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Allen: Squaring off with Alabama in Miami would make this improbable season complete (Nov. 30)

Chris Allen | Friday, November 30, 2012

For a 12-0 campaign, 2012 has really been the year of “can’t” for Notre Dame.

It started with Michigan State – can’t stop Le’Veon Bell. Then it kept going. Can’t beat Denard Robinson. Can’t cover Miami’s receivers. Can’t be physical with Stanford. Can’t contain Landry Jones. Can’t go into the Coliseum and beat USC.
All those things the Irish were told they couldn’t do, but they sit at 12-0.

With one more test remaining before glory, Notre Dame should hope to play Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. The Irish will be up against the biggest “can’t” they have faced all season – beat the mighty Crimson Tide and there will be no one left to impress.

From the very second the clock ran out against USC and the Irish knew they would be playing in the national championship, the eyes of most of the fan base turned to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the eagerly anticipated matchup between SEC powers Alabama and Georgia. The same media naysayers who have doubted the Irish ascension all season have anointed the winner of the SEC Championship Game the sure winner of the matchup with the Irish on Jan. 7. By beating either the Bulldogs or the Crimson Tide, Notre Dame would complete what many would call a big upset. But while Georgia is a worthy opponent, beating Alabama would be a fitting end to a storybook season.

On the field, there are some striking similarities between the two potential SEC opponents. Both have impressive junior signal-callers – Bama’s A.J. McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray would be among the best quarterbacks Notre Dame has faced all season. Both, like the Irish, have a stable of running backs that split the load and keep each other fresh in the backfield. Georgia’s freshman duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will give the Irish coaching staff fits if the Bulldogs are to prevail and move on to Miami. Both have stout defenses – though Alabama’s was exposed by Manti Te’o’s main Heisman competition – and either potential championship matchup would look to be a low-scoring game.

Yes, on the field, there is not much to separate a Notre Dame-Alabama game from a Notre Dame-Georgia game. This much is certainly true – Notre Dame will be up against a wave of public opinion in favor of its SEC opponent regardless of its identity.

But it should hope to play Alabama.

This is an Alabama team coached by a man who is regarded with an aura befitting a three-time national champion – Nick Saban. Just three weeks ago, many wondered aloud if Alabama was good enough to beat an NFL team. The Tide are the reigning champs after a dominant 21-0 victory in last season’s title game. What could be a more fitting way for Notre Dame to finish its ascension to the throne of the college football universe than by taking the crown from Saban and the Tide directly? If it is the Bulldogs who show up to play the Irish in Miami, even a victory would have a small minority of doubters wondering, “What if?”

The 2012 Irish have shown they can line up across the field with the confidence to beat anybody. It’s time for them to show it by beating the best. A win by Alabama on Saturday sets up arguably the biggest game of the century thus far.

Would the Irish have it any other way?

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.