Chris Dufresne / On College Football

Luck has been, and could be, a factor for Notre Dame and Alabama

Truth is, you need luck to win championships.

Alabama had its fair share in 2009 and again last year when it advanced to the title game without winning its own division.

The Southeastern Conference isn't playing its seventh straight BCS title game just because it is the nation's best conference. It also needed some fairy dust.

"People are probably getting tired of us," Alabama center Barrett Jones acknowledged this week. "That's all right, we don't really mind."

And he shouldn't — but he should also count his lucky stars.

The Crimson Tide saw its title hopes seemingly dashed this season after a home loss to two-loss Texas A&M, only to get back in because Oregon lost a heartbreaker to two-loss Stanford.

Is one-loss Alabama really better than one-loss Oregon?

Maybe, maybe not, but those are the breaks.

Now that both teams have arrived, you can go with the odds or just assume anything can happen.

Miami discovered a decade ago that Ohio State wasn't listening to sports-talk radio or reading the papers.

Monday's game is drenched in history and a lot of history suggests it could go either way.

Alabama and Notre Dame have their differences in counting national championships. Alabama claims 14 while Notre Dame's consideration of only "consensus" crowns puts the Irish ahead, 11-10. Notre Dame claims it leads Alabama, 21-18, using all polls since 1900.

The easiest way to settle is to note each program has eight Associated Press titles — and no other school has more.

Both schools play intense defense and are intelligently, and exactingly, coached.

Saban is one of the game's great organizers and mind manipulators. He showed his team a video of New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera to emphasize the focus it takes to close out an opponent.

"Three outs," Saban said. "How am I going to get three outs?"

Kelly doesn't yet have Saban's pedigree, but he's working on it.

Kelly won national titles at Division II Grand Valley State, but those were different.

"We were staying at a Best Western," he said Sunday. "I don't know that anyone knew where we were."

Kelly, trying to win a national title in his third year at Notre Dame, has used each close win as a bonding exercise.

"Fighting Irish, that's who we are," Kelly said. "We're going to battle you."

Kelly is a pragmatist who thinks things happen for a reason.

"So if it's destiny, that's fine by me," he said. "I have not built any program based upon we're going to get good luck."

He probably won't mind, though, if any more comes his way.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Twitter: @DufresneLATimes

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