FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has no problem with his team being the underdog in tonight’s BCS National Championship Game against Alabama even though the Irish are undefeated and ranked No. 1.
“Somebody has got to be an underdog. I would say Alabama has got the belt and they deserve the belt,” he said. “We’ve got to take it from them.”
What will Kelly tell his players in his pregame speech?
“They’re not going to give it to you. As much as you would like for them to give the game over to you, it won’t happen that way,” he said.
“This game, the team that probably makes the most mistakes will win — meaning the team that’s willing to be aggressive and put themselves out there has got a better chance. If you’re just going to sit back and let it happen to you, it’s probably going to pass you by.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban said Sunday morning he hadn’t yet decided which movie his team would watch later that night — a tradition on the eve of a major night game. Before last year’s BCS championship victory, the Crimson Tide watched Red Tails.
Saban couldn’t remember which flick his LSU team watched before winning the 2003 title, but noted, “the message was the honor of being all that you can be — that maybe that might be more important than winning or losing — and that your focus should be on that instead of the outcome.”
Kelly said the Irish don’t go into today’s championship thinking, “We’re gonna Johnny Manziel you to death,” referring to the Heisman Trophy winner’s success in Texas A&M’s win against Alabama. But the Irish are going to have to produce some “big-chunk plays,” which Kelly defined as runs of 15-plus yards and passes for 25-plus yards.
“If we struggle getting big-chunk plays, it’s going to be a long [night],” Kelly said.
Saban said this year’s Tide team has “exceeded expectations” in reaching the championship. Senior defensive end Damion Square noted that the 2010 Tide actually had more NFL-caliber talent than this year’s squad.
“You can have guys with great talent, but if they’re not willing to play and prepare like these guys on this team, then you’ll have the results we had in 2010,” Square said. “We’ve got guys on our team that’s willing to play hard … and just the way these guys respond to the leadership of the team is so big.”