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College football: 'Bama and Irish are easy to hate

Published January 7, 2013 12:51 pm

Analysis • BCS title game features two hateable teams.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Chips and dip? Check. Favorite beverages cooled down to prime drinking temperatures? Check. Bubble wrap on the TV? Probably a good idea.

If there is ever a BCS national title game that might spark flying objects at the TV, it has to be Monday's matchup between Notre Dame and Alabama.

Arguably, no other teams in the current college football landscape draw such intense reactions out of fans as the two that will meet in Miami to decide the national title.

You either love them or hate them. For fans who don't wear either the gold of Notre Dame or the crimson of Alabama, the majority probably fall into the category of downright dislike.

There is no feel-good, lovable, pull-for-the underdog story here for general college football fans to support. Monday's game is about two of college football's legendary football programs, which, predictably, are often perceived to represent the ultimate arrogance of the sport.

For ESPN, such a matchup is prime TV candy as the game is anticipated to be the most watched national title contest in history.

Sadly, no, both teams can't lose. It's hard to say which has more at stake when they clash at Sun Life Stadium.

The Tide, who are favored by 10 points, are gunning for their third national title in four years and could become the first team since Nebraska (1994-95) to win back-to-back national titles.

For the past month, the Tide have been coined a modern-day dynasty by many college football insiders.

However, Alabama coach Nick Saban has refused to acknowledge his program is in such a position. When the subject is broached, he often refers to a Michael Jordan comment about making a winning shot.

"It doesn't matter how many game-winning shots he's made in the past, the only one that matters is the one he's about to take," Saban said in response to media questions this week.

However, it's hard to argue with Alabama's success and with Saban's seemingly magical touch. The former LSU coach is the only coach since 1936 to win two national titles at two different schools.

Yet even while 'Bama supporters celebrate the Tide's accomplishments, there are those who see the program more as a symbol of all that is wrong with college football rather than a dynasty.

The SEC has won six titles in a row, but some believe the conference's consistent presence in the title game is more about the big business of college football rather than deserving success on the field.

Alabama lost to Texas A&M 29-24, making it one of four one-loss teams in the top five of the BCS standings.

One of those other one-loss teams, No. 3 Florida, was embarrassed by No. 21 Louisville 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl, while another, Oregon, demolished Kansas State 35-17 in the Fiesta Bowl, adding weight to the argument that the SEC is an overrated league hyped for television.

Such an argument puts the Tide in a position of defending the conference against naysayers.

The team they must do so against elicits its own strong responses.

Notre Dame is the only undefeated team in the BCS standings, but five of its wins were decided by seven or fewer points, prompting some to believe that the Irish are more lucky than good.

The highest-ranked team Notre Dame played was No. 8 Oklahoma, which it beat 30-13.

A win against the Tide might prove the Irish have truly emerged from one of the program's darkest periods, a time when it wallowed in mediocrity and embarrassing bowl losses under coaches Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis.

Yet even when it struggled on the field, Notre Dame had a way of getting under college football fans' skins. You can't get away from them on TV, thanks to the Irish's TV contract with NBC. And remember how many back east just expected Urban Meyer to step into the coaching role and the shock that ensued when Meyer instead headed to Florida?

Then there is the BCS exception that states Notre Dame will get an automatic berth if it finishes in the top eight, a rule that grates many sports fans who watch their teams slog it out in conference play while the Irish remain independent, yet claiming full dependence on the bowl system.

Is there a certain amount of haughtiness attributed to the Irish? You bet. It's enough for the casual sports fan to cheer against the Irish in the title game. But then, that means you'd have to cheer for Alabama.

Go, refs. —

BCS title game

• No. 2 Alabama (12-1) vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0)

• at Sun Life Stadium in Miami

Kickoff • 6:30 p.m. MST

TV • ESPN

About Alabama • Quarterback A.J. McCarron set a single-season school record with 26 touchdown passes and completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,669 yards with just three interceptions. ... Alabama's defense gave up just 10.7 points per game in 2012.

About Notre Dame • Linebacker Manti Te'o was the Heisman runner-up after leading the Irish with 103 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. … Quarterback Everett Golson is 166-for-282 for 2,135 yards and 11 TDs.