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“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 Sunday night. “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 regular season against rival Southern California.

Alabama earned its spot Saturday, beating Georgia 32-28 in a thrilling Southeastern Conference title game.

The program that coach Paul Bryant turned into an SEC behemoth in the 1960s and `70s, winning five national championships and sharing another during his tenure, is again dominating college football with a modern-day version of the Bear leading the way in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

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 was implemented in 1998, and it would be the 11th time a team has won consecutive AP titles since the poll started in 1936. Alabama is already one of seven programs to repeat. The Tide has done it twice. Notre Dame is another.

Alabama also won the 2009 BCS championship under Saban. The last team to win three major national titles in four seasons was Nebraska, which went back-to-back in 1994 and `95 and finished No. 1 in the final coaches’ poll in 1997.

In a world full of spread-the-field, hurry-up offenses, Alabama is a bastion of traditional football.

The Tide put its no-frills muscle on display Saturday, mashing Georgia with 350 yards rushing, behind tailbacks Eddie lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

The Tide has been more potent offensively this season than last to make up for a defense that has slipped, but only a bit. Alabama leads the nation in total defense (246 yards per game) and is second in points allowed (10.7 per game).

When Kelly was hired at Notre Dame three years ago, he looked at Alabama and the SEC, which has won six straight BCS titles, and decided the Irish needed to play like that.

Kelly built his reputation and winning teams at previous stops on fast-paced spread offenses. In South Bend, Ind., he has put the fight back in the Irish, who have won eight AP national titles _ only Alabama has as many _ but none since 1988.

Notre Dame has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the country (10) and is sixth overall in total defense (286 yards per game).

“It’s clear that the formation of any great program is going to be on its defense,” Kelly said. “If you play great defense you’ve got a chance. For us to move Notre Dame back into national prominence we had to develop a defense.”

The face of the Irish isn’t a strong-armed quarterback or speedy ball carrier. It’s middle linebacker Manti Te’o, a 255-pound offense wrecker with a nose for the ball. The senior has seven interceptions and is a likely Heisman finalist.

Te’o, 300-pound linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix have formed a red-zone wall for the Irish. Late goal-line stands highlighted victories against Stanford and USC.

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