By Steve Silverman
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College football has the national championship it has long dreamed of.
The Fighting Irish shocked the football world by going undefeated and earning a spot in the national championship game. Alabama did the expected by emerging from the all-powerful Southeastern Conference and earning the chance to defend is national championship in Miami Jan. 7.
Alabama certainly earned the chance when it defeated Georgia 32-28 in the SEC championship game yesterday.
Irish detractors said this meeting was really the national championship. Notre Dame’s regular season had been a good one, but they had squeaked by in victories over Pittsburgh and Stanford and really were not as good as Alabama or Georgia.
But the name of the game is finding a way to get it done and that’s what Brian Kelly has been able to get his team to do when pressure has been at its highest.
The SEC, of course, has its pedigree, but Notre Dame deserves to be there.
Alabama will be a formidable opponent. The Crimson Tide has already been installed as a 10 ½-point favorite. If you think that’s insulting to Notre Dame, it’s not.
Alabama has a nasty and hard-hitting defense, a powerful offensive line and a relentless ground game. The Irish have all of these things as well, but there’s more depth and talent at Alabama.
Start off with running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Lacy is a powerful between the tackles runner who does not absorb contact – he dishes it out. He overpowered Georgia’s defense with 181 yards on 20 carries.
Yeldon is more of the classic running back who has the speed to break the long run. He added 153 yards on 25 carries against Georgia.
The 1-2 punch of Lacy and Yeldon dominated the second half of the game for Alabama. While Georgia was trying to figure out a way to slow down that ground game in the final minutes, Alabama head coach Nick Saban seized the opening.
He saw a defense that was loaded up to stop the run and he had quarterback A.J. McCarron go for the big play with 3:15 remaining. McCarron launched a deep pass toward the left sideline and Amari Cooper ran under it gracefully. He hauled it in and turned it into the winning touchdown 45-yard touchdown catch.
Georgia was not done.
The Bulldogs drove the ball down the field without a timeout on its last possession and they had the ball at the Alabama 8-yard-line when Aaron Murray his Arthur Lynch with a 26-yard pass.
After the catch, Murray spent valuable seconds waiting for a signal from Georgia coach Mark Richt. The ball was finally snapped with nine seconds remaining.
Instead of clocking the ball, Murray threw a pass that ended up in the arms of the Bulldogs’ Chris Conley. Conley was dragged down at the 5-yard line and the clock ran out.
Had Murray clocked the ball immediately, the Bulldogs would have had at least two and possibly three opportunities to throw the ball in the endzone.
Now Notre Dame has to find a way to stop Alabama. It will be the most difficult assignment of what has been a dream season for the Irish.
The Irish have a stellar team that includes quarterback Everett Golson, running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick and hard-hitting linebacker Manti Te’o.
The oddsmakers will say that Notre Dame has little chance.
The Irish have been hearing this all year. Kelly doesn’t care about that. He has a team that has shown it can fight for 60 minutes.
Notre Dame may fall behind but it won’t go away. This will be a national championship game to remember.
What are you predictions for the Notre Dame vs. Alabama championship game? Share your thoughts below.