Pat Forde is Yahoo! Sports’ national college columnist. He is an award-winning …
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Eleven years ago, Brian Kelly was preparing for a national championship game.
It was slightly different from the current experience.
He and the Grand Valley State Lakers were staying at a Best Western in Florence, Ala., getting ready to play North Dakota in the Division II title game. Today, he and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ensconced at The Diplomat Resort and Spa, a beachfront palace with every available amenity.
It's been a brisk rise through the coaching ranks for the 51-year-old Kelly from that first championship opportunity to this one – from Grand Valley to Central Michigan to Cincinnati to a title shot in his third year at Notre Dame.
Opposing him in SunLife Stadium on Monday night is Alabama and 61-year-old Nick Saban, now in his fourth BCS championship game. Saban has been a millionaire coaching heavyweight for quite a while now, but he was no silver-spoon guy, either. He told a story Sunday about working as a kid in hisRead More »from Nick Saban and Brian Kelly should resist NFL's lure and stay in college
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A year ago, AJ McCarron was Everett Golson.
He was a first-year starting quarterback whose season had been all over the map – some big moments, some bad moments, some moments where fans wondered whether he should be benched. Heading into the BCS championship game, there was a lingering suspicion that he was merely along for the ride while the Alabama defense did all the heavy lifting. And there were significant questions about whether he could make enough plays to win the game against a phenomenal opposing defense.
Then McCarron lit up LSU on the way to the national title, shedding the “game manager” label along the way and establishing himself as one of the better quarterbacks in college football.
Golson very much hopes his 2012 season trajectory continues to follow the 2011 trajectory of McCarron right through Monday. If it does, Notre Dame might be national champions.
And if that happens, Golson will have completed one of the most eventfulRead More »from Notre Dame's Everett Golson hoping to follow path of Alabama's AJ McCarron after shaky season
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – If you want a viewing tip for the BCS championship game Monday night, here it is: Don't watch the ball.
Watch the linemen.
Especially when Alabama has the football.
If you keep your eyes on the surprisingly agile pachyderms mashing facemasks up front, you will see the best matchup of the game. Maybe the best matchup of the entire season in college football. You will see a Crimson Tide offensive line laden with experience and NFL talent battling a Notre Dame front seven laden with experience and NFL talent.
You will see huge on huge. Mean on mean. Smart on smart. Athletic on athletic. Proud on proud.
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, on Alabama's line: "Tackle to tackle, it's the best collection of offensive linemen we've played against. They're uniquely big and fast. They have quick twitch. They're not on the ground. They have excellent contact balance and ballast. They play hard, that's another unique trait. It's not anotherRead More »from BCS big picture: Trench battle between Alabama, Notre Dame worth watching
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Jeremy Pike is a 37-year-old native and resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Like all proper fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide, he maintains an abiding hatred of Southeastern Conference rivals Auburn and Tennessee.
But there is a third member of his unholy fan trinity, and always has been.
"Oh, I hate Notre Dame," Pike said. "I never pull for them."
On Nov. 3, Pike and about 50 other Alabama fans were in Louisiana getting ready to watch the Tide play LSU – the most anticipated game of the year. But before the game, they were glued to the TV screaming for Pittsburgh to upset Notre Dame. All of them.
"Notre Dame, Auburn and Tennessee, I can't pull for them ever," Pike said. "I can't put them in order; it just depends on the year and what's at stake."
What's at stake next week is the national championship, and the opponent is the Fighting Irish. So for now, they are No. 1 onRead More »from Alabama's hatred of Notre Dame runs long, deep
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The most widely stated theory about why Notre Dame allegedly has no chance in the BCS championship game against Alabama is the vast superiority of the Crimson Tide's league, the Southeastern Conference.
The Crimson Tide was tested at the highest level, the theory went. They went through a meat-grinder schedule no school outside the SEC could comprehend or survive. Certainly not some fancy-pants independent program that sprinkled service academies and low-level ACC opponents between its few big games.
You've heard it. I've heard it. Touchdown Jesus has heard it.
So you can bet the Fighting Irish players have heard it, too.
There's just one problem with that theory: The SEC hasn't been so superior this bowl season. After Florida's flop in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night, the League of Extraordinary Football – and Extraordinary Arrogance – is a measly 3-3, with three bowl games left. (Remaining contests: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl;Read More »from SEC's vulnerability should give Notre Dame added confidence against Alabama
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – In the end, the Orange Bowl was straight out of "Macbeth," a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
31-10 victory over outmanned Northern Illinois in a game that was as entertaining as Tuesday night bingo in Dubuque. The voluminous controversial verbiage was inversely proportional to the quality of the product on the field. It was just another bad BCS bowl game, and we've seen plenty of those before.When the gums were finished flapping, Florida State had a humdrum,
The Huskies were not embarrassed, but neither were they seriously competitive. The Seminoles were dominant on defense and maddeningly inefficient on offense. The crowd seemed bored. The TV audience undoubtedly felt the same.
And so all the talk – both pregame and in-game – was a vast expenditure of hot air that couldn't fill even a modest-sized balloon. A recap of the yap:
• There was the voluminous backlash to Northern Illinois' presence in the Orange Bowl – the first-ever BCS bidRead More »from All talk, little action: Orange Bowl delivers underwhelming game
When put to the eyeball test Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats looked for some stretches of the game like a top-10 team – maybe even a potential Final Four team.
But when you look at the Wildcats on paper, you see an NCAA-tournament bubble team.
Do I expect Kentucky to make the field of 68? Absolutely. The team that rallied from 17 points down and only lost by three at Louisville has more talent than almost anyone in America, and the upside remains significant as the young parts mature and coalesce.
But here is the flip side: The Cats have deposited precious little in the Quality Win Bank in 2012, and the 2013 portion of the schedule doesn't offer many opportunities to change that. The defending national champions may have to rely on that December eyeball test – and Kentucky's brand name – to avoid sweating out a bubble scenario.
Kentucky currently is 8-4 overall, with a 1-3 record away from the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. That translates to a sketchy RPI of No. 52, behindRead More »from Kentucky's lackluster body of work could tarnish tournament seeding
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Louisville lead was dissolving, down to two points, and the KFC Yum! Center went into active panic mode.
The Cardinals had led hated rival Kentucky by 17 just a few minutes earlier, seemingly on their way to a thorough mauling of the nemesis that had beaten them four straight times. But then the resilient Wildcats started making 3-pointers, and Louisville mainstays Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng had four fouls each, and suddenly the joy had been sucked out of the packed 22,000-seat arena and replaced with a gnawing dread for all in red.
Could Louisville really blow this?
Russ to the rescue.
With the score 63-61, the irrepressible/uncontrollable/indescribable Russ Smith barged into the spotlight. He drew a foul from Kentucky’s Ryan Harrow and made two free throws. Then he fouled Archie Goodwin, who made the first and missed the second free throw. Then he grabbed the rebound of Goodwin’s miss, blasted off for the other end of the court, quick-fired a jumperRead More »from Russ Smith's reckless approach buoys Louisville in narrow win over hated rival Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In the final minute of Louisville's rout of Western Kentucky in Nashville last Saturday, the Cardinal portion of the neutral-court crowd roared in unison.
"Beat UK! Beat UK! Beat UK!"
It was less a chant than a direct order. Or at least a heartfelt plea.
December basketball games are never must-win. But when Louisville hosts hated rival Kentucky on Saturday, it will be as close to must-win as December gets.
Because if the Cardinals don't get the Wildcats now, when will they?
Kentucky has won four in a row in the series, with John Calipari owning Rick Pitino since he arrived in 2009. That includes three decisive, albeit ugly, regular-season victories and the memorable Final Four showdown last April in New Orleans.
Next year, Kentucky welcomes in what could be one of the greatest recruiting classes in history. Louisville will be good for the foreseeable future, but it will lose several key players from this team and next season the game is in RuppRead More »from Rivalry renewed: Louisville facing best opportunity to finally beat Kentucky