History may favor the underdog Irish, but Bama is too good

Precedent? This guy eats precedent for breakfast. (AP photo)

Precedent? This guy eats precedent for breakfast! (AP photo)

Fort Lauderdale – The history of the BCS title game isn’t exactly exhaustive, dating as it does to that long-ago time of January 1999, but even in that small sampling a commonality winds through. Since this “system” was implemented, no school has repeated as BCS champ.

On Monday night, Alabama is favored to annex a second consecutive national title (and a third in four seasons, and the 115th in Tide annals if we go by Bama’s ever-escalating count). The worst thing we can say about this Tide team is that it’s superb, but other superb defending champs have arrived at this juncture only to trip over the final hurdle.

Three times a program has sought to stack BCS titles end to end. Three times it has failed, and each failure came as a shock. Favored by 10 ½ points, Florida State was beaten 13-2 in January 2001 by Oklahoma – the Seminoles’ offense was overseen that night by a distracted Mark Richt, who had already taken a job in Athens – and that was the mildest example. The other two were seismic.

In January 2003, an unbeaten-yet-unassuming Ohio State met No. 1 Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Almost half the Buckeyes’ victories had been so close that they became known as the Luckeyes, and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than … well, you know. Ohio State, an 11 ½-point underdog, took the Hurricanes to overtime and appeared to have lost when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete, but a late penalty flag brought new life and, in short order, a stunning national championship.

In January 2006, Texas arrived at the Rose Bowl as the designated victim of a team being hailed as the greatest ever. USC actually was going for a third national title, the 2003 version having been awarded by the Associated Press but not the BCS, and its 55-19 thrashing of Oklahoma in the January 2005 Orange Bowl was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

It was so fresh that, on the morning before the Rose Bowl, this correspondent asked Texas coach Mack Brown how it felt to have a team so good that was being given no chance. (The unbeaten Longhorns were a touchdown underdog.) Laughing sardonically, Brown thanked us media folks for providing that goad. Then his Longhorns, Vince Young chief among them, went out and won the greatest collegiate game ever played.

As for the here and now: Notre Dame is unbeaten, but seems the choice of nobody. It has won five games by seven or fewer points, which recalls the Luckeyes of 10 years ago. It is a 10-point underdog to a team ranked below it, which recalls the Oklahoma of 11 years back. It is a program of massive tradition that many view as out of its depth, which recalls the Texas of Vince Young.

OK, who wins?

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If you’re Brian Kelly, who coaches Notre Dame, you love these dynamics: To be No. 1 in the land and the school of Rockne and Ara and the Gipper to boot and still to be roundly expected to lose by a nice round number … that’s a better underdog story than “Rudy.” (Which was the tale of a Fighting Irish walk-on who sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback.)

The temptation is mighty to pick an Irish upset – this from someone who picked both Ohio State in 2003 and Texas in 2006 – but there’s an even greater deterrent. None of the defending champs who suffered BCS upsets were from the SEC, and the SEC has gotten so good at winning national championships that it would take a monumental performance by a transcendent player to derail this locomotive. As stout as Notre Dame is, there’s no Vince Young on its roster.

This Alabama team isn’t quite as imposing as the BCS titlists of 2011 and 2009, and its home loss to Texas A&M and its narrow escapes against LSU and Georgia offer cause for Irish hope. (And so, in an oblique manner, do the bowl losses suffered by Florida and LSU of the almighty SEC.) But A&M scored 29 points in beating the Tide, and Georgia would have needed 33.

Notre Dame has broken 30 in only four of its 12 games. It ranks 74th nationally in scoring offense. Its defense is match for Bama’s; its offense is not. The Tide, who rushed for 350 yards against Georgia, might not get half that against the Irish, but Alabama does find ways to score. (It has mustered 30 or more points in 11 of its 13 games, LSU and Texas A&M being the exceptions.)

It would not be surprising to see this championship game finish 17-10. It would, however, be surprising if Notre Dame had the 17. Precedent favors the underdog, but reality, as ever, favors Alabama.

By Mark Bradley

247 comments Add your comment

B

January 4th, 2013
11:51 am

Miami was robbed by that ref. It was a horrible call.

Chi Town

January 4th, 2013
11:53 am

Roll Tide, Bradley!

Gene

January 4th, 2013
11:53 am

Notre Dame’s chances are certainly as good as Georgia’s were.

Buzz Belle

January 4th, 2013
11:54 am

No matter the score on Tuesday morning, Notre Dame will always be better than Ala!

Flowery Branch Yellow Jacket

January 4th, 2013
12:01 pm

You’re forgetting that Mississippi State, an 8-4 SEC team whose only losses were to its superior SEC brethren, was beaten soundly in the Gator Bowl by a Northwestern squad whose school hadn’t won a bowl game since 1949 (if memory serves correctly). I know the SEC is a very good, very talented, and very deep conference, but I certainly would like to see that the rest of the country is starting to “catch up”. So here’s hoping that history will repeat itself for the Fighting Irish.

Delbert D.

January 4th, 2013
12:02 pm

Tossup. There appears to be no singularly dominant team this season.

bdawg

January 4th, 2013
12:05 pm

Notre Dame doesn’t deserve to be in this game. They needed three overtimes to beat a terrible Pitt team. At home.

BobDawg

January 4th, 2013
12:05 pm

A Bama blowout makes the SEC game the de-facto Nat’l Chmpship….. Mark it down….

Konabuzz

January 4th, 2013
12:05 pm

Rudy was offsides.

BobDawg

January 4th, 2013
12:07 pm

i think Tech could handle the Irish based on the USC game….

McDawg

January 4th, 2013
12:07 pm

ND belongs there b/c they won every game similar to a team in 1980

pulling for the Irish but suspect BAMA will pull it out unless Gohlson has a special kind of game

J

January 4th, 2013
12:08 pm

Mark, you’re giving too much credit to Notre Dame. Yes, their defense is good, but as you pointed out – the offense stinks. Alabama has been here 3 of the last 4 years and Notre Dame hasn’t sniffed it since Lou Holtz was slobbering all over the golden domes from the locker room.

Alabama, given a month to prepare, will absolutely thrash Notre Dame by a final of 38-6. Go ahead and print this off and take it to the bank because it might as well be a deposit slip for some serious cash.

GTBob

January 4th, 2013
12:09 pm

Just curiously Mark, what did you think Louisville’s chances were of beating Florida? What did you think Clemson’s chances were of beating LSU? It would not take a monumental performance by Notre Dame to beat Alabama. You just sound silly when you write things like that.

Alabammy

January 4th, 2013
12:10 pm

You know why it’s “ever-escalating” smartass? Because we keep winning them.

Dawglasville

January 4th, 2013
12:11 pm

Bama wins because of Saban, period. Look at last years game. LSU beat them at home and Bama, with a month to prepare, comes back and hammers them. Saban wins, interviews with an NFL team, and the Alabama Governor calls for an emergency budget meeting to cut public education in order to pay for Saban’s new contract.

B

January 4th, 2013
12:11 pm

Here’s something I’d like to know: what makes Saban (and Meyer) so successful? And is the Notre Dame coach just as good a coach? Seems to be.

GTBob

January 4th, 2013
12:12 pm

I know the SEC is a very good, very talented, and very deep conference, but I certainly would like to see that the rest of the country is starting to “catch up”.

The rest of the country caught up a while ago. The whole SEC can’t be beaten by anyone mantra that ESPN spouts out every minute of every day is nothing but smoke. Two of their unbeatable top 10 teams just lost to ACC and Big East schools.

Alabammy

January 4th, 2013
12:13 pm

I guess those last 6 BCS titles are smoke too, huh?

BRYANT

January 4th, 2013
12:13 pm

Welcome to big boy school ND. Bama 31 ND 10

Dawglasville

January 4th, 2013
12:14 pm

Mark, I’m somehow stuck in moderation, and GTBob gets away with calling you silly. It just doesn’t seem right.

J

January 4th, 2013
12:15 pm

Techies – you beat USC because they had no interest in being there. Congrats on finally getting your first bowl win under CPJ – no need to linger here.

Anyone else ever get the feeling that Tech fans watch Oregon and can’t see the difference between that offense and what Georgia Tech does?

Dawglasville

January 4th, 2013
12:16 pm

GTBob, is the SEC suppose to win every single game, every single year? Does the ACC ever lose in basketball?

Delbert D.

January 4th, 2013
12:19 pm

Quick rundown of points scored by Notre Dame’s opponents:

10 – Navy
17 – Purdue
3 – Mich. St.
6 – Michigan
3 – Miami
13 – Stanford (OT)
14 – BYU
13 – Oklahoma
26 – Pitt (3OT)
6 – BostonCollege
0 – Wake Forest
13 – USC

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

January 4th, 2013
12:20 pm

There is a lot of pressure on Bama to do this double dip thing so I hope we can pull it out. The last 4 games of the year Bama played not to win but to keep from losing and our performance wasn’t that great. I hope Nick will attack from the get go and lay it on the line early. To get to one NC game is a big Joe Biden (BFD) and to get to 3 is off the charts. Regardless to the outcome Bama will be back in 2013 with a team that should/could be even better. You have about 4 more years to contend with Alabama and then Nick will take it to the lake. Roll Tide

Shug

January 4th, 2013
12:23 pm

Okay, first the greatest collegiate game ever played remains 1971’s Nebraska-Oklahoma masterpiece. Next, though it was in the pre-BCS era, a similar match-up seems to be the 1986 Penn State-Miami game. Penn State was undefeated but looked on as being pedestrian compared to everyone’s darling Miami.

Dawglasville

January 4th, 2013
12:23 pm

The #4 team in the SEC lost to the #2 in the ACC. The #2 team in the SEC lost to the #1 team in the Big East. I was shocked by both of those upsets, but the SEC is not going to win every game, every time.

McDawg

January 4th, 2013
12:24 pm

the SEC game gives BAMA the edge b/c of the layoff
between games

Reebok

January 4th, 2013
12:24 pm

All Notre Dame has done so far is win every game. ‘Bama can’t make that claim. ND in a mild upset, something like 20-17. Looking forward to this game!

Delbert D.

January 4th, 2013
12:25 pm

Quick rundown of points scored by Alabama’s opponents:

14 – Michigan
0 – W. Kentucky
0 – Arkansas
7 – Fla. Atlantic
14 – Ole Miss
10 – Missouri
13 – Tennessee
7 – Miss. St.
17 – LSU
24 – Texas A&M
0 – W. Carolina
0 – Auburn
28 – Georgia

Reebok

January 4th, 2013
12:25 pm

Does anybody know the comparative strength of schedule between these 2 teams? I am sure ‘Bama’s was tougher, I am just wondering how great the difference is…

Moist Dawg

January 4th, 2013
12:26 pm

Anyone could score over 30 in 11 games if they had bamas sickening schedule. nick satan should be ashamed of his team for scheduling 8 of those games.
at least notre dumb played 8 bowl teams on their schedule.
I hope all the bama recruits we are fighting for watch bama get destroyed, see what losers they are, and immediately call CMR to join a real team.

RGB

January 4th, 2013
12:27 pm

“On Monday night, Alabama is favored to annex a second consecutive national title (and a third in four seasons, and the 115th in Tide annals if we go by Bama’s ever-escalating count). ”

Man, we’re good, but 115 national titles? Bet you’ve spotted us by a hundred.

RGB

January 4th, 2013
12:30 pm

Moist Dawg,

Jealousy is a weird disease. It makes everyone sick but the one that’s got it.

Are you moist because of a personal hygiene problem–or because you are still crying over Bama’s defeat of a “real” team?

Not so sure

January 4th, 2013
12:31 pm

I agree that Bama has no problem IFFF they don’t play like they did against LSU, A&M, and UGA. Problem is, I’m thinking that this game sets up just like those in many respects. Bama won 2 of the 3 (by the skin of their teeth), and both were games that they should have handled with little trouble. I hope Bama shows up, though. I would love to continue the SEC domination for another year.

On another note, I am starting to worry (albeit just a tiny bit) about the SEC in general. If Notre dame wins this one, I think we may go back into a cycle where we see less SEC representation than we would like in the major bowls. I’m also a little worried that if UF can’t capitalize on their recruiting classes like they used to do under Urban, the East will continue to fall. I also would have liked to see A&M go to the East instead of Mizz. That would have been more balanced in my opinion.

Delbert D.

January 4th, 2013
12:34 pm

Correction to the 12:25 post

Should be

29 – Texas A&M

BRYANT

January 4th, 2013
12:35 pm

TO GTBob: Just like in 08 when we lost to Utah. Unfortunately for ND this year we are playing for the Crystal Football. Fla. and LSU were wishing they were somewhere else.

Uh, Reebok...

January 4th, 2013
12:37 pm

ND played 10 bowl eligible teams (Miami being eligible but chose not to go); AL played 7 bowl eligible teams…

J

January 4th, 2013
12:39 pm

@Not so sure…

Bama played at LSU at night – I don’t know how anyone is supposed to “handle” that one easily. Yes, LSU lost their bowl game, but it’s a meaningless bowl game. Also, Georgia just went 12-2 including coming 5 yards short of beating Bama. Georgia was 11-1 going into the game, as was Bama, so not sure how Bama should have “handled” that one easily either.

I do believe Bama is better than Notre Dame by a score of 38-6, but it is mainly because of the TOUGH schedule they played.

Also, saying Texas A&M should be in the East to create more “balance??” Have you seen Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Miss State play? Plenty of balance adding TAM, you’re just upset that they beat Bama.

J

January 4th, 2013
12:43 pm

It’s amazing when Bama fans (Florida fans do this too) say that they “should have handled without a problem” close wins. What is wrong with giving respect to an opponent? Georgia went 12-2 and were 5 yards away from beating Bama. LSU won 10 games and so did Texas A&M. Alabama is 2-1 in games against those teams – I’d say that’s a strong indicator.

GeoffDawg

January 4th, 2013
12:44 pm

Gene, prior to the SEC Championship game, Vegas oddsmakers had both Bama and Georgia as approximately 10 point favorites in the then hypothetical matchup against ND. The professionals disagree with you.

bucket

January 4th, 2013
12:44 pm

I think Bama will win Monday, but I also agree that some of the other conferences are starting to catch up a little to the SEC. However, 2014 can’t get here soon enough for me because college football is the best sport (in my opinion), but it has always had a mythical national champion because of the lack of a playoff. After watching Alabama’s defense tangle with TAMU and UGA’s offenses, there is no way that anyone can say that Oregon would have no shot against Bama. Last year the argument against Oklahoma State was that their 1 loss was a bad loss and Bama’s was a good loss. This year you can’t make that same argument against Oregon. They lost to a really good Stanford team and Bama lost to a really good Texas A&M team. IF Bama wins Monday there should be a split national champion.

Mike S.

January 4th, 2013
12:45 pm

Good call, Mark. I agree that ND just has not shown the offensive capability to move the ball against the Tide. Although i will say, i don’t really think they have the defense either. I dont think that front seven of theirs has seen anything close to the running attack of Bama combined with the passing efficiency of McCarron.

The wild card is the month off. What will that do to these teams? We have already seen it do funny things this bowl season (LSU losing to Clemson, UF faceplant against Louisville, Wisconsin nearly beating Stanford…to name a few).

GTBob

January 4th, 2013
12:46 pm

TO GTBob: Just like in 08 when we lost to Utah.

Its not like that at all. This isn’t some David vs. Goliath matchup. Notre Dame played a tougher overall schedule than Alabama did, beat Stanford, and Oklahoma, and 8 other bowl teams. To think that they have no shot at all of beating the mighty Crimson Tide who hasn’t looked all that mighty this year is just SEC arrogance not based in any reality at all.

J

January 4th, 2013
12:48 pm

@Bucket – no way. Oregon didn’t win their conference and beat a KSU team that was shelacked by Baylor. Oregon will deserve to be top 3, but can’t split the championship if you look at the resumes.

Paul in NH

January 4th, 2013
12:48 pm

According to the Sagarin ratings, ND had a slightly tougher schedule than Alabama

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/sagarin/fbt12.htm

dean

January 4th, 2013
12:48 pm

If it’s close in the 4th, AL RB’s Lacey and Yelton seal the win for those fellas in AL.

GTBob

January 4th, 2013
12:51 pm

The professionals disagree with you.

Vegas odds aren’t score or outcome predictions. Its amazing that people haven’t learned that yet.

bucket

January 4th, 2013
12:51 pm

@ J – A conference winner didn’t win the MNC last year.

ole dawg

January 4th, 2013
12:57 pm

Let’s see…. ND gave up 13 to USC and GT gave up 6 to USC. Hmmm…. pretty sure AL wins this one!

ole dawg

January 4th, 2013
12:58 pm

@ GTBob… but when Vegas sets the original line that is a strong indication of the experts expectations for the outcome of the game.