As preparations continue for their BCS National Championship matchup with Alabama, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are excited for the opportunity to play the defending national champions. As JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com reported, head coach Brian Kelly correctly called the Crimson Tide "the benchmark for college football" Wednesday. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said Alabama is standing at the top of the mountain, waiting for the Irish to knock them off:
"The fact of the matter is Alabama is king of the hill. Have you ever played King of the Hill? Did you walk up the hill and knock the guy off? That's what we've gotta do. They're King of the Hill. They set the precedent for defensive football in the country."
Despite a 12-0 regular season that featured wins over Oklahoma, Stanford, and Southern Cal, Notre Dame is a double-digit underdog against the reigning SEC champions. An SEC participant has won every BCS National Championship game since 2007, and Alabama has won two of the previous three championship games. As Fighting Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix said, the game gives the Irish a chance to measure themselves against the nation's best:
"A team from the SEC, a team like Alabama, coached by Nick Saban, those guys will make you better all around. I'm just happy we get a chance to play these guys in the National Championship."
Nix will have one of the most difficult assignments of all, squaring off with Alabama center Barret Jones. The Crimson Tide center won the Rimington Award this year and the Outland Trophy as a left tackle in 2011.
Notre Dame plays for its first national championship in 24 years on Jan. 7 in Miami.