In the 25 days leading up to college football's championship game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is counting down the traditions and memorable moments involving the Irish and the Crimson Tide. Today is No. 13.
Bear Bryant coached Alabama to national championships in 1964 and '65, but his '66 team was even better.
The '66 Crimson Tide capped a 10-0 regular season by routing LSU, South Carolina, Southern Mississippi and Auburn by a combined 110-0, and they blistered Nebraska 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. Polls crowned the national champions before bowl games in those days, and Alabama finished that season ranked No. 3.
"This is the greatest football team I've ever been associated with," Bryant said after the rout of the Cornhuskers. "It's the greatest football team I ever saw."
Notre Dame was No. 1 in the final AP poll that season, while Michigan State was No. 1 in the final UPI poll. The Irish and Spartans had played to a 10-10 tie in East Lansing on Nov. 19.
The Irish had quarterback Terry Hanratty and running back Rocky Bleier, while the Spartans had defensive lineman Bubba Smith, who knocked Hanratty out of the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter.
Backup Coley O'Brien helped rally the Irish from a 10-0 deficit early in the second quarter to a tie early in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame got the ball on its 30-yard line in the waning moments, but Irish coach Ara Parseghian opted to play it safe and settled for the deadlock.
"We had fought hard to come back and tie it up," Parseghian said. "After all that, I didn't want to risk giving it to them cheap."