Remember a top flight university that once ruled the college football landscape for decades before falling into an abyss of mediocrity? Before a single coach almost crashed the program into the ground after he had promised to return them to glory?
No, I’m not talking about the now probation-prone University of Miami. I’m talking about our “frenemies” to the North in South Bend, Ind.: Notre Dame.
Yes, the Fighting Irish are finally back and, at this point, undefeated. We’ve all seen this story before in the last decade, and they seem to always fall short when it matters. But this year’s team looks quite different. The days of relying on the quarterback seem to be long gone, and they have found a perfect mix in the run and pass game using Nick Saban’s least favorite thing, other than stale oatmeal cream pies: a spread offense.
So why should Tide fans care about the Fighting Irish’s recent success on the gridiron? There are a ton of reasons, but let’s revisit the weekend of Sept. 11, 2010 when the Tide took on the late Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The atmosphere that weekend seemed to be a mixture of bitter rivals and best friends. Both fan bases showed class and hospitality that weekend and outlets in Pennsylvania raved about how amazing it was to see two schools, rich in tradition, get along so well.
What occurred that weekend was a mutual respect for each school’s accomplishments on the football field from the days of Paul “Bear” Bryant to the current Nick Saban era. It was something that was good for each school’s reputation at the time, but more importantly, it was good for the game. No matter which team seems to be the flavor of the week, the consensus of college football fans want to see traditional powerhouses duke it out. Need proof? Go look at the numbers from the 2009 BCS National Championship against the Texas Longhorns compared to the Auburn vs. Oregon title game the following year.
It is all just understood that two traditional powerhouses draw more people in and make for a better college football atmosphere.
But would the same thing be said if it came down to Alabama playing the Fighting Irish for the title?
Ever since I began to follow Alabama football in middle school, it had been an unspoken rule to dislike Notre Dame, and for the longest time I have tried to figure out why. Is there still some bigotry resonating from the days of the Old South when Catholics were viewed in a negative light? Could it be because Notre Dame has just as many claimed national titles as Alabama? Maybe one could throw Lou Holtz’s slipping dentures in there. Who knows?
But the fact is, if these two met, the ratings would be through the roof. Not that college football is struggling for ratings these days, but it would make for great TV. Throw a bunch of legendary alumni like Joe Namath and Joe Montana in the mix and it would be a college football weekend for the ages.
Let’s face it, we are currently the crème de la crème of the college football world, and if Alabama were to face the Fighting Irish, we’d all eat it up and love it just as much as the Penn State series two years ago. First things first though: remaining undefeated.