MIAMI - Sometimes, the buildup to a game can overwhelm what actually happens on the field.
Certainly, No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama would have to play a classic to live up to all the hype for today's Bowl Championship Series title contest - two of college football's most storied programs, glorified in movie and song, facing off for the biggest prize.
"That's football at its finest," said Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o, a Punahou School graduate who heads a defense that has given up just two rushing touchdowns this season. "It's going to be a great challenge, and a challenge that we look forward to."
Alabama teammates Danny Woodson and Josh Magee take pictures of The Coaches’ Trophy during Saturday’s media day for today’s Bowl Championship Series title game against Notre Dame.
Despite its impressive legacy, Notre Dame (12-0) wasn't even ranked at the start of the season. After so many lost years, the golden dome has reclaimed its luster in coach Brian Kelly's third season.
"It starts with setting a clear goal for the program," Kelly said. "Really, what is it? Are we here to get to a bowl game, or are we here to win national championships? So the charge immediately was to play for championships and win a national championship."
The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, have a chance to be remembered as a full-fledged dynasty. Alabama (12-1) will be trying to claim its third national championship in four years and become the first school to win back-to-back BCS titles, a remarkable achievement given the ever-increasing parity of the college game and having to replace five players from last year's team who were picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
GoDaddy.com Bowl At Mobile, Ala.
Arkansas St. 17, No. 25 Kent St. 13
BCS title game At Miami
Notre Dame (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
"To be honest, I think this team has kind of exceeded expectations," Tide coach Nick Saban said Sunday. "If you look at all the players we lost last year, the leadership that we lost I'm really proud of what this team was able to accomplish."
Among Notre Dame's fans is Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, a St. Anthony graduate. He'll be at the game today.
"Shane Victorino is just a real good guy," Te'o said. "We met him before and had the opportunity just to hang out with him for a couple days, and like I said, it's that bond between Polynesian players and even non-Polynesian players who know what Hawaii is all about. Just to have Shane here and have him experience this moment with us, he's family."
Fans may have to pay a hefty price to be in the stands. Tickets were at a premium, with a seat in one of the executive suites going for a staggering $60,000 on StubHub on Sunday, and even a spot in the corner of the upper deck requiring a payout of more than $900.
Perhaps the game's participants should make that a bit less surprising.
Notre Dame and Alabama have won eight Associated Press national titles, more than any other school. They are the bluest of the blue bloods, the programs that have long set the bar for everyone else even while enduring some droughts along the way.
"It's definitely not any other game," said Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.