It's official. No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama will square off for the national title on January 7 at Sun Life Stadium, the first meeting between the two storied programs in over a quarter-century. For Alabama, it's simply more of the same, as the Crimson Tide will be playing for their third national title in four years and in their fourth BCS bowl in the past five seasons.
For the Fighting Irish, it's a different story. Not only is this their first BCS bowl in six seasons, but it's also their first January bowl of any kind during that stretch. Notre Dame was dominated in two BCS appearances under Charlie Weis, falling 34-20 to Ohio State in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and 41-14 to LSU in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.
Will it be more of the same BCS ineptitude for Notre Dame in Miami next month? Absolutely not. Brian Kelly's team is far more suited to face an elite program such as Alabama than any of Weis' teams. Let's look at five reasons why the Irish will be a much stronger opponent for the Tide than they were for the Buckeyes or Tigers.
If you notice a common theme, well, it's because it's the one thing that has defined the 2012 Fighting Irish.