"It is extremely hard living here [in Southeastern Conference country]. You just take a lot of crap. All you hear is how no other team can play against an SEC team. They seem to forget that Notre Dame is 5-1 historically against the University of Alabama and even the Bear couldn't beat them.
— Jim Grubb, 47, Birchwood, Tenn.
"It's been fun and nice to see Notre Dame back in the picture. When we were young, they were always there, but it kind of faded. I don't want to jinx Notre Dame, but I feel good about the game Monday. I have the same feeling as back in the day. I expect Notre Dame to win."
— Christopher Crowe, 49, Chattanooga
"[This year has been] special to me. I graduated from Notre Dame High School [with Jim Grubb] and I have several friends that are Bama fans. It's bittersweet. I want to root for Notre Dame, but I'm too much of a Bama fan. The SEC is what football is all about, in my opinion."
— David Gilbreath, 48, Carthage, Tenn.
"We have been trash talking a little bit. They [Notre Dame fans] started it all, though. I was going to let it go. They don't play the big-time people. Nobody they've played has done a lot. The SEC over the last 10 years has won how many national titles? Nobody is taking 12-0 away from them, but they are just barely getting by."
— Michael Reno, 39, Hixson
Most days, Jennifer Ward and Marissa Shrum are friends and co-workers.
Today they're coworkers. Friends? Well ...
Shrum's No. 1-ranked Notre Dame is going against Ward's No. 2-ranked Alabama tonight in the BCS National Championship. The winner will be crowned king of college football.
Shrum, 25, is a stylist at Southside Salon on Market Street. Ward, 37, also a stylist, is the owner. Usually during the college football year, they'll watch games together because "typically, we (Alabama and Notre Dame) never play each other," Ward says. "Until now."
And Ward doesn't like losing.
"It ruins my whole weekend," she says.
Shrum says she wasn't a Notre Dame fan until 2008 when she married a diehard fan, Chris Shrum. Her husband is so hardcore, even their wedding was planned around the university.
"We had a Notre Dame-themed wedding cake," she says. "We even booked our wedding date around football, and we plan our annual cruises on Notre Dame's off weeks."
Shrum is hosting a huge Notre Dame-themed viewing party tonight and Ward is invited.
"I don't know if I'll go," Ward said. "I'd prefer to watch it by myself at home rather than with a bunch of Notre Dame fans. That won't be fun."
Ward grew up as an Alabama fan, a love of the university apparently part of her genetic makeup.
"My whole family lives and breathes Alabama football," Ward says. "From birth, I have been going to games and watching Alabama football with my dad. I love God, my kids and Alabama football.
"I'm a huge Bear Bryant fan," says Ward, who has season tickets to Crimson Tide games. "When he died, it felt like a death in the family. My dog is even named after him."
While Ward admits to getting "ridiculously" excited during games, whether watching in person or on TV, Shrum says she stays mostly calm.
"I am calm until someone starts attacking my team, and luckily this year we were undefeated so I didn't have to get mad," Shrum says.
The ladies' love for their teams is not only reflected in their cheering but also in their home decor.
"I have walls of Alabama memorabilia and drawers full of game-day attire," Ward says.
Shrum says the walls of her home "have lots of Notre Dame artwork."
They also have a Notre Dame helmet in a case and a statue of the famed Four Horsemen, a named created in 1924 for the team's backfield -- Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley and Elmer Layden.
So, who's going to win tonight?
"Alabama by six points," Ward says.
"Notre Dame by 10."
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...