A national championship matchup between the University of Notre Dame and the University of Alabama probably would be the most-wagered college football game in history, Las Vegas oddsmakers said, with a worldwide betting handle of more than $2 billion.
Notre Dame and Alabama are two of the sport’s most acclaimed programs, with passionate fan bases, a combined 1,688 victories and 15 Associated Press national championships between them in the past 70 years.
Notre Dame has an 11-0 record and is back atop the national polls for the first time in 19 years, while Alabama (10-1) is seeking its second straight Bowl Championship Series title and third in four seasons.
“You’d have two storied programs and almost five weeks of buildup,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, a spokesman for William Hill U.S., which represents 150 sports books in Nevada. “The intrigue about it is going to make it a monster.”
While the Nevada Gaming Control Board doesn’t track the total amount bet on individual college football games, Vaccaro projects a Notre Dame-Alabama matchup might draw between $20 million and $25 million in in-state wagers. RJ Bell, the founder of the Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com, said the worldwide handle for such a game would be about $2 billion.
Bell said he didn’t know what the most heavily bet college game until now has been, though it probably was one of the previous championships.
Alabama, whose lone blemish this season was a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M, would be about a 10-point favorite against Notre Dame if they meet in the BCS title game, oddsmakers said.
“There’s still this great love/hate relationship with Notre Dame and that’s actually carrying over to Alabama,” Vaccaro said. “When you get those type of things, you get the people who normally would bet, and the people who normally wouldn’t bet who want to wager against that other team.”
Notre Dame and Alabama are ranked 1-2 in the BCS standings and would have to win the rest of their games to set up that dream matchup for oddsmakers. The championship game is scheduled for Jan. 7 in Miami.
Notre Dame can clinch a spot in the title game with a victory in its Nov. 24 season finale at the University of Southern California. USC, which has won nine of the past 10 meetings with the Fighting Irish, will be without starting quarterback Matt Barkley because of a shoulder injury. Notre Dame is favored by 6.5 points.
For Alabama to have the chance to defend its BCS title, the Crimson Tide need a win against in-state rival Auburn University (3-8) on Nov. 24 and then a victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 1 in Atlanta. Alabama coach Nick Saban said he won’t let his team look that far ahead.
“Unless we win the next game, we don’t have another,” Saban said. “We are trying to work our way into a conversation by how we play. We are not trying to hold a position. We are trying to create one by what we do and how we play.”
Alabama and Notre Dame, for all their history, have met only twice in bowl games.
The national championship was at stake in their 1973 Sugar Bowl showdown, when coach Ara Parseghian’s Notre Dame squad won 24-23 against an Alabama team coached by Paul “Bear” Bryant. It was a game that featured six lead changes. The schools met again the following postseason, with Notre Dame defeating Alabama 13-11 in the Orange Bowl.
“You’ve got two schools with really strong, loyal fan bases,” Jay Rood, the sports book director at the MGM Mirage, said in a telephone interview. “Those two coming together would create the most interest for everyone -- for us here in Vegas, television I think would be very happy with that matchup, as would all the sponsors.”
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