College football's title game is set. All football fans have to do now is endure the interminable wait until Jan. 7 when No. 1 ranked Notre Dame plays No. 2 Alabama for the BCS Championship. The final BCS rankings were released Sunday night.
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, the teams are set for college football's title game. Now, all we have to do is wait until next year - January 7, to be precise - for the players to actually take the field. That's when number one ranked Notre Dame will play number two Alabama for the BCS championship. BCS is the Bowl Championship Series, by the way. The final BCS rankings were released last night, and there were a few surprises. And we're going to hear about them from NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
Tom, good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello, David.
GREENE: Well, let's start with the big game that we'll all be anticipating - Notre Dame, Alabama. Two, you know, legendary college football programs. Are we going to start hearing all the old players and coaches coming out to talk about this?
GOLDMAN: Well, you have to fill more than a month here, David, so absolutely we'll be hearing about Knute Rockne and Bear Bryant. But even if the game were next weekend, you'd be hearing those names and others, and all about the history of these programs. Since the beginning of the so-called poll era in 1936 - that's where year end polls determined rankings - Alabama has won the most national championships with nine. Notre Dame is second with eight. Also, the two teams have played each other six times, all between 1973 and 1987. Notre Dame has won five of the six.
GREENE: What's a preview? What do you expect?
GOLDMAN: I hope you like your power football, David.
GREENE: I do. I do.
GOLDMAN: Both offenses favor the run. The defenses are stifling. The star for Notre Dame, its most recognizable player, is a linebacker, Manti Te'o, who many believe should win the Heisman Trophy. But it's still going to be a tall order for Notre Dame. Alabama is so strong in all facets of the game, as it showed in its dramatic SEC Championship Game win over Georgia Saturday night.
If Alabama wins, that'll be three titles in the last four years. And the last team to do that was Nebraska back in the 1990s.
GREENE: So in the final important poll, the BCS rankings, there were some surprises. And probably the biggest in Northern Illinois. I mean, you don't see a school with a small program like that break in, you know, in the top echelon that often.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, yeah, the party crashers, the Huskies. They did that by beating Kent State in the Mid-American Conference championship game Friday. Northern Illinois vaulted from number 21 in the rankings to number 15. And they had to finish in the top 16 and finish ahead of at least one conference champ from one of college football's big conferences. Northern Illinois did that. As a result, they will play in the Orange Bowl versus Florida State.
And Oklahoma gets bumped from a BCS bowl game. There will be anger in Oklahoma, but what would a BCS system be without anger somewhere?
GREENE: And, Tom, we have to talk this morning about what was really a tragic weekend in the National Football League; that the Kansas City Chief linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, and then shot and killed himself in front of his head coach. A lot of people thought the Chiefs shouldn't even be on the field yesterday, but they played their game. I mean, how did everything play out?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, they did. And ironically played perhaps their best game of the season, beating the Carolina Panthers. It was a half empty stadium. Some fans held up signs related to the shootings. There was a moment of silence to remember victims of domestic violence. There was that harsh criticism of the game being played. There was talk potentially linking Jovan Belcher's behavior to repeated head injuries, although it's disputed whether he had a history of concussions.
And last night on NBC, sportscaster Bob Costas spoke and made a strong statement condemning guns. It angered a lot of viewers, who said Costas turned Sunday Night Football into a forum on the Second Amendment. Others praised him for doing that.
The game did go on, though. Romeo Crennel, the coach, said we're football players and football coaches and that's what we do. We play on Sunday.
GREENE: An emotional day in the NFL. Tom, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
GREENE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
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