As time ran out on Georgia, the Alabama sideline rushed the field. Confetti poured from the Georgia Dome ceiling, Crimson Tide players replaced their helmets with ‘SEC Champions' hats, and cameras clicked away.
Senior defensive end Damion Square somehow found his way to the SEC Championship trophy, hugged it, and carried it up to the podium where his team would accept it from conference commissioner Mike Slive. This would be the second time Square had been a part of a SEC championship team, and the third time he and his fellow seniors would get to take a trip to play for the national championship.
When Square climbed up on the stage, he didn't cheer and scream like everyone else around him. Instead, he was quiet and reflective.
"Everybody was like, You all right? And I was like, Yeah, I'm good," Square said in the locker room after the game. "It's like déjà vu. Doing it over and over again. You kind of downgrade the moment. Everybody don't do this (play for conference and national championships) or get a lot of chances to do this. We got another opportunity to play in a great game against a historical university. It's just awesome."
Alabama and Notre Dame playing for the national championship on Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami is about as college football as college football gets. This game will embody the essence of what's so special about this sport—tradition, pageantry and passion. It's North vs. South, Catholic Pride vs. Southern Pride, Good vs. Evil, Fighting Irish vs. Crimson Tide.
The last time these teams met was in 1987 when Notre Dame beat Alabama 37-6. The Irish have won five of six all-time meetings, including twice for the national championship. Bear Bryant went winless against the Irish. The only year the Tide came out victorious was in 1986 (Mike Shula had three touchdowns in that win).
The most memorable matchup between these storied programs was its first on New Year's Eve in 1973 in the Sugar Bowl. Both Paul "Bear" Bryant's Tide and Ara Parseghian's Irish were undefeated. Down 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Bama took the lead on a trick play when quarterback Richard Todd handed the ball off to running back Mike Stock who found a wide-open Todd on the left sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. But the ensuing missed extra point would doom them.
In the final minutes, with the Tide up 23-21, Notre Dame's Bob Thomas, who had missed an extra point earlier in the game, kicked a 19-yard field goal to give the Irish a 24-23 lead. Then with 2:21 left, quarterback Tom Clements completed a 35-yard pass to tight end Robin Weber on a third-and-8 from his own 3-yard-line to preserve the victory.
In less than three weeks, the Fighting Irish will be playing for their 12th national championship, while the Crimson Tide will be playing for their 15th, second in a row, and third in four years.
But all that history, though fun to look back on (and watch videos like the one below), doesn't matter to the current players, for it was before their time.
"We don't really think about that," said senior center Barrett Jones after the SEC Championship game. "It's not going to come down to who has the better tradition or history. It's going to come down to who plays the best game."
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