Saturday, November 24, 2012

Notre Dame Football: Irish Can't Hang with SEC in National Championship

Despite beating the USC, Notre Dame doesn't have enough to counter the SEC in the BCS national championship game.

The Fighting Irish downed the Trojans, 22-13, in Los Angeles Saturday night. It was vindication for the countless number of Irish fans who had been arguing their team deserved a place in the national title game. Notre Dame will now meet the winner of the SEC title game in Miami.

It's a great occasion and huge triumph for the school. Unfortunately, winning their first national championship since 1988 is a bridge too far.

Notre Dame has one of the best defenses in the country—perhaps the best—and as the saying goes, defense wins championships.

But if the Irish were to face Alabama, they would be playing a team that could equal their defensive dominance. The Tide have given up an average of 9.3 points a game, best in the country, and only 241 yards a game, second in the country.

However, Texas A&M illustrated that Alabama could be exposed by a dual-threat quarterback. Freshman Johnny Manziel put himself in the Heisman discussion in a big way after his performance against the Crimson Tide.

Sophomore Everett Golson can be a threat on the ground, but he's nothing compared to Manziel. Also, Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart were able to see their defense's weaknesses. They won't get fooled again.

With their defenses almost equal, you have to look at the respective offenses, and this is where Alabama gets the edge. Lost in the discussion of how good the Tide's defense is the quality they possess on offense.

Junior Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon can beat you on the ground, or junior A.J. McCarron can beat you over the top. McCarron's game management is superb, as he's thrown two interceptions the entire season, both in the loss to the Aggies.

Georgia would be the preferred opponent to many Irish fans, but the Bulldogs would still have enough to best Notre Dame.

They're a bit suspect against the run. Georgia has given up an average of 150 yards on the ground. Overall, though, it's a solid unit, ranking 20th in the country.

The Bulldogs had a major hiccup against South Carolina for their only loss. But the rest of the year will have provided more than enough evidence to their quality, especially with a win over Alabama in the SEC title game.

Notre Dame's close wins against Stanford, Pittsburgh and BYU showed that their defense can keep them into games, but those games also showed that they can be vulnerable.

It's hard to argue that the quality of those three opponents would eclipse that of either Alabama or Georgia.

There's nothing the Fighting Irish can do to stop what will be the seventh year an SEC team wins the national championship.


Mario Sperry Kazuyuki Fujita Tim Sylvia Jung Chan Sung Antônio Rogério Nogueira

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