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College football: Notre Dame, Alabama have short but intense history

Published December 22, 2012 7:03 pm

BCS Championship • College football's most storied programs meet for just seventh time.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When two of the most storied programs in the history of college football meet, it's no surprise the stakes will be high.

Notre Dame and Alabama will play for the seventh time when they meet for the BCS title Jan. 7, and this is the third time a national championship — or at least a version of it — will be at stake.

The Fighting Irish lead the series 5-1, and the teams have not met since 1987.

The first meeting was in the 1973 Sugar Bowl at Tulane Stadium. Alabama came in undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press and United Press International polls. Notre Dame was undefeated and ranked in the top four.

In what was dubbed the "Game of the Century" before the time when we seemingly have one every few years, Notre Dame outlasted Alabama 24-23. Notre Dame's victory would push the Irish to No. 1 in the AP poll. Alabama would claim a share of the title because UPI determined its champion after the regular season, a practice it would discontinue the following year.

The final moments are most remembered for Notre Dame's decision to pass on third-and-9 from its 2 with 2:12 to play after an offsides penalty on the Irish. Alabama was caught off-guard, and coach Bear Bryant said he didn't even see the play because he was getting the punt team ready.

Quarterback Tom Clements found tight end Robin Weber, his second option on the play, for a 36-yard gain and the Irish were able to run out the clock.

The teams matched up again the next season in the Orange Bowl. The Tide came in 11-0 and ranked No. 1, and the Irish were 9-2 and ranked eighth.

Notre Dame scored the first 13 points, and held on for a 13-11 win in Irish coach Ara Parseghian's final game.

The other four meetings were in the regular season:

• 1976: Notre Dame won 21-18 in South Bend, Ind., in Dan Devine's first season as coach.

• 1980: Notre Dame won 7-0 in Birmingham, Ala., in a matchup of top-10 teams. Alabama was 7-1 and ranked fifth. The Irish were 7-0-1 and ranked sixth. Bryant would go 0-4 against the Irish in his career.

• 1986: No. 2 Alabama beat unranked Notre Dame 28-10 in an early-season game in Birmingham, the program's first win against the Fighting Irish. After that victory, the Tide finished 4-3 in their final seven games.

• 1987: No. 7 Notre Dame won 37-6 against No. 11 Alabama in a November game in South Bend. Neither team would win the rest of the season.