Alabama wins SEC title, looks to Notre Dame
Alabama celebrate after winning the 2012 SEC Championship against the Georgia. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Photo / December 1, 2012)
The Crimson Tide beat Georgia for the SEC championship, a 32-28 affair that was ear-splitting and catwalk-rattling from the time the teams stretched. It was on to the BCS title game. It was on to Notre Dame. And it was on to consulting media guides or Wikipedia or whatever might inform Johnson of what he was in for.
"That's like the third time somebody asked me about the history of Alabama-Notre Dame," Johnson said. "I just want to know what went on between these two teams because apparently it was something special."
Whatever he finds, whatever grainy, houndstoothed chronicles he encounters, it will be past that can't measure up as prologue.
This is a national championship match weighty enough to drop south Florida below sea level, Notre Dame seeking its return to the pinnacle against the defending national champions and the foreboding gloom cast by the swaggering, indomitable SEC, which has laid claim to the last six crystal ball trophies.
Notre Dame and Alabama have met six times before. That was then. This is wow.
"It's two teams with a lot of tradition," Alabama center Barrett Jones said. "That's not what it's going to come down to. It's not going to come down to who has a better tradition or history.
"It's going to come down to who plays the best game. But it's hard for me to even think of that right now. We're trying to savor this one. We might even have to extend the 24-hour rule to 48 or something."
Either cycling through mind games or simply compulsively focused, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said he didn't know the date of the Jan. 7 BCS title game and wouldn't start preparing for Notre Dame until practices began.
What he and Irish coach Brian Kelly will see: Two teams that are almost frighteningly analogous.
Two pulverizing tailbacks followed a stout offensive line to 350 yards rushing Saturday. An error-plagued quarterback was redeemed by a game-winning 45-yard touchdown pass. The defense surrendered 21 points — Georgia notched a special teams score — but just 113 yards rushing.
"I don't know a whole bunch about Notre Dame, but I look forward to this game," Alabama guard Anthony Steen said. "I was looking forward to this game against Georgia. Everybody was saying they had a good D-line, and I wanted to see how good they were. I'm looking forward to seeing how good Notre Dame's D-line and linebackers are."
Oh, everyone is looking forward to this, all right.
"I'm pretty sure it gets the old-heads excited, people that are in their 50s and 60s," Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "It's going to be a historic game."
A.J. McCarron, the goat-turned-hero quarterback for Alabama on Saturday, said he knew nothing about Notre Dame other than that his brother rooted for the Irish. Past is past. The title game is here, and how.
"It's definitely awesome," McCarron said. "But it's not worth it unless we go there and win it."