The 2021 Rose Bowl will feature two of college football’s most historic programs, Alabama and Notre Dame. Less than a month ago, these were the top two teams in the country, but that was before the Fighting Irish met Clemson in the ACC title game.
Even after a lopsided 24-point loss in that game, ND is still generating plenty of storylines. The Crimson Tide may currently be a 20-plus-point favorite, but both teams have something to prove on Friday.
For Notre Dame, it’s obvious: Get over the top and earn some respect. In important postseason games, the Irish have turned out poor performance after poor performance, including a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the 2013 BCS Championship.
At the very least, Brian Kelly needs to have this squad competitive. He said earlier in the week that his team had nothing to prove, but that is complete nonsense and we all know it. Notre Dame has everything to prove. Another beatdown would only give the same ol’ narrative new life.
The Tide, on the other hand, also need to make a statement. Ever since that 44-16 loss to Clemson in the 2019 College Football Championship, there has been talk that the program is in decline. Still competitive, but no longer the powerhouse it once was under Nick Saban.
Here we are two years later, and Alabama still hasn’t made that “we’re still here” statement — at least not yet. Their recent championship drought has not yet affected recruiting. They finished with the No. 2 class in 2020 before signing arguably its best class ever in 2021.
Solid work, but it’s still not the type of statement we’re looking for.
The Crimson Tide are the only undefeated team with double-digit wins in the Playoff, yet another sign that this program isn’t ready to go away. But they have an opportunity today to prove that they don’t just produce great recruiting classes and good regular season records.
It’s still about championships.
A dominant game against Notre Dame would make this team the national title favorite on Monday, Jan. 11. Would it be the official statement? No, that will have to come in the final game against Clemson or Ohio State, but a subtle “we’re coming” wouldn’t hurt.
Clemson beat this Notre Dame team 34-10 less than two weeks ago. Let’s see how things end for them against Alabama in the Rose Bowl.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.