Notre Dame Football: Fighting Irish Shouldn't Be Underdog vs. SEC Champion

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIINovember 26, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 17:  Manti T'eo #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish waves to the crowd as he leaves the home field for the last time during a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 17, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 38-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the legitimate No. 1 team in the nation, and therefore shouldn't be underdogs in the BCS national championship game when they face the SEC champion.

At 12-0, Brian Kelly's team has weathered a relatively tough schedule with a bruising running game and outstanding defense to improbably ascend to the top of college football.

Typically a powerhouse program, Notre Dame has struggled massively by comparison in recent years. But under Kelly, the tide has turned to say the least. To get a better idea of just how long it's been since the Irish last went through a season with an unblemished record, Sportscenter's Twitter account had an interesting fact to share:

The last time Notre Dame completed a perfect regular season (1988), a gallon of regular gas was less than a dollar.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 25, 2012

It's hard to believe that was nearly a quarter century ago, but how time flies. Although South Bend hasn't exactly been filled with fun, which is typically what causes the time-space continuum to perceptibly accelerate.

Whether it's No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Georgia that faces the Irish in the big game, Notre Dame's brand of football translates well to either matchup.

The backfield of Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III has proven to be formidable throughout 2012 for the Irish, and the continued improvement of redshirt freshman QB Everett Golson is only helping the cause.

In fact, in Alabama's only loss—a 29-24 home defeat to Texas A&M—the Crimson Tide struggled with the dual-threat capabilities of Heisman front-runner Johnny Manziel.

Golson brings a similar, albeit not as polished skill set to the table, and could give Nick Saban's bunch similar headaches.

The Tide are the favorites to maintain their No. 2 ranking in the BCS standings, and it would be extremely interesting to see how both run-first, defensive-minded teams would square off.

As for the Georgia Bulldogs, QB Aaron Murray averages a whopping 10 yards per attempt and has emerged as one of the premier signal callers in the country. But he has had his share of difficulty against the nation's premier defenses.

Murray completed just 11-of-31 passes in an ugly 35-7 loss to South Carolina, and the Bulldogs overcame three interceptions to beat the Florida Gators 17-9.

With All-American Manti Te'o leading the charge for the Irish defense, Murray or Tide QB AJ McCarron wouldn't be in for a cakewalk despite the fact that Notre Dame doesn't hail from the Southeastern Conference.

Some may perceive the SEC championship game as the pseudo-national title showdown, but underestimating the Irish has been a bad idea all season long.

It will once again be a bad idea on January 7th in SunLife Stadium—and the luck of the Irish just may shock the world, even though it shouldn't. Because this Notre Dame team is for real, unlike other misguidedly-hyped pretenders in recent memory.