Top-ranked Notre Dame will face defending champion Alabama in the BCS title game in Miami on Jan. 7 to try to claim its first national championship since 1988.
That year, the Fighting Irish beat third-ranked West Virginia 34-21 in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the season 12-0. There was no BCS then, only polls to decide which team was the best in college football, and Notre Dame finished on top of both of them.
The coach of that 1988 Notre Dame team was ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz. He won the championship in just his third year in South Bend. This week he talked about all things Notre Dame and college football.
Why is it important for Notre Dame to be a power again in college football?
"The fan base of Notre Dame goes well beyond a traditional college football fan. They have fans that don't know or care if a football is filled with air or straw. People who never talked to me about football before are now talking about Notre Dame. I have waitresses and airport security people who are saying, 'Hey Coach, how about the Irish? They are doing great.' When Notre Dame is in the hunt for a national title, it is good for college football."
If you were coaching Notre Dame, what would concern you about Alabama?
Holtz » "All the national press is talking about is Notre Dame. It is almost like Alabama is an afterthought in the conversation. So I would be concerned that Nick Saban would use that to fire up his guys, saying, 'Here we are the defending national champions. We aren't getting any respect.' That is strong motivation."
If you were coaching Alabama, what would concern you about Notre Dame?
Holtz » "Alabama is a very talented team, but they are also very young. The key to beating Notre Dame is scoring touchdowns on them when you have the ball in the red zone. The Irish tend to pinch their corners inside on their goal line defense, and Alabama should be able to exploit that. Stopping Irish quarterback Everett Golson will be the key for Alabama. So much of the offense runs through him, and he has matured so well as the season has gone forward. No doubt coach (Nick) Saban will have some interesting defenses I am sure that he will use to slow him down. It should be an outstanding game with two very talented teams."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.