Alabama is playing for more than a national title.
It is playing for a dynasty.
Even though that is a word that is often thrown around too liberally and too prematurely in sports, it would totally apply here. If Alabama beats Notre Dame on Monday night in the BCS national championship game, a dynasty is what the Crimson Tide will be.
It would become only the third team in college football's modern era to win three national titles in four seasons.
To their credit, Alabama types aren't talking about a dynasty.
“I don't want to use that and call us something that we might not be,” Alabama safety Robert Lester told reporters earlier this week during a pre-championship game press conference.
The last time college football talked of a dynasty, USC was coming off back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004 and heading into the 2005 title game as a big favorite. Then, of course, Vince Young and Texas ended the talk and the dynasty.
Let's be honest — dynasties are all about titles, so for Alabama to stake a claim, it has to win Monday night.
It would be the first time since the mid '90s that a team won three titles in four years.
Nebraska was that last dynasty, winning national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997. That was a golden era for Cornhusker football. It was the end of Tom Osborne's coaching days, and those were some of his best teams ever.
That 1995 squad is even considered among the best ever in college football. It was a bunch highlighted by Tommie Frazier and Ahman Green, Grant Wistrom and Aaron Taylor.
But for as glorious as those days were, that 1997 title had some tarnish. Prior to Nebraska's bowl game, the well-loved and well-respected Osborne announced he was retiring, and when the second-ranked Huskers throttled Tennessee in the Orange Bowl to finish undefeated, many argued that Nebraska deserved a share of the national title.
That included Husker quarterback Scott Frost, who openly lobbied for the title after the bowl, slipping in a not-so-subtle mention of Osborne's retirement.
When the final polls came out — remember the stone ages when we crowned champions only with human polls? — Michigan and its Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson won the media vote while Nebraska won the coaches' vote.
Alabama won't be sharing the title if it beats Notre Dame on Monday night. If the Crimson Tide wins, that will be its third outright title in four seasons. Only one other team has done that in the modern era, and it's been more than 60 years.
The last time was Notre Dame in the late '40s. The Fighting Irish won outright titles in 1946, 1947 and 1949. Frank Leahy was the coach. Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart were among the stars.
But the truth is, that was a different time. There was much less parity than there is today. There were no scholarship limits, so the powerhouses could stockpile talent. They were more powerful but way less plentiful.
Still, winning three titles in four seasons — and four in seven years as Notre Dame won one in 1943 — made the Fighting Irish deserving of the dynasty tag.
So it would go with Alabama, too.
“I think what we're really focused on is what we have to do in this particular game,” Alabama coach and potential dynasty architect Nick Saban told reporters after his team arrived in South Florida. “Michael Jordan always says, ‘It doesn't make any difference how many game-winning shots I've made in the past. The only one that matters is the next one.'”
Alabama is playing to win this game and this title, but in the process, it could claim so much more — a spot on college football's short list of dynasties.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.