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Irish should give Tide a challenge


December 15, 2012
By John Hartsock ( , The Altoona Mirror

Penn State and unbeaten Ohio State are both staying home for the college football bowl season, but it will hardly be an uneventful one.

Notre Dame is once again relevant, bidding for its first national championship since 1989. The undefeated Fighting Irish (12-0) meet Alabama (12-1) for all the marbles in the Jan. 7 showdown in Miami.

It's the most interesting game on this postseason's docket, but many others are in store as well. From this viewpoint, these are the top four, with date, site, and television listing:

1.) Notre Dame vs. Alabama, BCS championship game, Jan. 7, Miami, ESPN: Brian Kelly earned the National Coach of the Year award after leading the Fighting Irish, who started this year unranked, to an unbeaten season. Granted, the Irish survived a triple-overtime marathon against Pitt and benefited from an iffy goal-line call against Stanford. But Notre Dame also posted signature road wins at Oklahoma and USC. The Crimson Tide's lone blemish was a home loss to Texas A&M and sensational freshman quarterback Johnny "Football" Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. 'Bama opened as an 8-point favorite in this game, but look for Notre Dame to make it a lot closer.

2.) Kansas State vs. Oregon, Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 3, ESPN: A pair of 11-1 offensive juggernauts meet in what should be a spectator's delight.

3.) Stanford vs. Wisconsin, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Cal. Jan. 1, ESPN: Coach David Shaw said that his 11-2 Cardinal believes it can beat any team in the country, and after late-season wins at Oregon and UCLA, it's difficult to argue. Badgers - who have lost coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas - are a tough team to figure, looking shoddy one week and terrific the next.

4.)Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma, Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Jan. 4, FOX: Back in the day, the Cotton Bowl was one of the premier college bowls. More matchups like this one between the Aggies and Sooners, who are both 10-2, will help bring this game back. Manziel's emergence helped A&M make its mark in its debut season in the Southeastern Conference.

(John Hartsock can be reached at

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