By Jim Weber
The BCS title game to end all BCS title games is now officially upon us.
Alabama and Notre Dame are the two greatest college football programs with eight AP national titles apiece. The Crimson Tide has the most passionate fan base in America, the Irish have the most widespread. And the storyline can’t get any better: Alabama on the verge of a dynasty, going for its third BCS title in the last four years, while Notre Dame tries to wake up the echoes with its first title since 1988 after many down years.
The highest rated BCS title game of all time was the 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas with a 21.7 Nielsen rating. The Alabama-Notre Dame game should crush that.
The build-up and hype to the game will be insufferable but this is a great moment for college football. All eyes in the sporting world will be on South Florida on Jan. 7 as the sport redeems itself from last season’s clunker of a title game between LSU and Alabama that drew a record low 13.8 Nielsen rating.
We can only hope the Alabama-Notre Dame game has half the excitement of the SEC Championship Game between ’Bama and Georgia.
OFF THE MARK: Georgia coach Mark Richt just can’t avoid scathing criticism. Despite an epic performance by his team that came up just short of a huge upset, a coach who perpetually finds himself on the coaching hot seat is getting torn to pieces again for a horrendous decision to not spike the football after getting a 1st-and-goal at the Alabama 8-yard line with 15 seconds left. Instead of spiking the ball and getting three cracks at the end zone, Georgia watched its national title dreams slip away with a weak three-yard pass that ran out the clock. It’s sad that such a great performance by his team is being overshadowed by such a horrible decision.
NORTHERN EXPOSURE: You might need to read this twice: Northern Illinois looks headed to the Orange Bowl. It appears they will finish in the Top 16 of the BCS standings, which gives them an automatic ticket to a BCS bowl. While there have been “BCS busters” in the past like Utah, Boise State and TCU, this is by far the most unexpected team to crash the BCS party. It’s a huge moment for the entire Mid-American Conference, which had a great year after long being regarded as a doormat.
DARK DAY FOR BLACKSHIRTS: Nebraska’s loss to Wisconsin was the Cornhuskers’ worst performance since the Bill Callahan Era. The Blackshirts defense was completely humiliated by allowing 640 yards of offense and 70 points to a Wisconsin team that finished the regular season 7-5. Head coach Bo Pelini apologized after the loss but no words can rectify that kind of a performance. Despite a season in which the Cornhuskers finished 10-3, there will be plenty of soul-searching this offseason for a defense that finished 56th (26.2 PPG) in scoring and allowed a combined 133 points to Wisconsin and Ohio State.
HORNS DOWN: Texas head coach Mack Brown isn’t going to be fired but it’s fair to wonder if he will retire for the betterment of the UT program after a brutal 42-24 loss to Kansas State to finish the regular season at 8-4. Since the 2009 season in which Texas played Alabama for the national title, the Longhorns are a combined 21-16. That’s completely unacceptable for a program whose job many consider the best in America. Getting embarrassed again by Oklahoma, losing to a TCU team without its star quarterback and getting blown out by Kansas State certainly indicates that Brown isn’t capable of ever getting the Longhorns back to where they were just three years ago.
RETURN OF GUS? After spanking Middle Tennessee State 45-0 to win the Sun Belt title, Arkansas State head coach and former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is a scorching hot coaching candidate for BCS jobs. If I’m Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, I would do anything I could to bring Malzahn back to The Plains. It became painfully obvious this year during Auburn’s pitiful 3-9 season that Malzahn was the real mastermind behind the 2010 national title and should have been the Tigers’ head coach instead of Gene Chizik. Jacobs shouldn’t let Malzahn get away a second time.
Photo: John David Mercer/US Presswire