Despite a tough regular season schedule that featured opponents from five different BCS conferences and two independents, Notre Dame enters the college football post-season with a perfect 12-0 mark and fighting for the a national title for the first time since 1988.
Standing in the way of those Irish dreams is Alabama, who, minus a mid-November slip up at home to Texas A&M, played championship-caliber football all season and finds itself in the midst of its third BCS National Championship Game in four years.
A contest pairing two of the most storied programs in the history of college football (each team has won an FBS-leading eight AP national titles), the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game, being played Jan. 7 in Miami, Florida, is demanding top dollar for the right to be in attendance, with the average price of BCS tickets currently sitting at $2339 a person.
The average price have fallen 10% over the last week or so, but still leave the cost of entry some 22% higher than this past January national championship rematch between Alabama and LSU (average price - $1918).
That seems a relative bargain compared to the $3227 average ticket price demanded back in 2011, however, a highly anticipated match up between the University of Oregon and Auburn University.
Should the old adage that defense wins championship ring true, then Notre Dame’s chances of hoisting a national championship trophy on Jan. 7 seem relatively strong, with the Irish leading the country in scoring defense (10.3 points allowed per game), ranked sixth in the nation in average yards surrendered (288.1) and featuring a Heisman Trophy finalist at linebacker in Manti T’eo and the outstanding pair of Stephon Truitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore at defensive end.
Of course, the Crimson Tide’s defensive unit is nothing to shake a stick at, with Alabama ranking second only to the Irish in points allowed per game (10.7), first in the country in yards surrendered (246 yards a contest) and having recorded 34 sacks, 81 tackles for loss and 17 interceptions during the course of its regular season schedule.
Offensively, Notre Dame relies heavily upon the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golston (2,135 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions to go with 305 yards rushing and five additional scores) and a run-heavy offense spearheaded by Theo Reddick (880 yards rushing) and Cierre Wood (740) who averages 202.5 yards a contest.
Alabama, meanwhile, boasts the 15th best scoring offense in the country (38.5 points a game) thanks to the efficiency of junior quarterback A.J. McCarron (2,669 yards passing, 26 touchdowns and three interceptions) and a tandem of 1,000-yard rushers in junior tailback Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon.
The Irish and Crimson Tide have met six previous times in the past, with a 24-23 win for the former in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, which yielded a national title for Notre Dame, perhaps the most memorable.