Notre Dame may be 12-0 and ranked No. 1, but make no mistake: they're major underdogs to Alabama in next month's BCS Championship.
While some players are drawing motivation from that status -- an "us vs. the world" mentality continues to resonate -- others see the BCS Championship as a chance to see where they stand against a team regarded as the best in the country.
"A team from the SEC, a team like Alabama, coached by Nick Saban, those guys will make you better all around," defensive tackle Louis Nix said. "I’m just happy we get a chance to play these guys in the National Championship."
His defensive coordinator agreed.
"The fact of the matter is Alabama is king of the hill," Bob Diaco said. "Have you ever played King of the Hill? Did you walk up the hill and knock the guy off? That’s what we’ve gotta do. They’re King of the Hill. They set the precedent for defensive football in the country."
Notre Dame's front seven might have the toughest challenge on Jan. 7, going up against an Alabama offensive line loaded with pro prospects. Nix may have the most important matchup, squaring off against All-American center Barrett Jones.
"That gives me an opportunity to better myself and see where I fit at in the country with other nose tackles that went up against him," Nix said.
While Notre Dame's focus is just on this one game, there's plenty the Irish can learn -- win or lose -- from Alabama, in terms of consistency within a program. The Tide will play in their third title game in four years next month, a fact which isn't lost on coach Brian Kelly.
"Alabama has been the benchmark for college football," Kelly explained. "... We’re aware of the challenge in front of us. We welcome it. It's one that we’re putting ourselves in a position to go find out where we need to go from here."