Alabama-Notre Dame: some storylines

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If you were a Hollywood script writer looking to pitch a movie based on a college football championship being played in a land far, far away, it would be hard to come up with a better pair of protagonists than Alabama and Notre Dame.

For any director, it’s a cinematic smörgåsbord replete with plotlines as far as the stomach can see.  The North vs. the South on a gridiron battlefield.  Two of the winningest programs in FBS history, with the Irish tied for second all-time with Texas and the Tide seventh.  Mystique for miles, from Knute to Bear, from the Gipper to Broadway Joe before the bright lights and big city, from 14 claimed national championships for the Tuscaloosa school to 11 claimed by the one from South Bend.

And, it just so happens, the two best teams after the dust had settled and the curtain had fallen on the 2012 regular season.

Simply put, it’s already the most highly anticipated title game of the BCS era… and we’re still weeks away from the Jan. 7 showdown in Miami.  Suffice to say, myriad words will be dumped onto a computer screen to feed the hype machine over the next five weeks, with storylines far surpassing even the schools’ healthy win totals.  Here are but a few of those that may or may not have an impact on which team hoists the crystal into the South Beach sky at game’s end.

Are you experienced?
In a lot of ways, Alabama and Notre Dame are as evenly matched as any two teams that have faced each other on this stage recently.  One area where the Tide has a decided and lopsided advantage?  Big-game experience.  The No. 2 Tide (12-1) will be gunning for an unprecedented third BCS title in four years while the Irish’s biggest game under Brian Kelly prior to this year was, what, the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State after last season?  From handling the weeks-long layoff to dealing with the media circus to a 60-minute game of this magnitude and carrying such immense ramifications, Nick Saban has been there, done that while Kelly is just getting there and has never done that.

Waking the slumbering echoes
In the 14-year history of the BCS, No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) has appeared in just three of the marquee bowl games, with the last coming after the 2006 regular season.  Their national championship drought stretches back even further; the last time the Irish finished a season on top, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, a gallon of gas would set you back $1.08 and Lou Holtz was shtomping acrosh the Irish shidelines.  Since then, “Flounder Like an Irrelevant Program Today” has marked the once-proud program’s trudge through more than two decades of mediocrity.  Following a 16-win run to end the last three years of the Charlie Weis era, though, the tide, so to speak, began to turn for the Irish.  In the two years after Kelly was hired in December of 2009, the Irish posted back-to-back eight-win seasons.  In the third year under Kelly — the same year four other Irish coaches won their first/only national championships at the school, incidentally — the Irish have made a resounding move back onto the national stage.  And relevance in the way that matters most.

Exorcising historical ghosts
While they’ve met but a handful of times through the years, Notre Dame has had Alabama’s number when they have taken the field.  In six meetings, the Irish own a decided 5-1 advantage.  Included in that total?  A perfect 4-0 record against Tide teams coached by the legendary Bear Bryant.  The two teams first met in 1973, with the last coming in 1987.  The first two meetings came in the Sugar and Orange Bowls in back-to-back years, with the Irish winning both games by a combined three points over Tide teams that were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, at the time.  Alabama’s only win came during the 1986 regular season, a 28-10 decision in Birmingham.  Of course, the last time the two teams met with this much on the line, Saban was a graduate assistant at his alma mater Kent State while Kelly had yet to enter high school, so the historical angle will be gummed to death in the coming weeks due to lack of teeth.

Chasing the Bear
More than three decades after his death, there’s still nothing that epitomizes and encapsulates the Alabama football program more than Paul William Bryant.  In his 25 years as the Tide’s head coach, the Bear won a school-record 232 games and staked his claim to five* national titles.  While Saban can inch up on but never truly surpass Coach Bryant in the hearts and minds of Tuscaloosans, he can take a step closer to the coaching immortal’s accomplishments; with a win over Notre Dame, Saban would have four national championships on his résumé — one at LSU, three in the Bear’s den.

(*I don’t acknowledge 1973, much like the coaches didn’t acknowledge the postseason)

Record eyeballs glued to boob tube?
The highest-rated game in BCS history was the USC-Texas Rose Bowl affair following the 2005 season, which drew a 21.7 Nielsen rating.  Notre Dame drew a 10.3 rating for its “meaningless” regular season game against USC this year that was roughly half of that record, and equal to the 2012 SEC title game.  Alabama plus Notre Dame plus five weeks of hype?  Records will be shattered.

AP tiebreaker
Depending on which way the polling winds blow, and if it’s favorable in their direction, Alabama claims (I think) 14 national championships.  Notre Dame claims 11, with both teams using various polls to dignify their historical national championship status.  The one certainty in all of the title claiming?  There are two teams that have each won a record eight Associated Press titles — Alabama and Notre Dame, of course.  Jan. 7 in Miami, as it turns out, will turn into a tiebreaker for the ages that no one ever anticipated.

Degenerates speak
In the week leading up to the SEC championship game, Alabama had been listed as a 9.5 favorite over Notre Dame should the two teams ultimately meet in the BCS title game.  With the game officially set?  The odds range from 8.5 to 10, depending on the book.  Notre Dame may be undefeated, but they’ll go into the title game as decided underdogs in the eyes of both the sports books in general and the betting/viewing public in particular.

Former four-star QB Jack Allison leaving Miami

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Not long after Miami put the wraps on its second spring practice under Mark Richt, the chase to replace Brad Kaaya under center has seen a significant development.

In a press release Tuesday, The U announced that Jack Allison has decided to leave the Hurricanes football program.  The redshirt freshman quarterback’s decision was triggered by a desire for a better shot at playing time elsewhere.

“Jack approached me and indicated that he felt like he would have more opportunities for playing time at another program,” the head coach said in a statement. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

The strong-armed Allison, who suffered a shoulder injury this past weekend, exited spring practice behind Malik Rosier, Kaaya’s backup the past two seasons, and Evan Shirreffs on the quarterback depth chart.  Additionally, four-star 2017 signee N’Kosi Perry is expected to join the fray this summer and compete for the starting job as well.

A four-star 2016 signee, Allison was rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 27 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

Allison is the second Hurricane to transfer out of the program since the curtain closed on spring practice.  Monday, the university confirmed that defensive back Jeff James, the nephew of former U great Edgerrin James, “felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else.”

Dismissed Duke duo tweet they’re transferring to USF

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Duke announced in late February that a pair of sophomore defensive linemen, Brandon Boyce and Marquies Price (pictured), had been dismissed by David Cutcliffe. As it turns out, the linemen will continue their collegiate playing careers as teammates.

On their personal Twitter accounts Monday, both Both Price and Boyce revealed their intentions to transfer to South Florida, the former by way of a relatively lengthy missive and the latter with a simple picture of a USF helmet.

Neither first-year head coach Charlie Strong nor the football program itself have confirmed the twin additions.

Both players will be forced to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. They will each then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

Price started all 11 games in which he played during the 2016 season, and started 14 in his career. His six quarterback hurries last year were second on the team.

Boyce played in 21 games during his time with the Blue Devils. Eight of those appearances came in 2016.

In mid-August, it was announced that Boyce was one of two football players suspended for the first three games of last season. Unspecified violations of team rules was the only reason given for that punitive measure.

Infant son of D’Onta Foreman passed away during Texas’ 2016 season

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As a father five times over, I simply can’t imagine doing what D'Onta Foreman did last season.

On the field, the Texas running back was an absolute beast.  He led the nation in rushing yards per game at 184.4 — next closest was San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey at 152.4 — while his 2,028 total rushing yards were second to Pumphrey (2,133).  On Nov. 5 against Texas Tech, Foreman ran for 341 yards, the third-highest total in Longhorns history.

In a profile that appeared on the NFL Network, Foreman revealed that, unbeknownst to those outside of the football program, his girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy on Sept. 16.  His son was born premature and weighed just 15 ounces at birth; 50 days later, the infant passed away — not long after Foreman’s historic performance against Tech.

In fact, Foreman learned of his son’s death as he was driving back to the hospital in Texas City after the game to be with him.

From HookEm.com‘s transcription of his interview with the NFL Network:

I always dreamed of having a boy and naming him after me and you know, just seeing him grow. You know, just loving him.

“He was a fighter, you know. He would like fight and he’s going to make it and everything will be fine.”

“I really didn’t know how to feel. I was like numb. I was driving and then I was crying while I was driving. I was crushed and I was so hurt. I feel like something was taken away from me before I even really got the chance to experience it.

While nothing can ever replace Foreman’s loss, there is a silver lining in his story as the back’s girlfriend is again pregnant.  The due date?  The same day D’Onta Vanton Foreman Jr. was born.

Foreman Sr. is one of the players who are part of the pool for the NFL draft, which will take place this Thursday in Philadelphia.

Via Twitter, safety Jordan Fogal says he’s leaving Utah

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Utah has become the latest FBS program to lose a player via the increasingly-popular graduate transfer route.

Jordan Fogal announced on his Twitter page this weekend that, “after many prayers and long discussions, I found it in my best interest to leave Utah and look to transfer to another university. The specific destination for the continuation of his collegiate playing career was not divulged in the missive.

The safety described his decision as “very difficult” as he said “Utah and the fan base here will forever hold a place in my heart and I will truly miss this place.”

As a grad transfer, Fogal will be eligible to play immediately in 2017 at another FBS school. This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

After spending two seasons at the junior college level, Fogal played in 11 games the past two years.  Fogal’s two interceptions last season were tied for fourth on the team.

The defensive back’s 2015 season came to a premature end after three games because of an injury. He then played in eight games in 2016 for the Utes.