The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are second in the nation in scoring defense and 11th in total defense. The defense is playing stellar football and they are led by one of the nation's premier front-sevens. Florida State, Florida and LSU have stout front-sevens, but along with the Irish they are still pushing to equal the country's premier front.
The Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama is a machine. They stop the run. They put pressure on the quarterback. They have depth all over their defensive line. The Crimson Tide has guys who would be starting elsewhere coming off the bench to spell starters; because that's what Nick Saban does with his defenses, he stocks the coffers.
However, if you're the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, this current unit is too special to trade. Not because they're better than Alabama, but because this is a gang of guys that have made stopping the run, what South Bend football is all about, relevant again.
They've been through the fire together. Guys like Manti Te'o, Carlo Calabrese, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Dan Fox. They played for Charlie Weis. They lived through not going to a bowl game in 2009. They went through the transition with Brian Kelly; the practices that were harder than anything Charlie Weis put before them.
And they didn't fold.
Unlike Michigan, these players bought into the new coach's ways. They endured the hard workouts. They helped keep committed players in the boat during that transition. Guys like Prince Shembo and Louis Nix III committed to Weis, and thanks to future teammates and new coach Brian Kelly, remained committed to Notre Dame.
That core group, the juniors and seniors, are the reason the Irish were able to get Sheldon Day and Stephon Tuitt into the boat. They are helping lay the foundation for the future. Big-time prospects like Jaylon Smith, Isaac Rochell, Doug Randolph and Alex Anzalone will be looking to carry on the tradition started by this group.
So, while Alabama's group might be better; this group is special because they are Notre Dame's. They're the guys who went through the Irish's transition. They have shepherded the golden dome into an era where defense is paramount in South Bend.