8:20 PM PST, November 25, 2012
Not one of the Three Amigos left in this year's national title race should be confused with the greatest teams in history.
They shouldn't even be compared with the best teams in their own history.
Notre Dame is hardly better than Lou Holtz's 1988 squad and Alabama can't match the firepower it had in 2009 or even last year.
Georgia doesn't rate with its 1980 championship team unless there's a time machine that allows freshman Herschel Walker to walk through the front door.
The three teams that survived to the final weekend represent the warmed-over best a flawed system can produce.
Notre Dame, a day after capping a 12-0 season, clinched its first regular-season BCS title.
The Fighting Irish are No.1 in this week's anticlimactic standings, followed by Alabama and Georgia, which play for the second BCS title-game spot at next weekend's Southeastern Conference title game in Atlanta.
This year's BCS parlor game is officially closed.
Any number of other left-out schools can be proud and considered serious title threats in any sport with a playoff.
Oregon lost one game, at home, in overtime, to Stanford, and paid the ultimate price.
Florida played its most inspired game of the year at Florida State only hours before Notre Dame's win deflated the Gators faster than a USC equipment kid with a football in his hand.
Texas A&M might be the best team playing right now, with the likely Heisman Trophy winner playing quarterback.
The Aggies lost their SEC opener to Florida by three points in Johnny Manziel's collegiate debut. The kid, it turned out, would steadily improve. Texas A&M also lost at home to Louisiana State, by five points, in a game the Aggies pretty much gave away.
Stanford is a play or two against Washington and Notre Dame from being undefeated and No. 1.
The teams that can still win the BCS title have long histories but also shortcomings.
Alabama will be without Kenny Bell, the team's third receiver lost to injury this year.
It's a shame, for sure, but Coach Nick Saban's motto is no two football days are ever alike.
"This is a process what we do," he said Sunday. "There is no continuum in success. It's an ongoing process."
The schools in the big mix have resiliency in common and also stellar defense. Alabama, Notre Dame and Georgia have combined to surrender 37.25 points per game.
That's better than Baylor's one-team average of 38.55.
Notre Dame is undefeated, No. 1 and has already clinched a spot in this year's title game.
Yet, the Irish may have come closer to losing more games than any team in the top 10.
"Danger is our business" should be Notre Dame's calling card.
"That's how we got to 12-0," Coach Brian Kelly said after Saturday night's 22-13 win over USC. "Our guys have an incredible resolve regardless of the circumstances, of coming up and finding ways to win. We don't talk about style points or anything else. Just find a way to win."
Notre Dame needed a final drive to beat lowly Purdue and had to rally back at home against Brigham Young.
An overtime victory over Stanford was tinged with controversy and the triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh was downright lucky.
Of the Final Three contenders, Notre Dame is by far the most battle-tested.
"We understand you've got to fight," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "There's a reason why there's four quarters."
Alabama doesn't have a dominant pass rusher or a tailback like Mark Ingram (2009) or Trent Richardson (2011).
The Crimson Tide lost at home to Texas A&M and needed a near-miracle to pull victory out at LSU.
Alabama's competition the last two weeks, frankly, has been abysmal. The Crimson Tide beat up on one of the worst Football Championship Subdivision teams in Western Carolina and then, Saturday, an Auburn outfit so dismal the school fired Gene Chizik on Sunday two years after he won the national title.
Alabama didn't control its own destiny, needing every ounce and bounce of Stanford help two weekends ago in Eugene.
The tide has shifted from the SEC champion being locked out of the BCS title one week, to its suddenly being an automatic qualifier.
Georgia masterfully worked the system and the schedule, benefiting from a season's topsy-turvy and the SEC's powerful suction power.
Georgia overcame an embarrassing 35-7 shellacking at South Carolina.
"We lost together and we had to regroup together," Bulldogs Coach Mark Richt said Sunday.
The Bulldogs also own the ugliest win against Florida you'll ever want to see. The schools combined for nine turnovers, with the winning quarterback having three passes intercepted.
Georgia also missed Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M on the regular-season schedule and took on a nonconference slate that had outsiders howling.
The Bulldogs were allowed to play Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech — and get away with it.
Georgia drafted off the SEC's entrails and now finds itself one inspired effort against Alabama from getting to the title game.
The Bulldogs even get to play their biggest game in years in their own state.
The BCS system is what it is — a yearly crapshoot that rises and falls on half a dozen plays throughout the season.
Getting to the end in one or two pieces is the only outcome that matters.
Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick understands how the system doesn't work.
"If we win all our games, we knew that we would at least give us a chance," he said of the BCS system corridor outside his team's locker room at the Coliseum. "Look at us now."
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