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A No. 1 underdog? Kelly says Irish must take Alabama's title

  • Article by: NEWS SERVICES
  • January 6, 2013 - 10:52 PM

MIAMI - Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has no problem with his team being the underdog in Monday night's BCS 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. "... If you're just going to sit back and let it happen to you, it's probably going to pass you by."

Jones should be healthy

Alabama center Barrett Jones, who has dealt with an injured left foot, said he expected to be "100 percent come game time." Monday will mark the 50th career start for the senior, who'll have a tough matchup versus Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III.

"I really think it's about who controls the line of scrimmage," Kelly said.

Polynesian pride

Nose guard Jesse Williams, who made a jump from Australia to Alabama, said he feels a bond with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who is from Hawaii. Te'o concurred, saying it's because both are Polynesian. Te'o said he didn't know Williams' heritage until he saw his tattoos, which he noted provide "a great tale for a Polynesian player."

"Immediately, I knew not only who he was [by his tattoos], but what he stood for because it permeates through every Polynesian player out there," Te'o said.

Big-play Cooper

Tide freshman Amari Cooper has more catches (53), receiving yards (895) and receiving touchdowns (nine) than Alabama's next two leading receivers -- Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones -- combined.

"Coop makes a lot of big plays for us," quarterback AJ McCarron said. "He allows us to spread the ball around the field ... [and] takes the pressure off our other guys and allows them to be in one-on-one opportunities."

Follow the Manziel Plan?

Kelly said the Irish don't go into Monday's championship thinking, "We're gonna Johnny Manziel you to death," referring to the Heisman Trophy winner's success in Texas A&M's victory 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.

Exceeding expectations

Alabama coach Nick 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 are willing to play hard."

Etc.

• Pac-12 officials will handle the BCS Championship Game. Alabama was tied third in the country in fewest penalties per game at 3.8 for 32.8 yards. Notre Dame was tied for 51st at 5.7 penalties per game for 42.9 yards.

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