by Mark Pattison,Catholic News Service | Jan. 7, 2013
Washington -- As Notre Dame prepares to play Alabama on Monday in college football's Bowl Championship Series title game, it seems like the clash of the titans.
Alabama has won nine titles -- at least, first-place rankings in the polls -- since the "bowl era" began in the 1930s. Notre Dame has won eight, though its fortunes in the last two decades have waxed and waned. But nobody disputes that Notre Dame was king of the hill in college football before the proliferation of bowl games, when Knute Rockne and the Fighting Irish -- with a possible assist from Touchdown Jesus looking over Notre Dame Stadium -- took on all comers and beat most of them year in and year out.
Notre Dame's rise as a football power paralleled the rise of Irish-Americans, an overwhelmingly Catholic population, in U.S. culture both economically and socially, according to Edward O'Donnell, a historian and associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.