Knute and Bear all eyes and ears with Irish, Tide on their rolls

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, November 24, 2012

I’d like to think Knute Rockne and Paul “Bear” Bryant were watching the BCS standings from beyond the grave. What they saw, they could not handle.

I imagine a heavenly phone call.

“Bear, this is Knute.”

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“Hey, Knute. How’s the Gipper?”

“Gip’s fine, Bear. What isn’t fine is what’s going on down there. Kansas State and Oregon? For the national championship? Do you have any clue how big a Notre Dame-Alabama championship game would be? Any idea at all?”

“I know, Knute, but that Texas A&M quarterback… ah, never mind. What you have in mind?”

The two proceed to engage in an hour’s worth of cajoling the gods of football, cursing the referees and Oregon’s field goal kicker and lending a helping hand to a huge underdog Baylor team against top-ranked Kansas State.

When the presses rolled late Saturday night, the impossible had happened. Unbeaten Oregon’s lost to Stanford. Kansas State’s surprise unbeaten streak came crashing down with a 28-point defeat to Baylor. Notre Dame, the golden dome, Touchdown Jesus and, yes, the Gipper, were now atop the college football polls.

Alabama, the best team in the best conference which suffered a surprising loss after being ranked No. 1 all season, now just has to beat Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Saturday.

Notre Dame earned its place in the title game by beating the University of Southern California on Saturday.

If ever a dream college football match-up could show itself, it is this one.

Tradition vs. Tradition. National championships vs. national championships. The Bear against Knute, or in this case Alabama’s Nick Saban vs. Brian Kelly. The shiny gold helmets of the Irish against the crimson and white of the Tide.

The national championship is more than six weeks away, but the hype and pomp around this one will dwarf any and all previous national championships. It might rival a Super Bowl, unless Peyton Manning ever matches up against younger brother Eli.

The Tide and Irish have not played a significant game against one another since the 1974 Orange Bowl. In six meetings, Notre Dame holds a 5-1 advantage.

Of course, this all will be moot should Bama fall to Georgia.

Nothing a call from the grave cannot fix, as witnessed last Saturday.

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at