FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The talk is over, the hype is at its peak and it’s finally time to decide it all.
After hearing for weeks about the historic magnitude of two of college football’s most storied and successful programs facing off, the nostalgia of 1973’s meeting, the two dominant defenses, the marquee names from past and present, No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama will play for the BCS National Championship tonight at Sun Life Stadium.
Alabama coach Nick Saban and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly spoke with the media for the final time prior to the game Sunday morning, reiterating most of their talking points of the past month and praising each other’s successful careers.
Both coaches talked of the need for their players to stay
focused on the game and
make the most of their opportunities.
“There’s going to be some situation in the game where you need to make a play or they might need to make a play that’s going to make the difference in the game,” said Saban, whose Crimson Tide are attempting to repeat as national champions, a feat the three previous teams in the BCS era attempted to do and failed. “Your ability to rise up in those situations and be able to do that … you have to be ready to execute in those kinds of situations in the game. There’s going to be some point in the game where that particular circumstance and situation probably will have an impact on the outcome of the game. And your ability to successfully execute in those kinds of situations I think is critical when you play in games like this.”
Kelly feels the outcome may go to the team who makes the “most mistakes” in the sense that he wants his team to play with aggression.
“If you’re going to sit back and hope that it’s going to come your way, you’re going to miss,” Kelly said.
“So my point was — and John Wooden has made this quote to be part of his philosophy, as well, and I stole it from him, and I’ve used it quite a few times with our football
team. This is one of those games where you have to be aggressive, and you’re going to make a
“I’m not talking about catastrophic mistakes, throwing picks for touchdowns, but you may make a mistake here. As long as you know that you’re playing hard and aggressive, that’s the kind of mentality and that’s kind of the background to that quote that I used.”
Both coaches want their teams to stick to the plans which have gotten them to this point, but that won’t stop Saban, known for his obsessive attention to detail, from considering every possibility. The three-time BCS champion coach was asked if there were an unforeseen factor which may play a part in deciding tonight’s contest.
“That’s probably the unknown that keeps you up at night as a coach, like what are we not prepared for, what might happen in the game that if you haven’t sort of spent the time to get your players ready to play for, how well will you be able to adjust to those circumstances in the game,” he said.
Saban emphasized the “psychological disposition” of a team preparing for a championship game and the difficulty of carrying momentum from the regular season into a title game more than a month later.
Asked what he wants his team’s psychological disposition to be, Kelly went to the heart of his iconic institution’s identity.
“Fighting Irish,” he said. “Fighting Irish. That’s who we are, that’s how we’ve constructed how we want our guys to play. We’re going to battle you. First time our back has a chance, he’d better lower his shoulder and run through a tackle.
“We want that kind of demeanor. Our guys understand how I want them to play the game. That’s why we’re here. We tried to play the game this way the first couple years; we just couldn’t quite get there. They play the game like Fighting Irish, and that’s how we want to play the game.”