— FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Brian Kelly walked off the tarmac, hopped aboard one of Notre Dame's team buses that bore his image on the side and grinned broadly as he sat in the driver's seat.
Soon, the Notre Dame coach will know if his team — or Alabama — will finish college football's season in that proverbial spot.
The top-ranked Fighting Irish landed in South Florida on Wednesday, not long before the arrival of the second-ranked Crimson Tide. The teams meet Monday night to decide the BCS championship, a matchup that was set more than a month ago, the hype growing with each passing day.
"Going to play the national championship game in Miami, it's not like any trip that they've had before," Kelly said. "It's not like any trip that I've had before. And so there was an anticipation that when we got on the buses to the airport that they were really excited about this trip. It's something that you dream about when you play this game and when you coach this game."
For Notre Dame — at least for this current batch of Fighting Irish — this is all new, as one of the game's most storied programs has not won the national title since the 1988 season. For Alabama, the hubbub that goes with the BCS title game is familiar, as the Tide is trying to win its second straight crown and third in four years.
And for Alabama coach Nick Saban, it was a return to his former home. Saban coached the Miami Dolphins before going to the Crimson Tide, famously saying toward the end of his tenure in South Florida that he wasn't "going to be the Alabama coach."
He was hired by the Tide not long afterward.