1 Notre Dame is attempting for the first time to win a national title after not even being ranked in the AP poll to open the season. The lowest it had ever been ranked entering a season and then winning the national championship was No. 13 in 1988. The Fighting Irish could become the first team since Brigham Young in 1984 to go from unranked at the start to No. 1 at the finish. Clemson also achieved the feat in 1981.
Everett Golson could become only the second quarterback at Notre Dame to win his first 11 starts.
2 Notre Dame players on the current roster, junior receiver TJ Jones and sophomore reserve guard Conor Hanratty, who could become the third father-son tandem to win a football national title at Notre Dame. Andre Jones, who passed away in 2011, was a sophomore outside linebacker on the ’88 unit, while Terry Hanratty was the sophomore starting quarterback for the ’66 champs. The other one we know of is 1949 Heisman winner Leon Hart and son Kevin, a backup tight end for the 1977 national champs.
3 Teams have tried to repeat as national champs since the advent of the BCS era — and all three lost: Florida State (1999) lost to Oklahoma in 2000, Miami (2001) fell to Ohio State in 2002, and USC (2004) was vanquished by Texas in 2005. Can Alabama make it 0-4 against Notre Dame?
Well, if Bear Bryant could be 0-4 against Notre Dame … why not?
4 Speaking of 4-0 … Alabama’s Nick Saban is attempting to become only the second coach ever to record a 4-0 ledger against Notre Dame after winning his first three versus the Fighting Irish (1997-99) as Michigan State’s boss. He would join Ara Parseghian, who did it at Northwestern from 1959-62.
5 Notre Dame is 4-0-1 in its five No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups when the Fighting Irish were ranked No. 1 by the AP. The victories were against both Michigan and Iowa Pre-Flight in 1943, USC in 1988 and Michigan in 1989, with the tie versus Michigan State in 1966.
6 Games Notre Dame played away from its stadium this season, and it committed only three turnovers in them: an interception in the opener versus Navy and two fumbles at Boston College on Nov. 10. The Fighting Irish did not commit a turnover in road games at Michigan State, versus Miami, Oklahoma and at USC. That might be an under-the-radar stat … but it’s how teams go 12-0.
7 You may have heard that the SEC is vying for its seventh consecutive national title (no other has won more than three in a row). You may have also heard that Notre Dame is renowned as the most renowned sports program to end streaks.
8 Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 in eight different defensive categories, most of them relating to the red zone:
• Scoring Defense (10.33)
• Rushing TDs allowed (2)
• Yards Allowed Per Pass Completion (9.7)
• Red Zone TDs Allowed Percentage (24.24)
• Points Allowed Per Red-Zone Trip (2.9)
• Total Red-Zone TDs Allowed (8)
• Red-Zone Points Allowed (95)
• Red-Zone Rushing TDs Allowed (2)
9 Of the nearly 2,800 players for Notre Dame who saw at least one second of action, only nine are from the state of Alabama, including walk-on split end Chet Hollister (1989, 1991). The first scholarship recruit was reserve defensive tackle Herman Hooten in 1968 (played in 1970-71), while reserve fullback Rodney Morris (1980-82) represented the 1980s.
The 1990s featured USA Today first-team All-American defensive lineman Melvin Dansby (1993, 1995-97), and the 1996 recruiting class had quarterback Eric Chappell (1997-98 before transferring) and offensive tackle Matt Brennan (1997-99).
The most famous is Kellyton native Justin Tuck, who signed in 2001, has recorded the most career sacks at Notre Dame since 1982 (24.5) and is currently a Pro Bowl performer and two-time Super Bowl champion for the New York Giants.
The 2003 class reeled in linebacker Mitchell Thomas (2004-06) and corner LaBrose “Spiderman” Hedgemon (2005), who eventually transferred.
And while we're at it ... the winner of this game will be the record 9th AP national champion since the poll's inception in 1936.
10 Sophomore Everett Golson (notice he’s not referred to as a freshman like Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel) joins Hall-of-Famer Bob Williams, who helped the Irish to the 1949 national title, as the only two Irish QBs to win their first 10 starts. If Golson directs the victory against the Crimson Tide, he would tie Williams’ standard for most consecutive wins as a starter at the beginning of his career.
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