The Coaches’ Trophy is awarded to the winner of the BCS National Championship game. It’s hard to figure out how many titles Notre Dame and Alabama already have. (Don Ryan/AP)

The Coaches’ Trophy is awarded to the winner of the BCS National Championship game. It’s hard to figure out how many titles Notre Dame and Alabama already have. (Don Ryan/AP)

Let us not speak of the minor bowls bearing the names Beef O’Brady, Chick-Fil-A, Famous Idaho Potato, Buffalo Wild Wings or of other comestibles. Let us instead focus on the only bowl game that really matters, Monday’s BCS National Championship between Notre Dame and Alabama.

The Fighting Irish and the Crimson Tide were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in all of the polls at the end of the regular season. Each team can also make a claim on the most-ever national titles, depending on how you do the math. To assist with the calculation, Bill spoke with Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News.

According to Solomon’s New Year’s Day column, Alabama claims 14 national football titles, and Notre Dame claims 11, but the number for the Fighting Irish would be 21 if they used Alabama’s math. How does that work? Solomon said it comes down to who’s picking the champion.

“Notre Dame claims 11 national titles, and that’s based on eight AP national championships and three pre-AP titles under Knute Rockne, in which they were consensus national champions by various selectors,” Solomon explained. “But there are 10 other seasons in which at least one what they would call ‘legitimate poll’ did make them No. 1, but they don’t count them. Whereas Alabama has some years where they are No. 1 by some selectors [and the Crimson Tide] do count those, including sort of a questionable year in 1941 when they lost two games.”

Solomon also pointed out that the NCAA record book gives Alabama nine titles and five for Notre Dame, while the AP poll gives each team eight national championships since 1936. He calls that “the beauty and curse of college football.”

“Many different teams will claim different titles,” Solomon said. “Some schools will claim titles because they were No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. There’s smaller systems [in which] national championships were awarded often retroactively, many years later, by these schools.”

Former Alabama sports information director Wayne Atchison added five national titles – 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934 and 1941 – to the Crimson Tide’s claim. Solomon said Atchison had the authority to do so, because the NCAA doesn’t govern college football’s postseason, the conferences and schools do. Does that mean that any team that can find any goof somewhere, who claims they’re the best team in the country, can say, “We’re No. 1”?

“Sure, you can do that, it’s not going to stop anyone,” Solomon said. “It’s up to the fans if they want to believe it or not, and a lot of fans do buy into it. Alabama, the branding of them having 14 national titles, and before that 13, and then 12, it’s a pretty valuable brand.”