On one side, a blossoming dynasty from the college football capital of the Deep South. On the other, the sport’s most famous team, trying to reclaim its place among the elite.
Notre Dame and Alabama bring star power and power football to the BCS championship.
The matchup became official Sunday night when the final standings were released and, to no one’s surprise, the Fighting Irish were first and the Crimson Tide were second.
The one bit of drama on college football’s selection Sunday was whether Northern Illinois could be this year’s BCS buster. The Huskies got in, getting a spot in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, taking a bid away from Oklahoma and sparking debate about a system that never fails to tick off fans in some way.
The other BCS matchups:
■ Oregon and Kansas State will play in the Fiesta Bowl.
■ Wisconsin and Stanford will meet in the Rose Bowl.
■ Florida and Louisville are set for the Sugar Bowl.
As for the main event in the penultimate Bowl Championship Series, there was little controversy about No. 1 Notre Dame against No. 2 Alabama in Miami.
‘‘The tradition of Alabama and Notre Dame brings special attention to it, but we’re just trying to be the best team on Monday, Jan. 7,’’ Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “All of that tradition, what’s happened in the past, is not going to help us Jan. 7, but we do respect the traditions.’’
The Irish clinched their spot a week ago in Los Angeles by completing a perfect season against rival Southern California. Alabama earned its spot Saturday, beating Georgia, 32-28, in a thrilling Southeastern Conference title game.
Coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are on the verge of one of the great runs in history. Alabama would become the first team to repeat as champs since the BCS began in 1998, and it would be the 11th time a team has won consecutive AP titles since the poll started in 1936.
NIU taps coordinator
Northern Illinois promoted offensive coordinator Rod Carey to head coach, replacing the departed Dave Doeren, who was hired Saturday by North Carolina State after leading NIU (12-1) to Mid-American Conference championships in each of his two seasons . . . Vanderbilt rewarded coach James Franklin with a new contract for leading the Commodores to their best record in 30 years and to consecutive bowls for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt does not discuss contract details, but athletic director David Williams called it a ‘‘long-term’’ contract. Vandy will face North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl . . . Skip Holtz was fired as coach at South Florida after two straight losing seasons. The son of former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz went 16-21 at the Big East school . . . Jerry Moore, who led Appalachian State to an unforgettable upset of Michigan in 2007 and won three straight FCS national championships, won’t return. Moore was 215-87 in 24 seasons.