It is officially bowl season, with the two biggest games (Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl Game) on New Year’s Day.
While Clemson and Ohio State face off in New Orleans, Alabama and Notre Dame will play for only the eighth time ever and for the first time since the 2013 BCS National Championship.
Since the initial College Football Playoff in 2015, Alabama has been in all but one (2020). The Rose Bowl Game, which is being played in Arlington this year, is just Notre Dame’s second-ever appearance in the CFP.
With the game just days away, coaches Nick Saban and Brian Kelly both had high praise for their opponent and their program Monday.
“I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Brian Kelly wherever he’s been a coach. He’s had a tremendous amount of success. But you know I think their team reflects the kind of team anybody would want to coach in terms of how they compete, how hard they play,” Saban said.
“They have all the answers in terms of what they want to do. And they do it very, very well. It's not an overstatement to say that they're well-coached. I know it sounds like coach-speak, but they're well-coached in all areas, and what they do they do extremely well with really good football players,” Kelly said of Alabama.
A win over the Fighting Irish would put the Tide in the CFP Championship Game for the fifth time. The team made four consecutive appearances from 2016 to 2019, winning two.
Alabama’s potent offense -- featuring two Heisman finalists and five All-Americans -- has scored more than 50 points six times this season. But now, facing a Notre Dame defense that is holding teams to just under 20 points per game, only allowing Clemson to score more than 35 points all season, Saban said his team will be challenged.
“Notre Dame is an outstanding team,” he said. “Their defense really plays hard. They're very physical. Run to the ball. Really have played well. Present lots of problems with some of the things that they do.”
In addition to dealing with challenges on the offensive side of the field, Saban said Notre Dame’s offense, notably Ian Book, deserves respect.
“He's certainly a dual-threat guy that presents a lot of problems for us, and we're going to have to be very disciplined in terms of the way we play and everyone doing their job if we're going to have a chance to be successful against Ian Book and Notre Dame's offense.”
Notre Dame currently leads the all-time series 5-2, but Alabama came away victorious the last time they met. In his career, Saban is 4-0 against the Fighting Irish.
Kickoff from AT&T Stadium is slated for 3 p.m.