Johnson: Does Notre Dame even have a chance?
Posted Jan 7, 2013

Terry Johnson's 2013 BCS championship pre-game rant

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

Sorry folks, I have to ask this question: why isn't anyone giving the Fighting Irish a chance to win this game?

Yes, Alabama has a great team. After all, the Crimson Tide has the best D in the land, ranking second in pass defense, first in run defense, and first in total defense. Considering that Nick Saban's team won (arguably) the toughest division in college football, it only makes sense that Bama is the favorite in this game, especially since the SEC has won the last six BCS Championship Games.

However, don't count Notre Dame out just yet. Even though very few people are giving them a chance to win, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Fighting Irish can win their first National Championship since 1988.

Let's be honest, history is full of teams that won championships against overwhelming odds. Penn State, a 7-point underdog, captured the National Championship in 1987 by defeating a dominant Miami team that featured Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, future Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, and future Pro Bowlers Bennie Blades and Jerome Brown. Ohio State, an 11.5-point dog, pulled off a similar upset in 2003, defeating a Hurricane team that won its first 24 contests under Larry Coker.

Both of the aforementioned championship squads had some things in common with this year's Notre Dame team. Like the 2012 Irish, each of those teams had several close calls during the regular season, needing a couple of late rallies to escape with an unblemished record. And just like this year's Blue and Gold crew, no one gave Penn State or Ohio State any chance to hoist the championship trophy.

While the similarities to '87 Penn State and '03 Ohio State are encouraging, the difference between them is even better news for Irish fans. Both of those teams were playing a dominant opponent that cruised through the regular season (or seasons in the case of the '03 Miami crew). Notre Dame faces a one-loss Alabama squad that also had several close calls this year, making the Irish's climb not nearly as steep as the other National Championship teams above.

Another reason to believe that the Fighting Irish will take home the crystal football this year is because of the experience of their coaches. Sure, none of the Notre Dame players have played for a championship, but several of its coaches have. Brian Kelly won two Division II titles as the head coach at Grand Valley State, as did Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. While that experience might not seem like the same as winning a championship at college football's highest level, those victories show that the Notre Dame coaching staff can prepare for big games as well as any staff in the country. As we learned from watching the Sugar Bowl, preparation can be the difference between winning and losing.

Finally, the Fighting Irish can win the BCS title because they have a knack for snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat. Notre Dame trailed late in several contests this year, yet rallied to win each time, including an amazing comeback against Pittsburgh, where the Panthers seemingly had the game locked up on several different occasions. More impressively, the Fighting Irish D pulled off arguably the toughest defensive stop of the year, turning away Stanford on first-and-goal from the Notre Dame 4-yard line to preserve a 20-13 OT win.

In other words, Brian Kelly's defense has what it takes to get the job done against the Crimson Tide, which has a bruising ground game that's similar to Stanford's.

Will Notre Dame beat Alabama in the National Championship Game? That's tough to say since anything can happen in once the teams step onto the gridiron.

However, based on its storied history, experience, and resilience under fire, it's time to give the Irish a chance to win this contest.