COUNTDOWN TO SHOWDOWN
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. 18.
The upcoming BCS title game between Alabama and Notre Dame is expected to be among the most-watched college football contests of all-time.
A matchup between these two programs just five years ago would have generated minimal interest at best. In 2007, Notre Dame opened with five consecutive losses on its way to a 3-9 disaster, while Alabama closed a 6-6 regular season with four consecutive setbacks, including a humbling loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
The Crimson Tide and Irish are proof that even the proudest programs in the sport endure lean times.
Between Alabama's 1992 national title under Gene Stallings and its 2009 BCS crown under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide were more recognized for coaching changes and NCAA sanctions than gridiron success. Alabama won one SEC title in those 16 seasons, and it suffered losing records in 1997, 2000, '03 and '06.
Tennessee defeated Alabama seven consecutive times from 1995 to 2001, and Auburn won six straight Iron Bowls from 2002 to '07.
The Irish endured a rough 30-26-1 stretch under Gerry Faust from 1981 to '85 before Lou Holtz arrived and had a successful 11 seasons spearheaded by a 64-9-1 surge from '88 to '93. Since 1994, however, Notre Dame had lost at least three games annually and was 32-31 overall in the five years that preceded this 12-0 season.