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Bama-Notre Dame poised to set viewing records for ESPN

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ESPN's Brent Musberger is interviewed about the BCS National Championship Game, which he will be calling for the network Monday night. (Source: RNN/Tom Ensey) ESPN's Brent Musberger is interviewed about the BCS National Championship Game, which he will be calling for the network Monday night. (Source: RNN/Tom Ensey)

MIAMI (RNN) - Monday's game between Notre Dame and Alabama is a dream match for the gang at ESPN, the once and future holders of Bowl Championship Series broadcast rights.

Alabama and Notre Dame stir emotions, a lot of them bad. And that's good if you're in the TV business. A few years back, Texas and Southern California, two other marquee names in college football, played for the national title in the Rose Bowl and about 22 percent of all the TV sets in America tuned in.

No other BCS game comes close to that sort of saturation. But records are made to be broken. This game's numbers could enter that stratospheric realm - at least that's the hope.

The reason: There are a bunch of Alabama and Notre Dame fans. And there are probably even more fans who hate Alabama and Notre Dame. Those people will be tuning in hoping for one or the other to lose.

Brent Musberger, who'll be handling play-by-play for the BCS Championship Game again, said Notre Dame brings in the marginal fans, who know the brand name if not the name of the starting defensive end. The Fighting Irish haven't won a national title in almost a quarter-century, but in three years, head coach Brian Kelly has them one win away from a championship.

Alabama was in an almost identical situation when Nick Saban directed the Tide to the 2009 national title in his third year at the school. The Crimson Tide had fallen out of the national picture, and now has returned to dominance.

Saban is a polarizing figure. The people who love him, love him. The ones who don't, definitely don't.

A lot of people in South Florida, where he had an abortive tenure as coach of the Miami Dolphins, really hate him. The game is being played in Miami. (A lot of old-school, Miami Hurricane fans hate Notre Dame, too, and think they got cheated in the 1988 national championship game. That clash produced the notorious "Catholics vs. Convicts" T-Shirt and a controversial call that led to a Notre Dame victory over UM for the Irish's last national title.)

Saban has led Alabama to two of the last three national championships, including last year's, and is on the verge of establishing a dynasty. The Southeastern Conference has won the last six. Plenty of college fans of every other conference would be delighted to see an SEC team lose to anybody Monday at Sun Life Stadium.

Many people feel the same way about Notre Dame. They're seen as special. They have their own TV contract. They get all the love from the media.

"It's like the New York Yankees," Musberger said. "A lot of people are for their team and any team that's playing the Yankees. Well, a lot of people feel the same way about Alabama and Notre Dame."

All that historical bad blood will bring in viewers with a touch of gray.

For young fans in the age of PlayStation, Twitter and satellite radio, waking up the echoes may have as much to do with good-guy, bad-guy match-ups. The World Wrestling Federation made a fortune using the time-honored formula, Musberger pointed out.

"This is, to me, the ultimate match-up in college football," he said.

His broadcast partner, Kirk Herbstreit, said the waning days of the Bowl Championship Series have produced some great match-ups, and this one may be the best. Next year is the final season under the current format, where a cabal of polls and computers generate the two top teams in the country for a national title game.

"It's rewarding to see when the system works," Herbstreit said.

In 2014, the system will move to a four-team playoff format. That's going to be really sweet, too, Herbstreit said.

"If it were this year, imagine Oregon after their game (clobbering Kansas State mercilessly in the Fiesta Bowl), sitting in waiting to play the winner of this one."

NOTEWORTHY:

ESPN will have 39 cameras on the field for Monday's BCS National Championship Game. Dozens of support staff. Those include the high-speed, super slo-mos, the 3D ones, the spider cam, the sky cam, and so forth.

Ordinary listeners might not notice, but the audio will be enhanced. You'd notice if they turned it off in the middle of the game, said coordinating producer Ed Placey.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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