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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

All Is Right With The World Again

For the seventh consecutive year, the BCS National Championship was won by a Southeastern Conference school, the sixth time in seven years by the SEC champion. The result at the finish line is the same as the result that was expected at the time the starter’s pistol was fired in August. During the journey, the end result was legitimately in doubt for a while.

The Alabama Crimson Tide won its 14th Associated Press National Championship (including their four BCS National Championships), thrashing Notre Dame, 42-14. Head Coach Nick Saban won his third BCS title in the last four years and his fourth overall. Admitting this makes the LSU purple and gold blood pumping through my veins curdle: Alabama football is a dynasty right now.


Twelve weeks into the college football regular season, Alabama was reeling after being upset at home by Texas A&M. Bama fell to #4 in the rankings at 9-1, behind #1 Kansas State, #2 Oregon, and #3 Notre Dame, all 10-0. The sports world was abuzz with talk of imminent demise of the SEC vice grip on the national championship, the sportsworld outside of the Southeastern Conference.

The Twittersphere was tweeting to the tune of “Ding Dong The Wicked Witch Is Dead”. Calmly, coolly, methodically, the SEC machine rolled on. The football gods smiled, knowing the little people of the college football world would enjoy some temporary joy and optimism. Then the dominoes fell in order.

The following week, Kansas State was obliterated on national television by unranked Baylor. For the second year in a row, Oregon was rubbed out of contention by losing to a fellow Pac-12 opponent by a field goal, falling to #13 Stanford in overtime, 17-14. With Alabama returning to #2 in the BCS rankings, the path was set for last night’s contest between the Tide and #1 Notre Dame.

Cold but fair.... 2

Notre Dame is college football’s most storied franchise. However, their last national championship came in 1988 and the Irish had not been in contention for the title heading into their bowl game, by any measure, since 1990. College football’s iconic program fell into a generation long rut of being mediocre to above average. Along comes coach Brian Kelly on his white horse.

Kelly is an offensive mastermind. He helped vault the University of Cincinnati into the national spotlight and the BCS Bowl mix. But the Cincinnati Bearcats’ brand is known more for basketball than football. Being a member of the Big East conference, Kelly reached his ceiling at Cincy. The stars lined up for Kelly to try his hand at returning the Fighting Irish to national prominence.

In 2012, Notre Dame catapulted to the top of the national rankings with a 7-0 start. Ranked #5 in the nation, generations of Notre Dame fans and alums could sense a resurgence of the program to the top of the mountain. Still, there were valid criticisms about the strength of Notre Dame’s schedule and the quality of their wins. Having nipped unranked Purdue early in the season and slipping by unranked peon BYU, 17-14, sports video jockeys had Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life (Back to Reality)” cued up for the Irish’s pending road trip to #8 Oklahoma on October 27th.

Count me among the naysayers. The Hat Trick was very dismissive of Notre Dame’s chances in Stillwater in the Must See Sports preview for that weekend. By Sunday morning, I and countless others had Nike leather with a side of shoelaces for breakfast. The Irish were for real.

Still, after escaping with their lives in a triple overtime game with mediocre, unranked Pittsburgh, the talk of doubt surface again in the national media. Still, in the BCS era, the quasi-Golden Rule has been that finishing the regular season undefeated will probably give a team a shot at the BCS Championship. Notre Dame held up its end of the bargain and earned a shot at their one moment in time.

Touchdown Jesus is smiling again in South Bend, Indiana.

The late Whitney Houston sang the 1988 hit, “One Moment in Time”. Like Ms. Houston, Notre Dame’s 2012 hopes are now part of our cultural past. Alabama was too much for upstart, hopeful Notre Dame.

Bryan Santiago‏ (@Santiago_TPD) tweeted:

“Tonight Notre Dame silence all the haters, and against all odds finish up a perfect season. #IrishSwag”

Rajive Cunningham‏ (@CrimsonDynamoII) tweeted:

"Alabama won't be able to beat Notre Dame because the Irish want it more. A chance at a perfect season? pfft!!"

Before last night’s contest, Rajive and Bryan were among the many who could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then the Alabama train hit them, with running back Eddie Lacy (140 yds., 1 TD, 7.0 avg.) powering the locomotive. Notre Dame, nonetheless, is back among college football’s powershouses. The Tide rolled once again. And the SEC is still the crown jewel among college football’s power conferences.


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