RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
College football's present and past collide in tonight's BSC title game. Two of the most storied programs in history - Alabama and Notre Dame - face off in Miami to decide the season's champion. There is a lot at stake. The Alabama Crimson Tide is trying to confirm dynasty status by winning its third title in four years. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are trying to cap an undefeated season by showing they're more than a fabled name that hasn't been great on the field for a couple of decades.
NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman is in Miami. Good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So there's a tremendous amount of hype and also history behind this game, but for all the anticipation, Tom, I gather fans are in for a night of grind-it-out meat and potatoes football.
GOLDMAN: You are correct. All the football experts are saying this game is going to be won in the trenches where the big offensive and defensive lines collide. In fact, college football writer John Brandon says the match-up will be a startling collision of agile beef, as he calls it. In particular when Alabama has the ball.
Its tremendous offensive line is led by Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack. They are run blockers extraordinaire. Opposite them, the Notre Dame defensive front seven - that's the Fighting Irish strength - with linebacker Manti Te'o, a Heisman trophy finalist and 300-pound defensive lineman Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt - an absolute wall.
Notre Dame gave up the fewest points per game - 10.3 - of any team in the nation, gave up only two rushing touchdowns. Alabama scored 35 rushing touchdowns this season, so something's got to give. And Renee, a challenge to viewers. Instead of watching the ball like we naturally do, see how long you can watch the lines and figure out who's winning the battle there.
MONTAGNE: But still, Tom, there will be a lot of attention focused on the - what's known as skill positions - quarterbacks, running backs, receivers. How do the teams match up in those categories?
GOLDMAN: Well, Alabama has two runners - Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon; both gained at least a thousand yards this season. Alabama also has a very experienced quarterback in A.J. McCarron. He's a junior and he's already got one national title to his credit. Notre Dame has a young quarterback, Everett Golson, who some are saying could be the wild card in this game.
He runs well, and Alabama's defense, as good as it is, has had some trouble with mobile quarterbacks. Golson's favorite passing target is Tyler Eifert, and he could be a tough guy for Alabama to cover.
MONTAGNE: Then just finally, there's that tradition that both of these teams have trailing behind them. Could we go so far as to say that there's a cultural rivalry going on here in this game?
GOLDMAN: Oh, I think that's safe to say. When I got to the airport here, I watched two Alabama fans interact with the traditional Roll Tide exchange. Then one of them followed up with: Roll Republicans. Indiana, home to Notre Dame, voted Republican in last year's presidential election. But there is still a North/South red/blue kind of chippiness going on, and actually beyond chippiness, Alabama fans are steamed about this t-shirt that Notre Dame fans have been wearing leading up to tonight's game.
It says Catholics versus Cousins, a reference to a nasty stereotype of Southerners marrying within the family. Notre Dame fans see virtue in their football program for its success on the field and for the high ethical standards that are supposed to accompany that success. Notre Dame haters, including BamaNation, see arrogance. So it goes, Renee, at the BSC National Championship.
MONTAGNE: All right. Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman speaking to us from Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.