Of course they can. That’s not a prediction, but it’s foolish to think Notre Dame doesn’t have a decent chance of pulling off the upset. Alabama is currently favored by a whopping 9.5 points, which seems like a lot to me.
Of course there are plenty of reasons for Alabama to be favored, as the SEC has been on a roll and Notre Dame’s undefeated season had its share of close calls. But we also know that anything can happen in the National Championship game.
In arguing Notre Dame’s case, Bruce Feldman points out that Notre Dame stacks up well physically against Alabama, or any college team for that matter.
The Irish are No. 4 in the nation against the run. As I wrote last week, they look much like a top SEC team. Their D-line, anchored by 340-pound Floridian Louis Nix, is going to be a problem for anyone. Ends Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore each are north of 300 pounds, and both — like Nix — are surprisingly nimble. The smallest of the ND’s four linebackers weighs 240 pounds, and the guts of the defense — Manti Te’o — would start at every program in the SEC.
He then makes a comparison that I’ve considered as well, being a die-hard Buckeye fan.
A few weeks ago, a buddy of mine who is an NFL player likened this year’s Fighting Irish team to the 2002 Ohio State squad quarterbacked by Craig Krenzel that won the BCS title by stunning a Miami team that was the defending national champs and riding a 34-game winning streak. That OSU team, like this ND team, was coming off a five-loss season and made it to the BCS title game after starting the season outside the preseason Top 10 by winning a bunch of close games.
I see similarities with that Buckeye team, but I don’t buy the notion that the Irish only beat Alabama by pulling off a Buster Douglas or Rollie Massimino shocker. I know the experts in Vegas have opened the line with Bama more than a TD favorite, but I just don’t see this Alabama team as invincible, or close to it.
Notre Dame’s season has been very similar to that Ohio State team, and both teams relied on a very physical defense. Yet while both are facing what many deem to be dominating opponents, the matchups are very different. That Miami team was loaded with NFL talent at the skill positions, but they cruised through the season without facing a physically dominating defense. When they faced Ohio State, the Buckeye defensive line manhandled an average Miami offensive line and thus controlled the game. Ken Dorsey was exposed as a mediocre quarterback as soon as he faced a pass rush and took some brutal hits.
With Alabama, the matchup is completely different. It’s really strength against strength, as Alabama has an awesome offensive line that now has to face a big and powerful defense. They’ve seen similar defenses in the SEC, but now we’ll see just how good Notre Dame’s defense can be.
Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden throws the football in the first quarter against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri on October 22, 2011. Oklahoma State won the game 45-24. UPI/Bill Greenblatt
Oklahoma State proved Saturday night that it, not Alabama, should be playing for the BCS national title against LSU.
The Cowboys thoroughly dominated their rival Oklahoma, which just so happened to be a top 10 team. Offense, defense, you name it, OSU dominated it. The win was the kind of performance we needed to see from a team in the one-loss pack, as someone needed to distance themselves from the others.
Well, it should be that way, anyway. I’m doubtful it will, however.
It was decided when Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State that Alabama and LSU would be playing each other again in the BCS title game, and nothing was going to change the voters minds to change that. Not even this blowout victory. It was well before the Iowa State/OSU game, however, that folks decided Alabama and LSU were the two best teams in the country, and many said it wasn’t even close.
That very well may be true. LSU’s schedule, which includes a neutral site win against Oregon and a road win against West Virginia, helps prove that it is undoubtedly the top team in the country this year. The Tigers are also the country’s only unbeaten team, which helps make things easy.
But Alabama’s best win is an overtime loss to LSU. Seriously. The Tide beat Arkansas, and did so handily, which was also a big win. Outside of that, the Tide have two wins against teams with winning records (Auburn and Penn State). Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has six wins against teams with winning records. Sure the Iowa State loss was bad, but it also came on the road and the day after Oklahoma State lost two women’s basketball coaches in a plane crash. It’s awful to use that as an excuse, but it’s certainly something to think about.
Beyond that, however, there’s also the fact that the BCS’ goal is to crown a national champion. They say the goal is to find the top two teams, but in reality, it’s to find the top one, and we already know that’s not Alabama. The Tide had their chance to knock off LSU, and had it at home, but couldn’t do it. In a college football world where big-time nonconference games are a rarity, we’ll never know who the best team is if we allow divisional rematches in the BCS title game. Especially when there are deserving teams, capable of beating other top 10 teams by more than 30, sitting out there, waiting for their opportunity.
It’s what we expected coming into today, and really what we’ve kind of expected for the better part of the last two months: Auburn and Oregon will play for the national title.
Both won comfortably, as Oregon beat Oregon State 37-20 in the Civil War, and Auburn dominated South Carolina 56-17 in the SEC Championship Game. Like it had been for most of the season, it was too easy for both teams.
As it was last year, TCU is the odd team out, but I doubt many people outside of Fort Worth, Texas are all that upset about that. Even I, an ardent opponent of the BCS, believe that the two best teams in the country are about to meet each other on the field.
So what can we look forward to in this matchup? I think the obvious answer is offense. Cam Newton should be the only person invited to next week’s Heisman Trophy ceremony — perhaps they should invite Colt McCoy, too, so he can make it four years in a row of coming up short in New York — and he’ll be on the same field in January with Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and company. The over/under could literally be in the 70s.
Just from looking through Twitter, it seems as the early line will be Oregon -3, or something in that vicinity. I don’t know about that. If I had to make a pick right now, I’d say Auburn wins this one by a touchdown. I have a month to change that, however.
As for the other BCS bowls, we’ll find those out tomorrow. The only one we really know, almost certainly for sure, is TCU vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. That matchup, plus the title game is a good start. Let’s hope the rest of the games are as intriguing.
I know it’s blasphemy in college football to even think it, but what if the conference that has ruled the sport for most of the last decade just isn’t that good this year?
Yes, there are still great athletes all over the field in these games. Yes, some of the best coaches in the country are leading these teams. But what exactly has the SEC done this year to prove that it’s worthy of being called the best conference in the country?
What are the conference’s big nonconference wins? LSU has two wins over other BCS conference teams, but those are against a scandal-ridden North Carolina team (a game the Tigers very nearly lost) and a mostly erratic West Virginia team. Alabama has a win over Penn State, but so what. Not only are the Nittany Lions down this year, but they were playing with a true freshman in his first road start.
The nation’s No. 2 team, Auburn, is even without a signature nonconference win. The Tigers struggled to put away a Clemson team that came into tonight 4-4 in the ACC.
I understand the difficulty of going through conference games, and that the physical play of the SEC is tough to go through week after week. But what, other than past performance, do we have to go on when judging the SEC this year?
If Auburn beats Alabama next week, it will go to the national title game, and that’s fine. I have no problem with that. But all the talk of a one-loss SEC team somehow finding its way into the title game seems based completely on what we’re used to, not what we’re seeing on the field.
If you want to bring past performance into it, how do you overlook Boise State, which hasn’t lost a game since the Poinsettia Bowl in 2008 against TCU? Or how about a TCU team that’s only loss over the last two years is that same Boise team in last year’s Fiesta Bowl?
I think everyone who’s voting should learn a lesson from the 2006 season, when many thought Michigan and Ohio State deserved a rematch in the title game because they had been so dominant all season. The problem was, the perceived tough games they played were all either in conference, or against teams with more tradition than punch (Notre Dame and Texas). Luckily, the voters voted against that and the Big Ten was exposed, oddly enough, by the SEC.