Ir­ish, Tide to face off for ti­tle

Sto­ried pro­grams to play in Mi­ami af­ter clearly fin­ish­ing 1-2 in fi­nal stand­ings.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS -

NEW YORK — On one side, a blos­som­ing dy­nasty from the col­lege foot­ball cap­i­tal of the Deep South. On the other, the sport’s most fa­mous team, try­ing to re­claim its place among the elite.

Notre Dame and Alabama bring star power and power foot­ball to the BCS cham­pi­onship.

The matchup be­came of­fi­cial Sun­day night when the fi­nal stand­ings were re­leased and, to no one’s sur­prise, the Fight­ing Ir­ish were first and the Crim­son Tide was sec­ond.

The one bit of drama on col­lege foot­ball’s se­lec­tion Sun­day was whether North­ern Illi­nois could be this year’s BCS buster. The Huskies got in, get­ting a spot in the Or­ange Bowl against Florida State, tak­ing a bid away from Ok­la­homa and spark­ing heated de­bate about a sys­tem that never fails to tick off fans in some way. The other BCS matchups: ■ Ore­gon and Kansas State will play in the Fi­esta Bowl.

■ Wis­con­sin and Stan­ford will meet in the Rose Bowl.

■ Florida and Louisville are set for the Sugar Bowl.

As for the main event in the penul­ti­mate Bowl Cham­pi­onship Se­ries, there was lit­tle con­tro­versy about No. 1 Notre Dame against No. 2 Alabama in Mi­ami.

“The tra­di­tion of Alabama and Notre Dame brings spe­cial at­ten­tion to it, but we’re just try­ing to the best team on Mon­day, Jan. 7,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sun­day night. “All of that tra­di­tion, what’s hap­pened in the past, is not go­ing to help us Jan. 7, but we do re­spect the tra­di­tions.”

The Ir­ish clinched their spot a week ago in Los An­ge­les by com­plet­ing a per­fect sea­son against ri­val South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Alabama earned its spot Satur­day, beat­ing Ge­or­gia 32-28 in a thrilling South­east­ern Con­fer­ence ti­tle game.

The pro­gram that coach Paul Bryant turned into an SEC be­he­moth in the 1960s and 1970s, win­ning five na­tional cham­pi­onships and shar­ing an­other dur­ing his ten­ure, is again dom­i­nat­ing col­lege foot­ball with a mod­ern-day ver­sion of the Bear lead­ing the way in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Coach Nick Sa­ban and the Crim­son Tide are on the verge of one of the great runs in his­tory. Alabama would be­come the first team to re­peat as champs since the BCS was im­ple­mented in 1998, and it would be the 11th time a team has won con­sec­u­tive AP ti­tles since the poll started in 1936. Alabama is al­ready one of seven pro­grams to re­peat. The Tide has done it twice. Notre Dame is an­other.

Alabama also won the 2009 BCS cham­pi­onship un­der Sa­ban. The last team to win three ma­jor na­tional ti­tles in four sea­sons was Ne­braska, which went backto-back in 1994 and ‘95 and fin­ished No. 1 in the fi­nal coaches’ poll in 1997.

Notre Dame is the only un­de­feated team that is el­i­gi­ble — thanks to Ohio State’s NCAA sanc­tions — and Alabama is the cham­pion of the league that has pro­duced the last half­dozen na­tional champs.

In two years, col­lege foot­ball switches to a four-team play­off to de­ter­mine its cham­pion. No doubt fans of Florida (11-1), Ore­gon (11-1), Stan­ford (11-2) and Kansas State (11-1) wish they could push the start date up on that, but for the most part there isn’t much grip­ing about this cham­pi­onship matchup.

North­ern Illi­nois, the Mid-Amer­i­can cham­pi­ons and 12-1, fin­ished 15th in the fi­nal Bowl Cham­pi­onship Se­ries stand­ings. Fin­ish­ing in the top 16 and ahead of a qual­i­fy­ing con­fer­ence cham­pion meant the Huskies were au­to­mat­i­cally BCS-bound.

North­ern Illi­nois ac­tu­ally fin­ished ahead of two con­fer­ence ti­tlists, Big East win­ner Louisville and Big Ten cham­pion Wis­con­sin.

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