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Climer: Irish will fight, but Tide will win BCS title

9:34 AM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
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By David Climer, The Tennessean

One of these years, a team from outside the SEC will win the national championship.

But it won't be this year.

As good as Notre Dame is - and the Fighting Irish's body of work merits the No. 1 national ranking - Alabama should win the BCS Championship game and extend the SEC's death grip on the Waterford crystal trophy to seven years.

These days, about the only way to get the trophy away from the SEC is to break it. And that's exactly what happened last summer when an Alabama player's father tripped over a rug and knocked the $30,000 trophy off its stand and into pieces.

Alabama replaced that trophy and figures to add another tonight. It should be close - certainly closer than the double-digit betting line Vegas had assigned to it - but the Crimson Tide is the better team.

When Alabama pulls this off - not if, when - the Tide will qualify as one of the true dynasties of college football. Only Notre Dame in the '40s and Nebraska in the '90s won three national championships in four years.

Certainly, the majority of the college football world is suffering from SEC fatigue. Aside from the run of national championships, many grow weary of constantly hearing about the superiority of SEC football.

Never mind that it's true.

Even Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly got a bit miffed about this. During preparations for the game last week, Kelly told reporters:

"The SEC's not going to run this thing for 20 years."

Kelly then pointed out - correctly - that the SEC has not been untouchable in the postseason. Clemson edged LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Louisville dominated Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Kelly has rebuilt the Notre Dame program in the image of an SEC team. He has recruited and developed superior talent on the offensive and defensive lines.

That's why this matchup is so intriguing. Most other bowls have turned into track meets. This one figures to be a heavyweight fight.

Cue Alabama center Barrett Jones. He took one look at Notre Dame on tape and surmised: "They look like an SEC defense."

And they play like one, too. The Irish went unbeaten against a tough schedule, beating a very physical Stanford team in South Bend and going on the road to overpower Oklahoma in the fourth quarter.

Granted, the unbeaten regular season was aided and abetted by the luck of the Irish. Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor clearly crossed the goal line for what would have been the tying touchdown but officials ruled the play dead before Taylor broke the plane.

Likewise, Pittsburgh missed a 33-yard field goal in overtime. And don't forget that Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin chose to run the ball into the teeth of the Notre Dame defense on the goal line rather than use his team's speed on the perimeter.

Alabama's path was a bit easier, although it didn't look that way going into the season. Opening opponent Michigan was grossly overrated. Arkansas was in disarray after a tumultuous offseason. Rival Tennessee was easy pickings.

As it turned out, Alabama played only three top-tier teams - LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia. And the Tide lost to A&M.

In sum, this isn't going to be pretty. But that's fine with Nick Saban. With more than a month to prepare for the championship game, he'll put his team in position to win a shoving match.

Maybe Kelly's right. The SEC's not going to run this thing for 20 years.

But the run will extend to seven years tonight.

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