There are just four bowl games left, and while the Cotton Bowl is setting up to be a classic, the nation's eyes are truly focused on the clash of two college football titans. Notre Dame and Alabama are two heavyweights of the sport's lore, and they bring two of the sport's top fanbases into the mix.
With big transition coming to the sport and a cable deal that needs to prove its worth, college football needs an epic battle out of these two traditional powers.
Transition is very real in the world of college football. The postseason is switching from the much-maligned BCS to a four-team playoff that is not as perfect as the masses wanted to believe it would be. As uncertainty about just how the playoff is going to work out from a details and enjoyment standpoint looms, the sport needs two of its heavy hitters to come out and remind the public why they love college football.
Whether it is the hatred of one team or the love of another, the fact is transition has muddied the waters and it will take on the field of excitement to keep the flames of passion burning bright for the game.
A close game, with both teams battling it out towards a legendary end, would go a long way toward building more of the goodwill that the sport's power brokers need.
A monumental showing will also work to bridge another growing gap: Conferences are shifting, and fans are growing weary of the dance. The Louisville win in the Sugar Bowl went a long way towards building a sense of "ACC solidarity," as Jeffrey Fann of All Sports Discussion noted.
With the Fighting Irish looking to transition into the ACC, including a five-game football deal, a great showing in the BCS Championship Game will help ease some of the ill will towards their "special" deal. People will never truly embrace Irish independence, but if they prove they can run with or even beat the SEC on the big stage, ACC folks will appreciate the deal.
Transition will be smoothed over by a good game, but perhaps more importantly, the sails of the sport will be filled by a great performance. Those sails are the money deals, and cash is truly grown through high ratings. High ratings take a perfect storm of participants and performances; having one or the other works nicely, but when you can have both high-drawing participants and an intriguing performance, you have hit the jackpot.
In the case of Notre Dame and Alabama, we have the perfect storm and are merely waiting for the performance to match the caliber of the participants. The televisions will be turned on, especially if the game is compelling for four quarters, and the ratings will surely be some of the highest of any BCS Championship Game.
Last year's game was a dud—at least, according to the average fan. It was a rematch many folks did not want and a game that was ultimately a blowout by the Crimson Tide. People did not turn on their televisions, and those who did turned away from the game as the outcome was decided.
However, the 2012 BCS Championship Game was still cable's highest-rated program of the year, per John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal.
The most watched show on cable last year: the Alabama-LSU BCS Championship game, which had an audience of 24.4 million viewers.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) January 4, 2013
A big number this year will help grow the future earnings of the sport. The terms are set for the immediate future, but as the numbers college football posts from a ratings standpoint continue to dominate other programming, the game sees increased earnings potential. College football is, without a doubt, the nation's second-favorite sport to watch.
Every time great ratings get backed up by more great ratings, the sport becomes more valuable.
Whether it is smoothing transition or helping to grow the value of the sport, college football needs this game in a big way. A great showing will help push the sport further as it continues to solidify itself as America's second-favorite game, just behind the behemoth that is the NFL.