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December 2, 2012

‘We wanted Alabama'

Zeke Motta watched from his couch on Saturday, tuning into the final minutes of Alabama’s SEC Championship victory over Georgia. When the clock ran out on the Bulldogs it locked the Irish and Crimson Tide into a date at the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.

Sun Life Stadium is exactly where the senior safety wanted to close his college career. And Alabama is exactly the program Motta wanted to close it against.

“We wanted Alabama and I think we got what we wanted,” Motta said. “Because dethroning the old national champions, it will be a good challenge for us.”

Motta didn’t predict an upset of the Crimson Tide, but he guaranteed that Alabama represents the kind of challenge Notre Dame craves. Being a potentially double-digit underdog doesn’t bother Motta either. In fact, he expects to use it during the next five weeks.

“That makes you want to go out and prove everybody wrong,” Motta said. “I’ve never really had a reward like this quite in my life. It means a lot. It’s really exciting for sure. I just can’t wait. Can’t wait to play in it.”

Notre Dame’s players didn’t assemble to watch the SEC title game on Saturday afternoon, but impressions of the Crimson Tide came quickly and hit hard. Alabama’s offensive line, which paved the way for 350 yards rushing against Georgia, stood out. So did the Crimson Tide’s defensive line and the program’s championship game experience.

What Alabama didn’t resemble to Notre Dame was another brand of football, despite the considerable SEC hype earned by six straight national championships. Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore wouldn’t call the Crimson Tide line the best the Irish have faced this year, although he came away impressed on Saturday.

“I think they’re a lot similar to Stanford,” Lewis-Moore said. “Playing Stepfan Taylor, he’s a real physical back. He’s always moving forward. They have a lot of similar running styles I think.”

Crimson Tide tailbacks Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon became the first pair of backs to both go over 100 yards in an SEC title game. They both finished the season with 1,000 yards, Yeldon’s performance against Georgia putting him exactly on the number.
If Alabama beats Notre Dame it would be the first repeat champion of the BCS era. Florida State, Miami and USC have all advanced to the title game as college football’s defending champion under the BCS format only to lose during their shot at back-to-back championships.

“They’re the defending champs,” said running back Theo Riddick. “To have them come back this year, we’re very ecstatic about this challenge. What else can I say? You want to beat the best. We have that chance.”

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