For fans hoping to see the SEC's national title streak extend to 7, there are several reasons they should cheer for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide in Saturday's SEC title matchup against Georgia.
While Notre Dame’s opponent is all but guaranteed to come from the winner of Saturday’s SEC title tilt between Alabama and Georgia, the Irish are the only team standing in the way of the nation’s toughest conference claiming a seventh straight national title.
So which team should fans of the SEC hope will get the chance to line up opposite Brian Kelly’s club on Jan. 7 in Miami?
The answer to that question has to be Nick Saban’s squad, who could add its third contribution to that streak in the last four years.
What makes Alabama the logical choice to emerge as the best contender from the SEC?
Find out as I break down five reasons why SEC fans should be rooting for the Tide on Saturday.
For starters, Alabama projects as the more difficult matchup for the Irish.
Notre Dame’s biggest strength has to be its powerful defensive line—which may be the nation’s best collection of talent for that position.
The Tide’s offensive line group—more so than Georgia’s unit—could be the perfect counter to stunt a defense that thrives on getting a push up front.
Considering that the Tide has ridden their physical style to two national titles in the last three seasons, it is hard to imagine the Irish beating Alabama at its own game.
Another factor that SEC fans should take into account is the way the Tide and the Bulldogs were defeated in each club’s only setback of the season.
Alabama fell to Texas A&M’s spread attack in a one-possession game while South Carolina blasted the Bulldogs by physically imposing their will in a 35-7 beatdown that was never in doubt shortly after kickoff.
Notre Dame appears to be a more physical and more polished version of the Gamecocks, which could spell trouble for Georgia should the Bulldogs end up squaring off in Miami.
On the other hand, Alabama’s defense would fare better against a ball-control offense that lacks explosive playmakers like the Irish.
Although Georgia was able to regroup and knock off a stout Florida team, Alabama has a stronger resume this season and in recent history against teams that are similarly built to the Irish.
As the BCS title race began to take shape, pundits and fans across the nation began the banter about what could possibly be the juiciest matchup to take place in Miami on Jan. 7.
While Alabama vs. Oregon may have bolted to the early lead, the Ducks loss to Stanford on Nov. 17 shifted the landscape towards the Tide taking on the Fighting Irish.
Together, they represent two of the nation’s most storied programs in college football history, and they have not met on the gridiron since 1987.
While Georgia is a traditionally strong program as well, the mass appeal of having the Tide and the Irish do battle for the first time in a quarter century is too strong to ignore.
Plus, SEC fans have to relish the thought of having its alpha male ruin the Irish’s perfect season.
The big stage in Atlanta will seem commonplace for an Alabama team that has become the foremost dominant program in the country over the last five years.
While Mark Richt’s club certainly will not have stage fright having won several big games in SEC play, this is the first time since 2002 that the Bulldogs are in the national title picture at this juncture in the season.
The Bulldogs and the Irish are similar in that regard, with more than two decades having passed since either school last played for a national title.
Meanwhile, Alabama has several contributors left over from last season’s title-winning squad ready to add another defining achievement to their legacies.
Experience will not guarantee a win for either SEC team, but sending a team with the seasoning Alabama has in pressure situations cannot hurt should they advance to play for another championship.
Richt is the longest-tenured coach in the SEC, having guided the Bulldogs to a 117-39 record since taking over in Athens back in 2001.
While that stability is impressive, he clearly lacks the hardware earned by Saban over a similar time span—and that’s with Saban taking a two-year hiatus to try his hand in the NFL.
With offensive mastermind Brian Kelly awaiting in Miami, Saban’s prowess on the defensive side of the ball is the SEC’s best trump card.
Considering Alabama’s recent triumphs on the big stage, the SEC’s safest bet to earn its seventh national title in a row appears to be with Saban and the Crimson Tide.