LITTLE ROCK — Being way wrong about the cherry on top of five must-see bowl games is not all bad.
I got plenty of sleep Monday night; no reason to stay up until 11 p.m. taking notes on the BCS title game.
Right after the bowl pairings were announced, I identified five games to watch, believing they would be competitive to the end. Instead, three quarters was enough of Florida State 31-10, Oregon 35-17, or Texas A&M 41-13. The late kickoff Sunday and a 7 a.m. commitment on Monday cut short the viewing of Arkansas State 17-13.
Maybe it was wishful thinking, but I was on record with Alabama vs. Notre Dame being a three-point game with 10 minutes to play. A 30-minute afternoon nap was part of the preparation for a long night.
I thought the Notre Dame defense would hold its own. I thought the Notre Dame offensive line would give Everett Golson a chance to make some plays. I pooh-poohed the idea that “been there, done that” would benefit Alabama.
From the top down, Notre Dame was inept.
Coach Brian Kelly started out calling plays like he knew his team was overmatched. On the first three possessions, totaling 15 plays, he ordered up nine passes. On each possession, one pass was complete. There was no attempt to establish the run and Notre Dame fell behind 21-0.
The defense looked unsure, missing tackle after tackle and linebacker Manti Te’o, No. 1 on my Heisman Trophy ballot, was ordinary at best. Late in the second quarter, a third-and-3 play summed up the evening. Te’o read the play perfectly, shot the gap, hit T.J. Yeldon three yards deep in the backfield, and, from a prone position, watched the freshman net 10.
Working his sixth BCS title game, Kirk Herbstreit said Notre Dame missed more tackles in the first half than it did in 12 regular-season games. That was about the time Herbstreit and Brent Musburger were all but pleading with the audience to stick around. There was a new episode of Castle at 9 p.m. and I didn’t know the final score until Tuesday morning.
Long before it was over, the argument was Nick Saban vs. Bear Bryant.
To me, Saban winning three BCS titles in four years is more remarkable than Bryant winning at least a share of six national titles from 1961 to 1979.
I remember the Joe Namath-led Alabama team that lost to Texas in the 1965 Orange Bowl, making way for Arkansas to win a share of the national championship, and Bryant’s last national championship team that hit Arkansas quarterback Kevin Scanlon on about 30 pass attempts in a 24-9 victory over the Razorbacks in the Jan. 1, 1,980, Sugar Bowl.
During many of those years, possible contenders for No. 1 were limited and usually identified prior to the season. With the BCS, Kansas State this year and Oklahoma State last year were only a W away from playing in the title game.
Bryant never had to deal with the 85-scholarship limit or players leaving after three years for the NFL draft. Saban recruits such high quality athletes that many have the opportunity to take advantage of the early exit rule put in place more than 20 years ago.
Last year, running back Trent Richardson, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick departed after three years and were picked in the first round. This year, cornerback Dee Milliner, tackle D.J. Fluker, and running back Eddie Lacy, MVP of the title game, are expected to at least check their status with the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
On top of that, Alabama plays in the clearly superior Southeastern Conference and usually has to win a league championship game. This time, three is more than six.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.