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Keidel: Can The Underdog Irish Take Down The Mighty Crimson Tide?

The Coaches' Trophy sits with the helmets for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Coaches’ Trophy sits with the helmets for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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By Jason Keidel
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While it’s hard to heap onto the hype inherent in all sports, sportsmen and celebrities — from a Knicks team sans a title since 1973 to any team coached by Lane Kiffin to Tony Romo to Pacquiao-Marquez V to LeBron’s decision to take his narcissism south to Kanye and Kim – Monday night’s national championship has all the bona fides of a brilliant game.

We’ve dissected each school’s history ad nauseum, from Rockne to The Bear to Ara to Saban. There’s an inverted narrative that can’t be ignored.

Notre Dame, loved and loathed for the very reason any dynasty is, is in the rare role of underdog, the quintessential overachievers who jammed the accelerator on Brian Kelly’s seven-year plan, going undefeated in year three.

With all the hyperbole surrounding the Golden Dome,  all the media fawning and exclusive network contracts, you’d never know that they haven’t sniffed a title since the Reagan administration. That’s right: They last won it all when The Gipper was president.

Video: Nick Saban And Alabama Players At BCS Media Day

The eye test tips heavily in Alabama’s favor. Forget the fact that they seem to have their mail forwarded to the BCS title game; they play in the SEC – the de facto hub of college kingpins.

While Notre Dame played paupers like Purdue and Pitt and Navy and Wake Forest, the Crimson Tide battled powers like Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, and Johnny Football — a veritable red carpet of college royalty.

Notre Dame’s signature win came at Oklahoma. Yet the Sooners were just vaporized by the aforementioned Johnny Heisman and his Aggies. (And if Golden Domer homers care to remind us that Texas A&M beat ‘Bama, we can remind them that they should have lost to Pitt, who was just pummeled by Ole Miss.)

Game Preview And Prediction: How Each Team Can Win

Despite the obvious edge in talent, schedule, coaching and recent pedigree, everything points to a Notre Dame upset. Whenever everyone picks one team to win, to whip a squad yet to lose a game, it reeks.

It reminds you of Miami vs. Penn State in 1986. Miami, overcrowded with NFL players, would have whipped the Nittany Lions nine times out of 10. But that night belonged to Penn State because only they thought they would win. (Vinny Testaverde’s endless loop of interceptions helped, as well.)

The Fighting Irish are unbeaten, top-ranked and led by a rabid linebacker who was within a whisker of winning the Heisman, yet they’re 10-point underdogs. Kelly should deal a deck of respect cards to his squad and lather his blackboard with biting columns from across the country. And you can be sure he has.

And if Notre Dame were playing anyone but Alabama and Nick Saban, I would guarantee that the Dome comes home with the hardware.

As Vince Lombardi famously said when asked if he preferred gifted or fundamentally sound players, “Give me talent. I can teach technique.”

Breakdown: Alabama QB/WRs Vs. Notre Dame Secondary

Indeed. And only one team has an absurd surplus of future Sunday stars.

Alabama wins a classic, 27-23.

Feel free to email me at keidel.jason@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @JasonKeidel.

What’s your prediction for tonight’s game? Let’s get some final scores in the section below…