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January 7, 2013

Saban, Kelly approach showdown from different experiences

— All the hype, all the hoopla, all the pre-game media frenzy is over.

It’s time to play football.

No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama hit the field tonight at Sun Life Stadium in Miami in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

It will be the seventh meeting between the two programs. The Irish have a 5-1 advantage in the overall series.

But the Crimson Tide, despite being ranked No. 2 behind the No. 1 Irish, come into tonight’s game as the clear choice. Alabama was favored by 10 points in the latest odds.

Coaches Nick Saban of Alabama and Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, however, are focused on the task at hand and not what the legions of oddsmakers, pundits and prognosticators feel will happen on the field tonight in Miami.

For Kelly, regardless of the result on the field, tonight’s game is about more than this season.

“Playing in this game is an incredible springboard into the next season, because as I just mentioned, you set a goal, you set a bar,” Kelly said. “They've already been here. You come back the next year, it's unacceptable for a standard to be any less than being back here again. So it's an incredible springboard.”

Kelly said his experience as a coach at Grand Valley State in Michigan – where he coached from 1987-2003, winning NCAA Division II national titles in 2002 and 2003 – also laid a good foundation for being in the position he and his Irish find themselves in now.

“When I was playing for championships at the Division II level, it just changes everything when you walk into that building on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said.  "Everybody is playing for championships.”

However, the playoff experience at Grand Valley State in the Division II level was much different than the BCS championship game structure, Kelly said.

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