Alabama prepares to face Notre Dame in BCS National Championship

December 2, 2012 

Tradition? History? Mystique? Legends?

Those four horsemen aren't on Alabama football coach Nick Saban's mind as his team prepares to face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.

The Bowl Championship Series made it official Sunday night, inviting two of college football's most tradition-rich teams to play for a national title. No. 2-ranked Alabama and No. 1 Notre Dame will meet Jan. 7, 2013, in the BCS National Championship Game. Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., will host the game, and ESPN will carry it at 7 p.m.

"It doesn't make any difference how many game-winning shots you've made in the past. All that matters is the shot you're taking right now," said Saban, who likes using analogies involving sports other than football.

Even so, it's hard not to recognize the amount of hardware these two teams have brought back to their campuses.

Notre Dame claims 11 national championships, although none since 1988. Alabama has 14, including two in the previous three seasons.

"We're excited about the opportunity, proud of our accomplishments and the chance to bring Notre Dame back to where it needs to be and that's at the top of college football," said Irish coach Brian Kelly, who added he has modeled his team to play tough defense like the successful SEC programs.

Saban will go for his fourth national title, including one at LSU and two at Alabama.

Also, if the Tide wins, it will mark only the third time since the poll era began in 1936 one team has taken three national titles in a four-year span. Notre Dame won in 1946, '47 and '49, and Nebraska swept the polls in 1994 and '95 before splitting the 1997 title with Michigan.

Kelly, who is in his third season at Notre Dame, is aiming for his third title, counting the two NCAA Division II championships he won at Grand Valley State in 2002-03.

This is Kelly's first time competing for major college national championship, and in a conference call Sunday night announcing the game, he joked a bit about how much more experience Saban has in this game. When a reporter asked a question for both to answer, Saban said Kelly could answer first.

"I was going to wait for you," Kelly said. "You've been through this before."

Saban has been to South Florida before, too. He coached the Miami Dolphins in 2005-06 before leaving for Alabama in January 2007, although he had said he wasn't going to coach the Crimson Tide. The move didn't make him popular in Miami.

"I know some people are upset with some things that happened in the past. ... We're looking forward to the game. The game is why we're coming," Saban said.

Saban said Alabama will begin working toward the Notre Dame in two weeks. The players will have this week off, and the university's fall semester exams are Dec. 10-14.

He added he doesn't want to spend too much time preparing for the game, because he worries it becomes too stale for his players. He is 3-0 in BCS National Championship Game.

"We're looking at it like a one-game season," Saban said. "We'll have weight training and conditioning for the next couple of weeks. We'll have camp-like practices, then give them a few days off for Christmas. Then we'll begin practicing for the game."

Saban said Alabama center Barrett Jones, who injured his foot in Saturday's 32-28 SEC Championship Game win over Georgia, will need a couple of weeks off but "should be able to come back in time for practice."

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