushing yards.

Can an Alabama team that has scored 35 rushing touchdowns this season assert its will and run against Notre Dame, which has given up just two?

Can Alabama outlast Notre Dame?

Alabama has shown resiliency when it had to, mounting a dramatic drive to stave off defeat at LSU and coming from behind three times against Georgia. Even in the 29-24 loss to Texas A&M, Alabama roared back from a 20-0 hole and was two yards away from the winning touchdown.

Then again, Notre Dame has won by a touchdown or less five times and made a crucial goal-line stand en route to beating Southern Cal 22-13.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday that he has patterned his program after the SEC formula, and it shows on the field. The Irish are built to keep games close and play tough in close games.

So, don’t be shocked if the BCS final turns into another 9-6 game. Don’t be shocked if the better team wins statistically but sweats it on the scoreboard.

And wouldn’t it be just like Notre Dame and college football’s postseason to reclaim relevance, just before the sport switches to a four-team playoff?

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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