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Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Alabama plays for history

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Nebraska football fans probably don't even remember that former Cornhuskers quarterback Tommie Frazier never played a down in the NFL. His pro career consisted of playing for only one season with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

Nick Saban
A victory over Notre Dame would put Nick Saban's team among some elite company.

But Nebraska fans will always remember Frazier leading the Cornhuskers to back-to-back national championships in 1994 and '95.

In the 1995 Orange Bowl, Frazier came off the bench to rally Nebraska back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter of a 24-17 victory over Miami. It was the Cornhuskers' first national title since 1971 and their first under legendary coach Tom Osborne. Frazier had spent much of the 1994 regular season on the sideline recovering from a blood clot in his leg.

The next season, Frazier was dominant in Nebraska's 62-24 rout of Florida in the Fiesta Bowl, running for 199 yards and passing for 105, to win a national championship again.

"People love winners," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who coached the Gators in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl and then won a national championship the next season. "Fans always remember the guys who win titles. Championships are what it's all about."

So much so that years from now, Texas fans probably won't even remember how former Longhorns quarterback Vince Young's pro career flamed out after only six seasons in the NFL. But they'll always remember Young throwing for 267 yards and running for 200, including the winning 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left, in a 41-38 victory over USC in the Rose Bowl. Thanks to Young's performance, Texas won its first national championship since 1970.

Likewise, most Florida fans would probably prefer to forget the inauspicious start to former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow's NFL career. But they'll always remember he was a part of Florida teams that won national championships in 2006 and '08.

It's that kind of legacy Alabama's players can establish when the No. 2 Crimson Tide play No. 1 Notre Dame in the Jan. 7 Discover BCS National Championship in Miami. With a victory, Alabama can become the sport's first back-to-back consensus national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95, as well as the first school to win three national titles in the BCS era (the Tide also won in 2009).

"I'm really proud of what this class has been able to accomplish, and they have sort of an unprecedented opportunity to accomplish something of significance with the next game that we play," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama's senior class is already one of the most successful in the sport's history. The Crimson Tide have won 60 games over the past five seasons, the most in league history and tied with Nebraska (1993-97) for the most in major college football history. The Tide have won 48 games over the past four seasons; they can break the SEC record they share with Florida (2006-09) and tie the NCAA record of 49 shared by Nebraska (1994-97) and Boise State (2006-09) if they defeat Notre Dame.

"To be a part of something like this is great," Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy said. "As a football player, you couldn't ask for anything more than what we've accomplished here in the past few years. And coming when the program was kind of shaky and seeing what it is now, it's been a complete turnaround. Coach Saban has come in here and turned the whole program around, and we've been on a roll ever since."

Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy saw the chance to be part of Alabama's turnaround.

With one more victory, the Crimson Tide can establish themselves as one of the most dominant teams of the modern era. Perhaps even alongside the greatest dynasties in the sport's history -- Oklahoma in the 1950s and Alabama in the 1960s.

"In one of our team meetings, [senior guard] Chance Warmack brought that up," Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "He said if we repeat, we have a chance to be a dynasty and be like the Miami teams in the '80s. For a lot of players, that really hit home. That's a big accomplishment. That's something you can look back on 20 and 30 years from now and say that you were a part of that. That's one of the great things about playing for Alabama. You always have that chance to be great."

Of course, Alabama has to beat Notre Dame to even spark the dynasty debate.

"We try not to think about legacies and dynasties and those words," senior center Barrett Jones said. "But it is important to us. My class, when we came here, wanted to change the culture of Alabama football. That's what Coach [Saban] wanted to do, too, change the way people perceive us, and we've obviously done that and will continue to do it, hopefully, in this game."