Our weekly college football shame index previews the national championship game.
And so we come to the end of another season, one full of unexpected disappointments and surprises alike, of teams that came oh so close and others that were dead before the autumnal equinox, of desperately fought contests and Sugar Bowls that did not happen you hear me it did NOT. The only two left standing are the Fighting Irish and the Crimson Tide, two teams with more history than Doris Kearns Goodwin's sex dungeon. (See that? That's SEO.)
Let's answer some questions no one was really asking, shall we?
What's the secret to Alabama's running game? Smarter, more experienced people would probably give you a lot of analysis about the Crimson Tide offensive line here, but instead we'll talk about Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, the only pair of running backs in the nation with at least 1,000 yards apiece and a yards-per-carry number above six. Yeldon is the speed back of the two, as he showed Week 1 against Michigan, when four of his 12 touches went for 10 yards or more. Lacy is the more powerful of the two, as illustrated by this medical diagram:
HE'S A DAMN RUSSIAN DOLL Y'ALL AND THEY AIN'T EVEN COUNT IT AS MORE'N ONE SCHOLARSHIP THEM BAMMERS BE CHEATIN' I TOLD YOU
Anything we should expect from Notre Dame tonight? First, red-zone misery all around. The Irish have allowed only eight touchdowns out of their opponents' 33 possessions inside the 20. On offense, they've been only marginally better, scoring six points on just 46.6 percent of their red-zone trips, worse than all but five teams this year. Second, don't expect Notre Dame to get rattled and abandon the pass early—the Irish have called only 12 more run plays than pass plays in every first half combined. Third, Ron Powlus will show up on the sideline and start quietly siphoning Gatorade into a bucket, mistakenly believing it is gasoline.
Is this one of the best teams in Notre Dame's history? Though the 2012 vintage is pretty impressive, it doesn't quite outrank the top five teams in Fighting Irish history:
5. 1937: 7-0 Notre Dame entered its last game against Burnham College of Pestle Science without the services of quarterback Patrick "Buzzard Whipper" Brownton, who had been injured by a runaway barrel of nickel-biscuit at the World's Fair. Finding themselves down by 10 points at halftime, the Irish recovered a late onside kick and scored the winning touchdown with eight seconds left to beat the Concreteers.
4. 1948-49: Most people remember the 15-game winning streak that stretched across these two seasons, but this team did something far greater, embarking on a secret mission to root out Communist agents in college football without the support or approval of any government entity. Though their methods may seem unorthodox or even cruel to our modern eyes—32 Georgia Tech players from that era still have never been accounted for—there is no denying the patriotism and courage these young men showed in service of our nation.
3. 1919: Saddled with massive debts from ill-conceived investments in Armenian war bonds, Notre Dame was forced to sign an advertising contract with Weather-Great Galoshes. The contract included a provision that required the team to start Gallopin' Gus, Weather-Great's equine mascot. Always the innovator, Coach Herman Caldergood developed a set of plays in which the quarterback would pretend to give the ball to the horse but then throw it downfield instead. Defenses were confounded by this strategy, because what the fuck there's a fucking horse on the field.
2. 1984: The year that proved Notre Dame really does do things the right way. While most other schools were engaging in shameless recruiting tactics and regularly providing improper benefits, the Fighting Irish won 10 games and fell just short of the national championship. "We will only ever promise our players what is right—a good education, the support of the fans, and free cigarettes and racially insensitive pornography after every win," said coach Willard Galfatchian in his famous "A Winner Is You" locker room speech.
1. 1953: After star wide receiver Skip "Dizzy Suspenders" Longdale was kicked off the team for plagiarizing a paper in his Bicycles: Satan's Hamster Wheel seminar, many assumed that Notre Dame was out of the national championship hunt. But sound defense, a strong running game, and some undetected pumping of chlorine gas into the visiting locker room guided the Irish to a Rose Bowl berth against undefeated Michigan. A hard-fought game went to one overtime, then a second, but in the third, the Wolverines fumbled the ablative case of a third declension noun and Notre Dame was declared the winner, an outcome which Michigan disputes to this day.
Would a win make Nick Saban the greatest college coach of all time? Four national championships in his last eight NCAA seasons is impressive, certainly. But why is Nick Saban not even top five all time in Michigan State winning percentage? Why hasn't he won a single Big East title? Why is he behind—women and children, please look away—Gary Pinkel in the career win column? No, I'm afraid Nick Saban may actually be the most average coach college football has ever seen.
So who's going to walk away champion? SEC-supremacy narrative be damned, Notre Dame has arguably faced the more difficult schedule, with nine opponents that wound up in bowl games (and a 10th, Miami, that decided to stay home). Alabama looked vulnerable down the stretch, allowing over eight yards a pass attempt to LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia. Of course, the Irish don't exactly boast a passing attack that keeps defenses up late, and they'll have to win the turnover battle—the Irish's closest and most controversial wins came in overtime games in which they finished in the red, turnover-wise. What it really comes down to is this: Which fan base will be more unbearable to you in victory? That's the team that will win, because college football does not care about your feelings.
Celebrity Hot Tub is a college football fan who lost the ability to truly love thanks to three years of Florida head coach Ron Zook. He writes for Every Day Should Be Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @celebrityhottub.