Notre Dame vs. Alabama in BCS title game

For the third time in four years, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide playing for the BCS national championship, this time in a matchup against another storied program in Notre Dame.

When the final BCS polls were released Sunday night, undefeated Notre Dame (12-0) claimed a 0.998 BCS average for the top spot, followed by Alabama's (12-1) 0.944 due its thrilling 32-28 victory over Georgia in the SEC title game.

With Notre Dame idle on Saturday, the Tide and Bulldogs were essentially playing in a de facto national semifinal, something that will finally come to fruition in two years when a four-team playoff system goes into effect.

But this season it's the Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide battling at Miami's Sun Life Stadium on Jan. 7 for all the marbles.

"It's always a special occasion to play against Notre Dame, especially for the national championship," Saban said.

Both Notre Dame and Alabama have captured eight AP national titles, the Tide winning two of the past three. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has not won a title of any kind since 1988 -- the only other time the program has been 12-0.

Alabama is trying to become the first back-to-back BCS national champions after defeating LSU, 21-0, in the final game last year. It was the sixth straight season an SEC school won the title.

Notre Dame, unranked before the season, finished No. 1 in both human polls and the computers. The Fighting Irish, who have lost all three of their previous BCS bowl games, are 5-1 all-time against the Tide, though the two have not met since 1987.

The Irish defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to win the 1973 title.

Following its loss on Saturday, Georgia fell from No. 3 in the BCS poll, with Florida moving up one spot to guarantee a BCS bowl appearance as an at-large entry.

Rounding out the top-10 were Oregon, Kansas State, Stanford, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina.