Steve Wieberg: BCS gets exactly what it wantedPublished 2:55pm Thursday, January 3, 2013
In its 15th and next-to-last season, the Bowl Championship Series found the peace and prosperity of an argument-free, everybody-on-board title game.
It hit college football’s mother lode, a Notre Dame-Alabama showdown for the national title that already is stirring the masses, ratcheting up ticket demand and promising five weeks of overhype. Arguably, it’s the greatest championship-game matchup the BCS has delivered.
If not, it’s on the short, short list.
Sunday’s final BCS Standings nailed it down: the Fighting Irish at No. 1, ‘Bama at No. 2, all the voting and computer processing a formality after the Crimson Tide got past Georgia 32-28 in a thrilling Southeastern Conference championship game. Notre Dame is the sport’s third all-time winningest major-college program. Alabama ranks eighth. It’s the fourth time that a season has played down to a meeting of top 10 programs in the BCS’ big game and the first since Alabama and Texas squared off in the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2009 season.
More telling, going back to the BCS’ inception in 1998, this is the first involving Notre Dame.
The Yankees of college football are unbeaten and reascended to the sport’s big stage in Brian Kelly’s third season as coach. Never before now had the Irish finished higher than sixth in the BCS rankings. In the five years before this one, they were nowhere to be found among the final top 25.
They wrapped up a perfect regular season two Saturdays ago, the only BCS-eligible team to do so (Ohio State being grounded by NCAA sanctions).
Looming overhead is the sport’s Death Star, the omnipotent Southeastern Conference, home to Alabama and the sport’s last six national champions. The once-beaten Crimson Tide is seeking its third title in four years, something that hasn’t been done since Nebraska from 1994-97 — and before that, Notre Dame from 1946-49.
The Tide and Fighting Irish have spent a quarter of a century apart, not taking the same field since 1987. They haven’t faced off for these kinds of stakes since the very first of their six meetings, in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1973 season, when both were undefeated and Alabama entered No. 1, Notre Dame No. 3.
They delivered a masterpiece, trading the lead six times en route to a 24-23 win by the Irish on Bob Thomas’ field goal in the final 4½ minutes. The two teams split the national championship, the nation’s coaches sticking with their prebowl rankings (the Tide at No. 1) and most everybody else elevating Notre Dame.
Depending on whom you count as a selector, the programs have combined for a total of 22 or 27 championships.
‘Bama coach Nick Saban said after Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over Georgia that he wasn’t certain of the date of next month’s title game. Just that there are weeks of waiting.
“I’ll look at the calendar sometime tomorrow,” he said.
Mark it: Monday night. The season gets a big-bang finish in Miami.
(Steve Wieberg is a former writer for USA Today. His column is courtesy the Bowl Championship Series.)