When the matchup between Alabama and Notre Dame takes place, there is going to be a lot of pressure on the head coaches. Nick Saban and Brian Kelly are spending the next month preparing for just 60 minutes of football, in a game that will change their lives forever.
They both have so much to gain, but Coach Saban has the most to lose between the two.
Kelly could end up losing this game and still be able to walk back to South Bend with his head held high. As for Saban, losing this game would be a tough pill to swallow and could turn into a domino effect of many things to come.
While losing shouldn't be an option for either one of these coaches, it is an unfortunate reality for one of them.
Nick Saban has built this reputation of being this super coach. If he was a superhero, he would be Thor, Goku and Superman wrapped all into one. In fact, I'm sure if you asked around, folks in Tuscaloosa already consider him some type of super human.
Since he has this reputation, there is no way he can lose to an underdog.
It would be one thing if we had a time machine and the Crimson Tide was going to play the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. But this is the 2012 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team that had a hard time beating lousy Pittsburgh.
No disrespect to Notre Dame—it earned this trip to the big game—but hardly anyone outside of South Bend believes in the Irish in this matchup.
Losing this game would be so disappointing to those that think Saban is unbeatable on the biggest stage.
Saban doesn't just have to carry the pressure of winning the big game and not losing to an underdog, but he also has an entire conference watching this game closely. If you are new to college football, the SEC has won the last six BCS National Championships.
It is an accomplishment that is really unheard of in college sports and is something the conference as a whole is proud of.
Even though there is only one SEC team in the national championship, the conference comes together and becomes Alabama fans for a day. You may hate the Crimson Tide throughout the regular season and during the recruiting process, but you are rooting for them to keep that remarkable streak intact.
Just like you don't want to be the first team to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers, you certainly don't want to be that SEC team that couldn't get the job done and was responsible for the streak coming to an end.
Nobody wants to be the guy that loses to the newbie. If you consider yourself a video game expert, you don't want to lose to somebody who isn't familiar with the game Madden.
In this case, Brian Kelly is the new guy, as he will be coaching in his first big game of his career. Oh, don't get me wrong, he won a couple of Big East Championships and a couple of titles at Grand Valley State, but this is the big boy league. Coaching in the PapaJohns.com Bowl and Sun Bowl is completely different than coaching in the BCS national championship.
This will be Saban's fourth appearance in the big game and he has already won three of them.
If Saban is Thor, Kelly is more like Aqua Man when it comes to experience. He is completely out of his element and should have a hard time competing against somebody so powerful.
There are rumors of Saban possibly planning a return to the NFL if he wins his fourth championship. It is not known how serious these thoughts may be, but if his team loses to the Irish, you can cancel the idea of him leaving Alabama.
Saban is a perfectionist who will always find something to improve on. His team could play perfectly on both sides of the ball for the entire game and he will complain that they didn't win the coin toss. That's just how he is and it has played a big role in the success he has had as a coach.
However, if you add a loss to Saban's record, it pretty much will tie his hand on pursuing an NFL opportunity. Sure, he still has the right to leave, but knowing how he wants to be the best at everything, he wouldn't leave the program like that.
Saban wants to go out on top whenever that time will be, and a loss doesn't provide that possibility.
It is really no secret on why the SEC has dominated the last decade of college football. The conference recruits better than any other on the planet, which plays a big role in winning football games. Of course, there are other things that play into winning, but if I have better players at every position, I'm beating your team more times than not.
Winning produces better recruiting and a victory in January would take Notre Dame to another level. In fact, even just appearing in the national championship has helped the Irish put together a Top Three recruiting class according to Scout.com.
Players are slowly seeing that they don't have to go down south anymore to compete at the highest level. Many of the players on the current Notre Dame team had offers from top SEC schools, and with the success improving, that list is only going to increase over the years.
It is hard enough for Saban to compete against schools in his own division for elite prospects. A victory for Notre Dame and the school would be on the radar even more than it already is.
In case you forgot, Notre Dame began the regular season as an unranked team in the preseason AP Poll. That means that nobody was giving this team a shot before the season kicked off. It was also awarded with the toughest schedule in the country by many, as there weren't many easy matchups ahead for the Irish.
Nobody had Notre Dame going undefeated, let alone appearing in the national championship. This is a team that had no answer at quarterback and an offense that couldn't stop turning the ball over. Coach Kelly was one more subpar year from being kicked out of town.
Notre Dame wasn't supposed to be this good, this fast. And because of the quick success, this is a team that is playing with house money and really isn’t facing the same pressure to win this game.
As for the Crimson Tide, they are a team that began the year ranked No. 2 and held the top spot for much of the season.
Where would you put Brian Kelly on the list of active coaches right now?
I wrote a couple of months ago that he isn't in the Top Five yet, but possibly could be if he was to win this year’s national championship.
This takes us back to Saban wanting to be the best. Do you really think the Alabama head coach wants to share the spotlight with Kelly at Notre Dame? Would you? There is a reason Saban is the highest paid head coach in the country and that is because he is widely considered the best active coach in college football.
In order to be the best, you have to beat the best and that is what a victory over Alabama would do.
Would it put Kelly at the top of the list?
But it would put him in the conversation and would take some of the bright lights off of Saban.
Saban may not admit it to the world, but I'm sure he is thinking about legendary head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant at this point. The former Alabama coach was ahead of his time and is often referred to as the greatest college football head coach of all time.
He was able to win 14 SEC titles, six national championships and enough Coach of the Year awards to fill a museum.
Saban is putting together an impressive résumé as well and many believe it is only a matter of time before he is considered better than Bryant. In fact, Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report thinks that a victory in January would already put him at the top.
A fourth national title, including three in the last four years, would really open up an interesting discussion. However, on the flip side, a loss could put a dent in this argument, making it almost impossible to overcome.