Why I'm Voting for Alabama over Notre Dame at No. 1 (And Why You Should Too)

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Why I'm Voting for Alabama over Notre Dame at No. 1 (And Why You Should Too)
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We have had quite the night of college football, haven't we? Oregon's offense burns out at home against Stanford in a 17-14 home loss. Kansas State gets whipped 52-24 by a Baylor team that wasn't even at .500 to start the day.

Notre Dame is now the last (postseason-eligible) unbeaten team in college football, and all of a sudden, Alabama is back in the title mix—and so is Georgia, pending the SEC Championship Game.

So when the polls come out on Sunday, we can rest assured that Notre Dame will be all alone at No. 1 everywhere you look. As the only undefeated team in the nation, with wins over Oklahoma, Stanford and Michigan, and one of the best defenses in the nation, what more can you ask for from a No. 1 team?

Thus, here's the top five of my ballot in this week's BleacherReport.com poll:

  1. Alabama
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Georgia
  4. Ohio State
  5. Oregon

Yep, I've got one-loss Alabama ranked ahead of undefeated Notre Dame. You should too.

Let's get this out of the way first: I don't hate Notre Dame. I think the Fighting Irish absolutely deserve one of the two spots in the BCS National Championship Game if they beat USC next week. That resume, especially compared to everyone else's, is title-worthy, or at least worthy of a spot in the title game. 

It's just that if all you want to pay attention to is resumes—the wins, losses and which teams they're against—rather than all the other information at your disposal, you're going to get a pretty skewed view of actual team quality.

For a perfect demonstration of this, look at the difference between Jeff Sagarin's "ELO Chess" rankings that he submits to the BCS, outlined in the red rectangle below, and his actual team computer rankings at far left from last week, as we wrote about while complaining about the BCS's idiocy on Wednesday:

Screencap via USAToday.com. There's a reason why Sagarin calls the BCS rating "politically correct" and his own ratings "accurate."

That's Alabama in front of his overall ratings, and by a wide margin. That's also Alabama at No. 9 in his BCS computer rankings. That's also the others teams in his Top 10 at complete odds with the strength of their resumes. Why? Because a team isn't only as good as its resume, especially not when you're not allowed to even consider victory margins, as BCS computer pollsters are instructed.

But when the most data at Sagarin's disposal says that even with one loss, Alabama is the best team in the nation, and Notre Dame isn't even as good as two-loss Texas A&M, I've got to take notice.

Who's your top-ranked team?

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Yes, that data is a week old and hasn't been updated at the time this post was written. Notre Dame will obviously rise, but don't expect an Irish blowout win over Wake Forest to significantly outweigh a Tide blowout win over Western Carolina.

So fine, let's say you don't like Sagarin. How about oddsmakers, whose job it is to handicap games before they happen?

The Sporting News found one such firm coming into the week, and it rated potential games between Kansas State, Oregon, Notre Dame and Alabama. The lines featuring KSU and Oregon are obviously moot at this point, since KSU is effectively out of the mix and it would take an astonishing confluence of events to see Oregon back in the discussion.

But Alabama vs. Notre Dame on a neutral field? According to the Sporting News, as of Nov. 12: Alabama would be favored by 9.5 points. For a little historical perspective, per TeamRankings.com, 9.5-point favorites in college football have won their games 70.3 percent of the time since 2003. 

I mean, come on. You might want to argue that Notre Dame deserves to be No. 1 because of its record, but you don't really think it would beat Alabama, right? Right?

Again, this is not to argue that Notre Dame doesn't belong in the BCS Championship Game at this point. Pretty much everyone is going to have Notre Dame and Alabama in the top two come Monday. As do I.

It's just that by any metric more sophisticated than "wins good, losses bad," Alabama is better than Notre Dame and would likely win a game between the two, probably by more than one possession.

So as long as we're agreeing that these are the top two teams in college football, the question isn't why I'm ranking Alabama No. 1 over Notre Dame. The question is this: Why aren't you?

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