The wait has seemed interminable, but only 10 days stand between now and the BCS National Championship Game between Notre Dame and Alabama.
The long rest is as trying for the public as it is for the players, but it gives us a chance to take an extra close look at the matchup, to put a fine-toothed comb under the lens of a microscope and analyze each and every aspect of the game.
Here's a look at how each team grades out position by position:
Everett Golson has had a remarkable sophomore season for the Irish. With 2,440 total yards and 16 touchdowns, he's given the anemic Notre Dame offense more than they could have ever hoped for.
This is still a giant mismatch.
Last season, Alabama sort of worked around McCarron en route to a national championship. He wasn't good enough to lead an offense, only good enough to manage one. But this season, McCarron's been handed the keys to the car, and he's driven it with efficiency and aplomb. He even got voted third-team All-American.
McCarron's made the leap from very good to great, while Golson is left on a lower tier. There's no two ways about it.
This one is much more contentious.
Notre Dame has a pair of 700-yard rushers, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Wood has been particularly potent, averaging 6.7 yards on his 110 carries.
But Alabama has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Both men average over six yards per carry, and both have over 10 touchdowns. And, unlike their Notre Dame counterparts, they've done so against SEC competition, too.
Alabama doesn't have the plethora of receiving threats they've enjoyed in the past. Amari Cooper, the freshman who's drawn comparisons to Julio Jones, stands out, but the rest fade into the background.
Notre Dame's skill guys are hardly anything to write home about, either. T.J. Jones, their leading wide receiver, hasn't recorded a single 100-yard game. Heck, he's only eclipsed 60 yards but once!
But Notre Dame gets the slight advantage thanks to tight end Tyler Eifert. The 6'6'' senior and projected first- or second-round pick, was the best tight end in college football this year. He led the Irish in both receptions and yards, but he's no slouch as a blocker in the running game, either.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Notre Dame has Braxton Cave, a third-team All-American at center and a host of other big, serviceable bodies.
But, much like the quarterback position, this one's not even close.
In Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, Alabama has college football's undisputed best center-guard combination; both guys were elected first-team All-Americans, and both could be drafted in the first round come April.
They've also got D.J. Fluker, a massive junior tackle, who was a second-team All-American.
The OL is not a weakness at Notre Dame, but the Tide have a big advantage in this area.
As is expected under Nick Sabam, the Tide have a host of big, angry, talented defensive lineman. But they lack the true superstar they've had in recent years.
Notre Dame has no such problem. Stephon Tuitt was chosen second-team All-American (opposite Damontre Moore of Texas A&M—a projected top-five pick in the NFL draft).
In the middle, Junior nose tackle Louis Nix has exploded onto the scene—though his omission from any of the All-American teams is considered by some to quite a snub.
The battle between Notre Dame's defensive line and Alabama's offensive line will be one of Goliath vs. Goliath.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Do you go with depth, or do you go with star power?
Alabama's linebacker corps is certainly deeper. Between Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley, the latter of which was a first-team All-American, they have two of the best linebackers in college football.
But Notre Dame has the best linebacker in college football. By a wide margin.
In fact, Manti Te'o might be one of the best linebackers in college football history. The unit as a whole isn't as talented, but they feed off his precision, tenacity and leadership.
He makes them better than they could be and, subsequently, better than Alabama.
Advantage: Notre Dame
The Irish secondary was supposed to be a weakness, but developed instead into a point of strength.
That holds particularly true at corner, where Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell have met, and thoroughly exceeded, all conceivable expectations.
But Alabama's just got too many horses. Their secondary is equal parts violent and nimble, capable of shutting down any type of receiver.
The key is cornerback Dee Milliner, a first-team All-American and the best shutdown cornerback in college football. He's projected as a top-ten pick come April and could easily overwhelm T.J. Jones.