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Joseph: Don’t read too much into pre-practice reports (Jan. 5)

Allan Joseph | Saturday, January 5, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – There’s a little bit of intrigue swirling in South Florida.

Yesterday, reports surfaced that Alabama held a players-only meeting so seniors could express their displeasure at the intensity and focus in practice. Then last night, the student newspaper at Alabama broke the story that two Crimson Tide players had been sent home for curfew violations.

Anxious Notre Dame fans are liable to connect those dots, and if you squint just right, you can see the faint outlines of an Alabama team overlooking the Irish – the best-case scenario for Notre Dame.

It’s happened before. A team filled with talent and confident its schedule had already been a big enough test has strolled into the BCS National Championship Game arrogant and lazy. I’m a native of Columbus, Ohio. I remember the matchup between Ohio State and Florida following the 2006 regular season. You may remember – the Buckeyes had a dynamic team that had already won two No. 1-No. 2 matchups. That desert day was supposed to be a coronation. Instead, Urban Meyer’s Florida squad smashed Ohio State 41-14. After the game, Ohio State players admitted to being complacent. They were staying in a posh Arizona resort and had assumed they had to do little more than show up.

Obviously, they were wrong. And obviously, there are some similarities. The Crimson Tide are, in fact, staying at Miami’s posh Fontainebleu resort on Miami Beach. They are clearly having some focus problems, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a players-only meeting. And they come to the title game tested from an SEC schedule Alabama fans say is tougher than anyone else’s.

But the Crimson Tide have been here before. This is their third national championship shot in four years. Noted control freak Nick Saban is the coach, and unless the Crimson Tide are the best collective group of actors outside the case of “Ocean’s 13,” their leaders are focused on winning another title. That wasn’t the case six years ago. The Crimson Tide might be a little rusty and might expect to win, but I would be very surprised if they came out flat and unmotivated.

All this isn’t to say Notre Dame doesn’t have a chance at winning. The Irish match up incredibly well with Alabama, and Johnny Manziel showed the world a mobile quarterback like Everett Golson can give the Crimson Tide defense fits. Notre Dame can absolutely win this game, and in fact I’ve predicted it will.

But if Brian Kelly does lift the crystal football Monday night, it won’t be because Alabama got complacent or overlooked the Irish. It’ll be because Notre Dame outplayed the Crimson Tide when it mattered most. And that makes for a much better story than a couple freshmen staying out too late.

Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu

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