It was a quiet Sunday for the University of Alabama football team. There was no mystery about its destination - the BCS Championship game - or its opponent. There was no controversy, or at least, there was the barest minimum, an occasional peep from Oregon or Florida but nothing of any substance that was likely to carry the day.
All the drama was drained out of the BCS on Saturday. There was plenty of mystery then, but when the clock in the Georgia Dome hit 0:00, it was over. The hype for the meeting with Notre Dame did start, but was a mere whisper at this point. The crescendo will come later.
It comes at a good time. Alabama needs the rest. The Crimson Tide had barely recovered from two physical games against LSU and Texas A&M in time to face Georgia. Extended rest for the starters against Western Carolina and Auburn was a blessing. If the Notre Dame game was in six days instead of six weeks, with Barrett Jones and Jesse Williams hobbling, Alabama's chances would have been lessened significantly.
So the expected announcement of the Alabama-Notre Dame game was greeted with applause at the team's year-ending banquet in Birmingham, but hardly with hysteria. It isn't time for that.
It isn't time for practice.
"You can't practice your way into the game," Saban said Saturday night in Atlanta. "The layoff is too long. The players get bored with it. It is more like a one-game season, but we've got a couple of weeks, I think."
The storm will come later. There will be no fatigue by January, not from the Crimson Tide team or its fans. If that ever was a danger, the opponent - Notre Dame - and the chance to make history will eliminate that. Saban himself admitted on Sunday that Notre Dame has "a special place" for him because of his Catholic heritage and his Midwestern coaching roots. The Irish hold a "special place" for most Alabama fans, too, although it is hardly an affectionate one. So the storm will come. But this is the calm.
The BCS controversy, such as it was, came from the inclusion of Northern Illinois in the BCS (to say nothing of Wisconsin and Louisville). It didn't stir a lot of heat in Alabama - when you are in the championship game, the other games seem fairly insignificant - but did spark some debate. There is no question that there were better teams available from the SEC (Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, LSU) and from other leagues (Oklahoma, Oregon State). But the rules are the rules and there is no question that the rules have worked in Alabama's favor in the past two years, so you won't hear a tremendous uproar about them.
So it was quiet. There was no rush of novelty. The seniors on this team will have played in as many national championship games as any players in college football history, and more than 99.99 percent of them.
The atmosphere is, as Saban likes it, business as usual. That will change after Christmas or so, but for now, it is exactly the sort of silence that Alabama needs.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.