ZBB's Jimmy De Martini (Photo: John Lamparski)When the Zac Brown Band hits the field at Sun Life Stadium Monday afternoon to perform the 2013 BCS Championship Game's National Anthem, here's a little secret: They're probably excited to get it over with as soon as possible.
Why's that? Well, for the simple reason that they're dying to watch the game!
As to be expected. Monday's matchup between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama is one of those games that has football fans rubbing their hands in glee--an independent school that hasn't been to the title game in decades, up against the behemoth of the behemoth Southeastern Conference.
Jimmy De Martini, who plays violin for the ZBB, admits he intends to thoroughly enjoy the game along with his bandmates. "One of the reasons that we [accepted the National Anthem slot] was not just to sing the anthem and for exposure, but actually to get a trip to see a national championship game!" he laughs. "None of us had ever been to one, so it's pretty exciting."
Our Country chatted with De Martini--who, if you haven't guessed by now, is a bit of a football enthusiast--about his pick for the title and how he thinks the match will shape up overall. After the fun is over, the ZBB themselves are no means off season. They'll be picking their tour schedule right back up (see dates here) and will be contending for Best Country Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards next month.
Our Country: So--the obvious question. Notre Dame or Alabama?
Jimmy De Martini: I'm an SEC guy, we're Georgia fans and it's a kind of culture down here in the South to root on your conference whenever they're up against another conference for the national championship. Sometimes it's hard because we have rivals within our conference, but I gotta pull for Alabama. I think they can do it. They've got a lot of athletes on their team. Notre Dame's a great team too--I don't think it's going to be a normal SEC beatdown like it has been in the past. I think it's gonna be pretty close.
Do you feel Alabama might have an advantage due to having contended in so many bowl games in the past few years?
They certainly have the experience with the big games. But, you know, there's so much turnover in college--it's not a lot of the same kids that are there. But, [Alabama coach] Nick Saban surely knows how to prepare for these kind of games. Any time he has a lot of time off to prepare for a game, he usually operates his game plan pretty well.
Yes--I was going to ask which team you felt the short break from the end of the season until tomorrow's game benefited more. Sounds like Alabama?
Notre Dame's quarterback, Golson, seems to get better each week. I think he's just learning to process better and better, and the more they practice I think he's getting better and better. But, like I said, whenever Saban has time to prepare...he's such a great coach, and I think it has to do a lot with his preparation for the big games. I think Alabama has the advantage there.
Getting down to the root of it, what do you personally think this game most rides on if you had to choose one thing? Offense? Defense? Coaching?
Alabama--they have a great defense, they have a lot of talent, but they've been exposed a couple times... Against Georgia and LSU. And, you know, [Texas A&M quarterback] Johnny Manziel has a lot of the same style as Everett Golson, so if they can figure out how Texas A&M did what they did--although that's saying a lot because Johnny Football is quite an amazing performer--but if they can figure out how to do that, then they can put up big points against Alabama's defense. In the end I think it comes down to Notre Dame not being able to stop Alabama's rushing game toward the end, because their duo of tailbacks seems to wear teams out in the 4th quarter and it's hard to keep up with that.
Speaking of the Aggies. They had quite a season. They knocked down Alabama, they have the Heisman winner, and they won the Cotton Bowl pretty handily. Some people think they deserved to go to the Championship instead of Alabama. Think that opinion is warranted?
They did incredibly, and it's a really hard conference and it's good to have another good team in the SEC. But it just didn't work out that way. They didn't get to the championship. You kinda have to win the SEC in order to go to the national championship.
One more question. There are open slots in the NFL right now for coaches. Do you think Saban or [Notre Dame coach] Brian Kelly might jump on one after this game?
I don't know. Of course they wouldn't say it right now. Both Saban and Kelly of course are focused on this game. But I could see Notre Dame's coach going pro--he's getting better and better every year, and to take Notre Dame undefeated in, I think, it's his third year? He's quite an amazing coach. Saban seems to really like where he's at right now so I don't see him leaving.
Okay, thanks, Jimmy! I hope you enjoy the game tomorrow. And, I must say, I'm an alum of the University of Southern California so I appreciate your pulling for Alabama. I cannot root for Notre Dame.
I also admire your supporting your conference. I try to pull for the Pac-12, but I admit just couldn't do it if it were UCLA...
I feel ya. It's pretty hard for me to root for Florida, but I do it sometimes (laughs).